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Lindsay Parvis Published in Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin

The Maryland State Bar Association’s February Bar Bulletin featured a 2016 Family Law Legislative
Preview by Lindsay Parvis, which appears below and can also be viewed on the MSBA’s website (http://www.msba.org/Bar_Bulletin/2016/01_-_January/2016_Family_Law_Legislative_Preview.aspx):

On January 13, 2016, the Maryland General Assembly begins its 2016 legislative session. Each session, the Family and Juvenile Law Section Council's ("FJLSC") Legislative Committee actively monitors all family law and related legislation, testifies in Annapolis, meets with legislators, and educates Section members. Here is a brief preview of some anticipated family law and related bills in the coming session:

Divorce

In the recent 2015 session, the Legislature enacted a new ground for divorce - Mutual Consent. At present, the Mutual Consent ground (Fam. Law Art., §7-103(8)) is limited to couples who do not have minor children in common. While there may not be an attempt in the 2016 session to expand this new ground to all couples, such an effort is anticipated to occur at some point in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile, §7-103(8)(ii) (2)'s reference to §8-208 regarding use and possession is an artifact of the original draft of the
bill (which did not exclude couples with minor children in common), which may result in a corrective bill in the upcoming session, or it may remain in the current version of the law until future attempts to expand the ground to include couples with minor children are undertaken.

In the meantime, the Mutual Consent ground has resulted in inconsistent procedures throughout Maryland regarding corroborating witnesses. Some jurisdictions require a third party corroborating witness, while others do not. This issue invites potential updates to two existing laws in the Family Law Article:

1) §7-101(b), which requires corroboration of grounds testimony; and,

2) §8-104, under which a separation agreement is corroboration of the ground of voluntary separation.

First, clarity is needed about whether third party corroboration is required for the Mutual Consent ground. It is also time to reexamine whether third party corroboration should be eliminated altogether. If so, this invites the question of whether the requirement of corroboration should be eliminated in all cases or just uncontested cases.

Second, with the elimination of "voluntary separation" in the 2011 session, §8-104 of the Family Law Article is no longer applicable. It is time either to eliminate it or update it to correspond to the new Mutual
Consent ground.

A New Year – a New Legislative Session!

Volume 1

January 13, 2016 ushered in the new legislative session. Lindsay Parvis is the Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Family and Juvenile Law Section of the MSBA. Below are some of the noteworthy family law bills pending this session:

HB191: Child Support – Adjusted Actual Income – Multifamily Adjustment

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0191F.pdf

Synopsis: Altering the definition of "adjusted actual income" under the State child support guidelines; providing for the calculation of a specified allowance required to be deducted from adjusted actual income under the child support guidelines; requiring that the amount of a specified allowance be subtracted from a parent's actual income before the court determines the amount of a child support award; etc.

HB259: Family Law – Child Support – Custody and Visitation Determinations

Bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb0259F.pdf

Synopsis: Requiring the court, in any case in which the court determines child support, to also consider custody and visitation of the child; and requiring the Child Support Enforcement Administration to refer the parties to the court for purposes of considering custody and visitation of the child when the Administration
establishes a child support obligation.

New grounds for divorce in Maryland – Mutual Consent

As of October 1, 2015 there is a new ground for absolute divorce in Maryland.

Parties can now obtain an absolute divorce based on mutual consent if the parties do not have minor children in common, the parties submit to the court a written and signed settlement agreement resolving the parties’ alimony and property rights and neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing. Both parties must appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

Process for filing for Divorce based on Mutual Consent in Montgomery County:

When filing for divorce based on Mutual Consent, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland is requiring that the written and signed settlement agreement be submitted with the complaint and that the following new Joint Request for Uncontested Divorce Hearing form (exclusively for Mutual Consent grounds) be filed:

By: Christina P. DeVault

New Ground for Divorce – Mutual Consent

In the 2015 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that allows for divorce based upon Mutual Consent. This new law goes into effect October 1, 2015.

The Mutual Consent ground for divorce allows parties to file for and obtain a divorce if:

  •  the spouses have no minor children in common (so, none born or adopted during the marriage),
  •  there is a written settlement agreement signed by both spouses,
  • the parties submit the agreement to the court,
  • the agreement resolves alimony and the distribution of property, including any monetary award and use and possession of any property,
  • neither spouses files a request to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing; and,
  • both parties appear in court at the absolute divorce hearing.

The Mutual Consent ground for divorce does not require the parties to separate or to end marital relations.

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