Changes to Maryland’s Grounds for Divorce

Scrabble tiles spelling 'TIME FOR CHANGE' indicating changes to Maryland divorce law

Major changes are on the horizon for the state of Maryland’s divorce laws, particularly the grounds on which one may seek an absolute divorce. These changes, approved by Governor Wes Moore on May 16, 2023, will take effect on October 1, 2023. This article will explain these changes in detail, comparing the original Md. Code, Fam. Law § 7-103 with the revised version, and how these changes will affect those seeking an absolute divorce.

Outline of the Revised Grounds for Absolute Divorce

The revised Md. Code, Fam. Law § 7-103 simplifies the grounds for divorce and reduces them to just three, namely:

  • 6-month separation
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Mutual consent

The revised statute further provides that parties who have pursued separate lives shall be deemed to have lived separate and apart for purposes of 6-month separation even if they reside under the same roof or the separation is in accordance with a court order.

Key Changes in Maryland’s Divorce Law

The new law modifies Maryland’s divorce landscape significantly. Not only does it change the grounds for an absolute divorce, but it also introduces and eliminates several legal provisions. Key changes include:

  • The separation period for divorce is now shortened from 12 months to 6 months.
  • “Irreconcilable differences” is a new ground for divorce. Its interpretation will evolve with case law and appellate decisions over time.
  • The law repeals Md. Code, Fam. Law § 7-102, which means Maryland will no longer recognize limited divorce.
  • The term “irreconcilable differences” will likely have a broad interpretation, depending on the judgment of the circuit court.

The key changes outlined above do not explicitly mention previous specific grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion, or cruelty. However, with the introduction of “irreconcilable differences” as a broad and flexible ground for divorce, it’s likely that these and other previously specified issues could be considered within its scope. This represents a significant departure from the previous, more rigid approach to grounds for divorce in Maryland.

While undoubtedly broad, the interpretation of “irreconcilable differences” will likely follow precedent set by other states. For instance, Steiner v. Steiner, 470 N.J. Super. 112, 118-19 (2021), states, “Family judges know irreconcilable differences when they see them… the Legislature left it to the courts to ascertain what is irreconcilable on a case-by-case basis.” Considering this, it’s probable that Maryland will adopt a similar case-by-case approach.


The impending changes to Maryland’s divorce laws represent a significant shift in the state’s approach to divorce. As a Maryland divorce lawyer, it is crucial to stay updated with these changes to effectively advise clients. The revised grounds for divorce aim to simplify the process, reducing the time and potential conflict involved in achieving a divorce.

It is important to note that the existing grounds for divorce, as outlined in our prior article, A Comprehensive Guide to Grounds for an Absolute Divorce in Maryland, will remain in effect until the new law takes effect on October 1, 2023. After this date, the revised grounds for divorce will apply.

The changes to Maryland’s divorce laws are substantial and may have significant implications for those considering a divorce in the state. As always, if you are considering a divorce, it is recommended to consult with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer to understand how these changes may affect your specific circumstances.

Image Credit: Pixabay: Alexas_Fotos

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