How will a new Maryland law affect legal separations?

Although it might not occur to couples already in the process of a divorce, drawing up a legal separation agreement can offer additional protections.

A separation agreement functions like a binding contract during the pendency of the divorce, pursuant to which an individual may have enumerated obligations. For example, a couple that is living apart might want to clarify each of their pending obligations until their divorce agreement becomes final.

Yet what about couples who are divorcing amicably? For example, a couple may have been able to propose a division of their marital estate, reduce it to writing in a proposed settlement agreement, and simply wants to clarify their finances via a separation agreement until their uncontested divorce becomes final. It may seem hard to believe, but a one-year waiting period during which the couple must live apart applied even to such amicable separations -- until now.

A new Maryland state law will do away with the mandatory waiting period for couples without minor children. To qualify, the couple must mutually consent to a divorce and have reached an agreement on their property division issues. Couples with minor children will still have to observe the year of living apart, with the exception of cases of domestic abuse or where one spouse has committed adultery.

A quick divorce may translate into reduced stress, emotional upset and cost for a couple. However, it is important to have experienced legal representation during this expedited process to avoid oversights or situations where one spouse is taken advantage of financially.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "New law eases path to divorce for many couples," Michael Dresser, Sept. 30, 2015