Under Maryland law, for a couple to obtain an uncontested divorce, they must swear that they have lived apart for at least a year. This means that they may not have spent even one night under the same roof during that time, even if they slept in separate rooms.
Last year, the Maryland legislature passed a law eliminating the requirement that another person testify to that fact as long as the couple has no minor children. However, one Maryland legislator, who also practices family law, says that some courts still require a witness even in those cases.
She is sponsoring a bill in the House of Delegates that would end the requirement to produce a witness, which she called “pretty archaic” and “incredibly silly” for any couple seeking a divorce. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.
Many have said that the entire witness requirement is basically a charade, as it’s easy to bring in a family member to testify that a couple hasn’t spent a night together. However, that can be an awkward request, particularly if the family member is a parent. Some couples are upset that it sometimes requires bringing in one of their children to be the witness. As one delegate noted, no one can truly testify that a couple hasn’t spent a night together unless they were actually with one spouse “24/7.”
Not everyone supports the change that would make divorcing a bit easier for Maryland couples. As one delegate noted, “There’s a trend to make things really, really easy.”
Maryland isn’t the only state with this witness requirement. Sixteen other states currently have it. Whether the law is changed in our state remains to be seen. One Baltimore County lawmaker predicted that the bill will pass.
If you are contemplating divorce, it’s important to know what the state laws are. A Maryland family law attorney can provide advice and guidance to help ensure that you are meeting all necessary requirements.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Did they spend the night together? Bill would end need for divorce court witness,” Michael Dresser, Feb. 17, 2016