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By: Sara Prose, Esq.

In Maryland, one may seek a divorce for various reasons including adultery, cruelty, desertion, or separation. The most common ground for divorce is a 12-month separation.

The Maryland Family Law code requires that parties live separate and apart without cohabitation or interruption for 12 months prior to filing for an absolute divorce. “Living separate and apart” means parties must maintain two households, including living expenses, to be eligible for an absolute divorce under the 12-month separation period grounds. This can place a significant financial strain on the parties.

Pending legislation in the Maryland House of Delegates could help couples ease the financial burden of the mandatory separation period.

Maryland House Bill 403, “Family Law – Grounds for Divorce” would permit parties to share a residence and living expenses as long as they maintained separate bedrooms. The bill was clearly drafted with an understanding that in today’s economic climate, it is difficult for parties to maintain two households during the mandatory separation period. The bill, therefore, is a practical approach to the mandatory separation period and should be adopted. The bill currently sits in the Judiciary Committee. The last action taken was March 7, 2011 when the unfavorable report by the committee was withdrawn. Hopefully, the Maryland House of Delegates will recognize the important impact this bill will have on couples who seek the separation grounds but who will be financially limited when they attempt to meet the 12-month requirement.