New laws will make divorce easier for some couples in the US states of Connecticut and Maryland.
In Connecticut, the new law allows judges to grant couples who have been married for eight years or less a non-adversarial divorce. This means that the divorce period could be reduced to around 35 days compared to the three months taken by standard divorce proceedings in the state.
There are caveats within the new law. At least one party has to be a Connecticut resident, and the couple must not have children or be pregnant. Their financial position is also important. The combined value of any property owned by either party cannot be more than $35,000, neither must be facing bankruptcy, and they must not have a company-sponsored pension plan.
Couples who meet the criteria will be able to file a joint petition for divorce, so the traditional terms of ‘plaintiff’ and ‘defendant’ won’t apply. Judges will be able to grant non-adversarial divorces without the couple having to appear in court. The couple will also be able to ask the judge to set aside the traditional 90 day waiting period required for dissolving a marriage.
This new divorce option has received a mixed reaction from the Connecticut legal profession. Louise Zito, president of the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce spoke in favour at a public hearing. She said:
“Our clients do not understand why they have to sue each other.”
However Ms Zito and others have also voiced their concerns about some of the qualifying criteria, especially the exclusion of those with company-sponsored pension plans. This means that members of professions such as teaching or the emergency services may not be eligible. There are also concerns regarding how to verify someone’s identity if they don’t have to appear in court.
Despite those worries, Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto, chief administrative judge for family matters for Connecticut’s Judicial Branch is positive about the benefits of the new law. She said:
“Time spent in court is a frequent criticism of our current process….Permitting cases to proceed in a simplified manner means that more time and attention can be paid to cases with more significant issues in dispute.”
Meanwhile, another eastern seaboard state is also updating its divorce laws. Maryland couples who don’t have children and have mutually agreed the terms of their divorce, including any property that needs to be split, won’t have wait a year before they can file for divorce. Unlike Connecticut, the couple will still have to be present for a court hearing.
Prior to the new law, all divorcing couples had to live apart for a year and if they stayed in the same house overnight at any point, the 12 month countdown restarted. Now only couples with children will still have to live apart and wait out the 12 month holding period.
The state of Maryland has also passed legislation that shortens the period that one of the parties needs to reside in Maryland from one year to six months, if the legal grounds for divorce took place out of state.
Recently, an analysis found Vermont to be home to the most amicable divorces in the States, followed by Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
Read about the new Connecticut laws on non-adversarial divorce here
Photo by Alan Cleaver via Flickr