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Notes from the Desk of Cynthia Lifson: Grounds for Absolute Divorce in Maryland

As we all know, for a married person to resume his or her status as a single person, a divorce action must take place. A divorce cannot occur unless one spouse successfully asserts a legally sufficient reason that will entitle him or her to a divorce. This legally sufficient reason is called a ground for divorce. Title 7 of the Family Law Article lists the grounds for divorce in Maryland. The available grounds for divorce depend on the state where the divorce action takes place. Many people are surprised to learn that the ground of “irreconcilable differences” has no application in Maryland. In Maryland, there are several alternative grounds available when seeking an absolute, or final, divorce. The ground that is most frequently pled in Maryland is the one year separation. This is a no-fault ground and before filing a claim, the spouses are required to live separate and apart (in two different homes) for one year without interruption, without cohabitation (sexual relations), and without any expectation of reconciliation. The elements of this ground, along with the elements of other grounds for absolute divorce, must be corroborated with independent evidence, most typically through the testimony of a third party witness. With Maryland’s embrace of same sex marriage through referendum, an interesting interplay between Maryland’s statutory scheme and its case law arises when addressing the ground of adultery. While infidelity by one marriage partner with a same sex paramour is not a new form of human behavior, at the present time, Maryland’s case law does not recognize adultery to occur when a spouse in a heterosexual marriage engages sexually with...

Notes from Annapolis

Soon, the people will speak! For those of us who follow politics, this month and next marks the time when the citizens again get to send a message to Annapolis, along with our local county jurisdictions as well as Washington, by voting for the men and women who will represent us in the executive and legislative branches of government in Maryland, in some of our local county boards and government agencies, and in Congress in Washington, DC. Marylanders will also be voting on two amendments to the Maryland Constitution. Fortunately for us in Maryland, this year we are not experiencing some of the confusion associated with new voter ID laws in other states that have been the subject of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. So while our voting procedures in Maryland remain pretty much the same, it is worth remembering that this year, voting will be different for many of us because of changes in legislative districts. Redistricting occurs regularly in the wake of the census that is required every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution and reflects changes in the population. Many Marylanders will be situated in a new federal or Maryland legislative district with new boundaries from the previous 10 years. Many of us will be considering candidates for office that are not familiar to us. With the amount of information circulating about voting procedures (including information about polling places and early voting or absentee voting before Election Day) and various candidates for office, it can be daunting to get trustworthy information to make an informed decision. Of course, we have the world wide web, local newspapers,...

Notes from the Courts: The Maryland Electronic Court System – Pilot Program in Arundel County

This month, the Anne Arundel County Courts go very “high tech” with the launching of a new program called the Maryland Electronic Court System (MDEC). Anne Arundel is the first of Maryland’s jurisdictions to participate in the MDEC; eventually all Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City will be required to participate in the MDEC. As envisioned by the Maryland Judiciary, the MDEC will achieve several important objectives: eliminate paper files; support the judiciary’s case management system by allowing for greater flexibility than is now currently available; and reduce processing delays. Another overall goal of the MDEC is to create electronic case records as official court records. One critical aspect of the MDEC is the mandatory requirement for attorneys to file pleadings on behalf of a client electronically. Specific procedures related to e-filing are contained in Title 20 of the Maryland Rules for Civil Procedure, and the Maryland Judiciary is also offering tutorials through its website for attorneys. Failure to comply with mandatory e-filing will have serious consequences because after November 10, paper filings will no longer be accepted by the Anne Arundel County courts. As we can expect when transitions occur in our individual lives or in business matters, there will likely be several bumps in the road before the goals of the MDEC are achieved. Persistence and patience by attorneys and members of the public who must access the Maryland court system will be necessary in the coming...