1.30.2010

Reader explains proposed Maryland "no sex" divorce law

On Friday there was an item in the News Bullets about divorce law in Maryland. The point of discussion is a change proposed by a Montgomery County lawmaker, that would allow divorce after a year of no sexual intercourse. This, of course, led to all sorts of jokes around the media, and some mocking. To be clear, of course, this isn't a matter of being able to divorce someone because you aren't getting any. This is more a nod to the fact that often separating can be expensive, especially while the technical details of a divorce are being worked out. A reader sent in the following response, which I think is worth highlighting.
As a family law attorney based in Montgomery County, I wanted to respond to the last bullet, because the proposed legislation is a great thing for couples in Maryland looking to get divorced (this will apply to all of MD, not just MoCo).

The no sex for a year requirement is nothing new, it's already part of MD divorce law. For a "no-fault" divorce, meaning both sides are on board with getting divorced and neither side is accusing the other of adultery, abuse, etc., the law as it is now requires the couple to live separate and apart for one year, and they can't have sex with each other during that time. If they do, it resets the clock and their 1-year waiting period starts all over again. (Even if one side is claiming fault by the other person, if the couple has sex, it's considered condoning the behavior and a reconciliation of the parties.) The way the no sex is proven is by sworn testimony in court, so they already have to testify that they haven't had sex with their spouse in a year. Whether they've had sex with other people in that time isn't part of the equation, so it isn't even asked because it doesn't matter. (Even if it was asked, the witness could claim 5th Amendment privilege, since adultery in MD is a crime. The penalty? A $10 fine.)

All this legislation will do is remove the requirement that the two people live in separate residences for that year. Right now, with the economy in the crapper, people taking salary cuts or losing their jobs left and right, moving out is an economic impossibility for a lot of people. For some, that means the person moving out has to keep making payments on a mortgage while paying rent on another apartment and possibly making child support payments on top of that, all while trying to pay their other bills.

I applaud the fact that the legislators are listening to us practitioners doing this stuff every day and reacting to the economic reality that's putting couples in tough situations. This is a good thing for couples looking to get divorced that can't afford two places while they're going through the process. This will benefit the non-wealthy MoCo residents, and yes, there are lots of them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go meet John Gosselin at a butter party.
Points taken, and well explained. Thank you for sending this in!

P.S. How about this snow?

13 comments:

  1. The "no sex" policy is actually pretty common. It's consistent with DC's law. Not sure about VA.

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  2. DC's law is a bit different--if i recall correctly you can cohabitate but you must also occupy different areas of the home, and not share any meals, as well as not having sex. and i believe its a longer period of time versus actual physical separation (6mo separation or 12mo live-in separation)

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  3. This is a great proposal. When might we expect to see it take effect?

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  4. I would love it if the lawmakers would make it possible. For me the man that I am married to and I have two kids and neither of us can afford living apart on our own and continue paying ont the present home. We have been living in the same house but he is in the basement without any sexual interaction for more than a year. Pleasssssse make this happen!!

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  5. how about the parner that cant preform sex any more is that gronds?

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  6. My husband & I haven't had sex for more than 15 years. Kids are all grown & gone now, but we still can not afford to live separate. Please make this law happen ... soon

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  7. This law is really great! It should be enforced soon.

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  8. The new law is not beyond from being a reality or a reflection of what is going on with marriage. Up to date we can see lots of couples that don't have sex during almost a year.

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  9. Can anyone say if Or when This might be passed and or enforced?

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  10. Any couple not having sex for reasons other than medical issues or health related restrictions shouldn't be married anyway. This is an important part of marriage. Why force two people to continue to have such a contract if they no longer are living like they are married. Please pass this law. A marriage can only be viable if both parties want it to be. Don't make people stay married if they no longer wish to be. Sometimes is the best thing two people are not together, other times people can work it out.

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