Maryland lawmakers drop witness requirement for divorce

Maryland has made uncontested divorce a bit easier by doing away with a witness requirement.

Divorce in Maryland is now a bit easier and less stressful thanks to a law passed by state legislators earlier this year. According to the Capital Gazette, state lawmakers passed a law that does away with a previous requirement that forced couples who were going through a divorce to not only live separately for a year, but to bring a witness to court to testify that they indeed had lived apart during that time. The previous rule had been described as archaic and useless by critics, who pointed out that while it was often seen as a silly law, it also caused a great deal of stress for people going through a divorce.

Changing the law

Previously, the law had required people who were going through an uncontested divorce to live separately for 12 months before being granted that divorce. In order to prove that they had indeed been living separately, the spouse applying for the divorce would have to produce a witness, who was often a family member, to testify that the spouses had not lived together during the previous 12 months.

That requirement has now been dropped for all couples going through an uncontested divorce. The rule had already been relaxed the previous year for married couples that did not have children. Maryland was one of just 16 states that required couples who were going through a divorce to corroborate their claims of living separately with a witness.

An outdated law

The change in the law met very little opposition and it was supported by the Maryland State Bar's family law division. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the witness requirement was largely seen as being an outdated and misguided attempt to guard against fraud. Instead, the law came to be seen as an arcane requirement that did little to actually discourage fraud or divorce.

Furthermore, the requirement had the ability to put families through a great deal of stress. In many cases, people going through a divorce would have to ask family members to take time off work or travel far distances in order to testify in court. In some instances, children of the couple getting divorced were the ones testifying, an experience that some parents complained exposed children to unnecessary stress and conflict.

Family law

As Maryland's divorce laws have continued to evolve, anybody who is currently going through or considering a divorce should get in touch with a family law attorney today. As the above article shows, the divorce process can present plenty of legal complexities and unwanted surprises. An experienced attorney can help clients navigate those challenges and reach a solution that protects their best interests.