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General Assembly passes bill extending mutual-consent divorce to parents

divorce-istock-300x165ANNAPOLIS – A bill to permit parents of minor children to divorce via agreement resolving all property, financial, custodial and visitation issues will head to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk.

The Senate and House has passed long-stalled legislation extending to parents of these youngsters the state’s three-year old law permitting childless couples or those with adult children to divorce by mutual consent. Under the 2015 law, couples could divorce by signing an agreement resolving all property and financial issues that is approved by a court.

The House, at the time, had failed to pass the provision extending mutual-consent divorce to parents of minor children out of concern permitting divorces by spousal agreement does not provide courts with sufficient oversight to protect the youngsters’ best interests.

But House sentiment has changed in the past three years, as delegates have seen the successful and peaceful dissolution of marriages via mutual consent, Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said leading into the 2018 General Assembly session.

“The sky hasn’t fallen,” Dumais said in December. “If there is an agreement, there is no reason you should not get a divorce by mutual consent.”

The House on Friday approved the measure, Senate Bill 120, on a 99-33. The Senate had voted 33-14 in favor of the bill in February.

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, introduced the legislation, as he had in the three prior sessions.

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