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Maryland Bill to shorten "involuntary divorce" waiting period is misguided

My friend Jim Gross, a lawyer in Chevy Chase, Maryland and the founding father of Collaborative Divorce in the Washington area, reports on his blog that a Maryland legislator is trying to cut Maryland's divorce waiting periods in half. (New Bill Would Shorten Maryland Separation Period | Maryland Divorce Legal Crier.) The current waiting periods are one year when the separation is mutually voluntary, but two years when it's involuntary -- i.e., when it isn't done by mutual agreement.

Shortening the wait for "involuntary" divorces would be a real shame. Maryland is one of a handful of states that have 18 or 24 month waiting periods, but also let the divorce happen a lot faster when the couple works out mutual consent to the divorce.  The others are Pennsylvania, Illinois and New Jersey. They all have far lower divorce rates than the national average. My favorite is Illinois:  2 years without mutual consent, but only 6 months with it, and they let you have "conjugal visits" to try and reconcile, without worrying that it will blow the whole separation out of the water if it doesn't work out. A few years ago I and my interns did a study of such laws in the U.S. and Europe. We found that these long wait periods, with big incentives for mutual consent, correlated strongly with lower divorce rates; but shorter waiting periods had little or no effect. The study also includes model legislation suggesting the best ways for other states to introduce longer waiting periods in ways that would help people work on their marriages before it's too late, and decrease rather than increase "fault divorce" and other contested family law litigation.

Comments

Divorcing Dad

As much as it pains me to say, I am going through the painful process of divorce. I'm struggling with the cost and I was hoping someone might have some advice on what options I might have.

Karl

This is a great post John! I just wanted to share this information regarding laws on divorce particularly in Maryland. Here is the link http://www.divorceguide.com/usa/divorce-laws/maryland-divorce-laws.html

R Gould-Saltman

I respectfully disagree. I think the study shows a pretty weak correlation, and as my college-student son is fond of quoting back at me, "Correlation ain't causation". . . . and why should there be ANY waiting period for folks who walk in with a written agreement addressing all issues?

Here's my two cents: http://familylawguy.blogspot.com/2010/03/why-do-people-divorce-and-should-we.html

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