Witness Corroboration No Longer Required Under Maryland Divorce Law
Currently, the most common grounds for divorce in Howard County, Maryland is 12-month separation. Under Maryland divorce law, parties must live apart and maintain separate residences for at least one year before filing for divorce. As part of this requirement, if the parties spend even one night together or resume marital relations at any point during the separation period, the 12-month clock would start all over again.
You may be wondering, “but how would anyone even know?” Great question…
Maryland Divorce Law: Requirement for Witness Corroboration
Until very recently, in an uncontested divorce, Maryland divorce law required a third party witness to confirm the testimony of the husband and wife that they had truly lived separately and apart for a full year. The purpose of this condition, coupled with a lengthy separation period, was to discourage married couples from rushing into divorce without careful consideration.
However, the requirement for third party corroboration has been criticized harshly. According to a recent Baltimore Sun article, some lawmakers have referred to it as an “arcane and ridiculous requirement.”
For example, let’s say that a married couple living in Ellicott City, MD makes the difficult decision to separate. In order to prevent any of their grown children from having to testify, the husband has his brother fly in from out of state to serve as witness when they go to finalize the divorce in Howard County Circuit Court. However, the Judge takes issue with the brother’s testimony, forcing the couple to incur additional time and expense waiting for a new hearing so that they can ultimately have their 26 year old daughter testify that her parents had not lived together for a year.
Unfortunately, scenarios like the one above are not uncommon in a Maryland divorce. As a result, effective October 1, 2016, Maryland divorce law has been amended to no longer require divorcing couples to produce a third party witness to testify to the length and validity of their separation.
Criticisms of Third Party Corroboration Requirement Under Maryland Divorce Law
The most obvious flaw in requiring a third party to attest to the fact that the couple has not spent even a single night together is that no one, aside from the husband and wife themselves, is truly privy to that information. The witness would have to be with one of the parties 24/7 to accurately attest to the completeness of the separation. Clearly, this isn’t realistic.
The other issue lies in determining who the witness should actually be. Most often, the witness is a parent, sibling, or friend of one of the divorcing spouses. For most people, it is extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to have to ask someone close to them to bear witness to such personal issues in their life. Not only that, but the witness is rarely an impartial and unbiased third party. Even if the couple did have relations during the 12-month separation period, it would certainly not be unheard of for one of the parties to have their mother or best friend lie for them in Court to expedite the divorce process.
Amended Maryland Divorce Law Now in Force
Effective October 1, 2016, although the requirement of a 12 month separation is still in effect, the testimony of a third party witness is no longer required. While many think the amendment to Maryland divorce law was long overdue, some worry that removing another hurdle to divorce, coupled with the passing of divorce by mutual consent last year, is making it too easy to get divorced in Maryland.
If you are seeking a divorce in Maryland and have questions regarding your options and what to expect from the process, contact Coover Law Firm, LLC today at (410) 995-1100 to schedule an initial consultation. Experienced Columbia MD family law attorney Fred L. Coover, Esquire has been helping Howard County families navigate through separation and divorce for over 30 years. We look forward to serving you.