Maryland General Assembly Debates Whether to End Controversial Requirement for Divorce Court Witness

The General Assembly for the state of Maryland is currently considering whether to strike down what many observers have described as an illogical, arcane law. Maryland is one of 16 states that requires couples to provide “evidence” that they have not slept together for one year prior to divorce. To satisfy the court, a witness must actually testify to this abstinence.

Only the spouse who seeks the divorce must appear at this hearing, if there is a settlement agreement in place and if the couple has lived apart for a year. Under current law, a wife or husband who comes to court must bring along a friend or relative to swear that the couple has not stayed under the same roof for one year – even in separate bedrooms.

Critics in the state’s General Assembly and elsewhere argue that this requirement is farcical and that it generates needless bureaucracy for the court system. Who, other than the two people involved, could actually know for certain how many nights they spent together or apart?

The Baltimore Sun recently ran an in depth article about the brewing legal debate: Did they spend the night together? Bill would end need for divorce court witness. Per the Sun, the bill “is one that A.E. Curry of Towson wishes were already off the books. When Curry went to Circuit Court in Towson to finalize her uncontested divorce after 36 years of marriage, she had her disabled sister fly in from California to spare her children from testifying.

Then, when a magistrate found fault with the sister’s testimony, Curry had to wait for a new hearing and ask her 24-year-old son to tell the court that his parents had not lived together for a year.

“I was upset,” Curry said. “I wanted my children to stay out of the proceedings. I wanted them to be neutral parties.””

Kathleen Dumais, the sponsor of the General Assembly’s bill, has decried what she and many others consider to be an “incredibly silly” law that is also “archaic” and problematic to enforce.

If you or someone you care about needs to understand how the latest changes to Maryland divorce law might affect your case or negotiating strategy, please call the experienced, resource-rich team at the DiPietro Family Law Group with any questions. We’re also available for free, confidential case consultations at 301.970.9286.

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