Mutual Consent in Maryland doesn’t need to be a Mystery

Up until 2015, Marylanders looking for an absolute divorce could only choose from a small number of immediate divorce conditions or separate for at least 12 months before filing. Mutual consent divorce is a new third option that forgoes the year of waiting and allows for immediate filing.

Who Qualifies for a Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland?

Maryland couples who do not share a minor child can file for mutual consent divorce. If you have minor children from previous relationships, you can still file for a mutual consent divorce. Once you decide to divorce, you must make a separation agreement that resolves the division of all marital property, pensions and alimony (whether by a mutual waiver or specific amounts and durations). Both parties must sign the document and file it with the Court, along with their complaint based on mutual consent. The Court will set a hearing date that both parties must attend.

How is Mutual Consent Divorce a Better Option?

Previously, couples who didn’t share children needed to maintain two residences for at least a year before filing for divorce. The process could be costly and impractical, especially since the couple already discussed their issues and decided to formally divorce. With mutual consent divorce, you can cohabitate throughout the divorce period, and even afterwards, without it ever entering into the legal equation. Mutual consent divorce gives you more freedom and can save you a lot of financial stress.

Are There Any Bumps in the Road?

Mutual consent divorce might sound too simple to be true. While the process can be smooth, the division of marital property and alimony agreement can add a lot of time to the equation. Be sure to use an attorney you trust and carefully assess all shared property and assets before agreeing, even verbally, to anything. If you are ready to get the mutual consent divorce process started, Lebovitz Law is here to help. Contact us today at (410) 828-0680.

The Driving Age

When your teenager starts driving it’s a load off your back; no more driving them to school, to the mall, to a friend’s house, or to cheerleading or soccer practice.  But that relief is quickly replaced with a whole new set of worries; car accidents, driving under the influence, staying out too late, or using their cell phone to talk or text while driving.

In the State of Maryland, Teenagers can obtain their drivers permit when they are 15 year and 9 months old.  They can then obtain their full provisional license when they are 16.5 having completed a driver’s education course and their parents’ have verified they have driven 60 hours on the roads in varying weather and light conditions.

As much as parents dream of the day their teenager begins driving, they also dread it. And for a good reason; not only do teenagers have the highest average number of motor vehicle accidents than any other demographic, but car accidents are the leading cause of death among America’s teenagers. On a lighter note, parents also dread the potential doubling of their car insurance rates as they add their sons or daughters to their insurance policies.

Teenage Driving Statistics:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 19 percent of drivers below the age of 20 who were involved in fatal car accidents were distracted by their cell phone.  A recent AllState Foundation survey shows other important teenage driving statistics:

  • 56% use their cell phones while driving
  • 55% exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph
  • 26% exceed the speed limit by more than 20 mph
  • 44% drive more safely without friends in the car
  • 40% of teen auto deaths occur between the hours of 9pm and 6am

These teenage driving statistics form the basis for many Maryland teenage driving laws. For example, Maryland law prevents a novice driver in the intermediate stage from driving between midnight and 6am.  Maryland law also restricts the number of teenage passengers in a teen motorist’s car.  Beginning drivers can only drive their own siblings in the vehicle and cannot drive other teens in the vehicle until they are 17 or 18 depending on whether they took a driver’s education course. Maryland teenage driving laws are designed to help teenage drivers ease into safe, full-time drivers.

However, the Maryland teenage driving laws are not enough.  Parents need to lead by example and be more involved in teaching their teenagers good driving habits.

The NHTSA is asking parents to monitor the number of teen passengers in the car, encourage seat belt use and establish a parent-child driving agreement that clearly outlines his responsibilities and obligations as a motorist.  Parents of teenage drivers need to learn about the graduated driver licensing laws in their state.  “Rookie Driver” is Maryland’s Graduated Driver Licensing System.

Encourage your teenager to buckle up each and every time he drives, and lay down strict rules about cell phone use while driving.  Even though Maryland is a hands-free state in regards to cell phone use, learners permit holders and drivers under the age of 18 cannot use any form of wireless communication devices even if they are hands-free.  The only exception is if they need to make an emergency call.  We parents need to lead by example and leave our phones off or in the back seat and not give in to the temptation to answer the call or text while in the vehicle.

Lastly, parents are encouraged to have frank conversations about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  It is prohibited for an underage motorist to drive with any amount of alcohol in his system.  Avoidance of such practices is an important, potentially life-saving subject that parents must broach with their teenage driver.

Maryland extends protections for victims of domestic violence

The Maryland General Assembly passed laws this year that become effective October 1, 2012. These laws added two new protections to victims of domestic violence.

First, victims who are forced to leave their employment to escape the threat of domestic violence will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This law makes it easier for victims to come forward to challenge their abusers. It takes away the hurdle of losing their means of supporting themselves in the short term and allows them to apply for unemployment benefits.

Normally, someone must be laid off or the position terminated prior to applying for unemployment. This new law removes a hurdle for victims of domestic violence as it prevents employers from denying benefits if the victim voluntarily quits a position.

The second law requires judges to report whether or not defendants are found to have had a “domestically-related relationship” with their victims. If they have, a notation will be added to their criminal record that indicates they have committed a domestic violence-related crime. That will be used by law enforcement to monitor domestic violence offenders.

It’s up to judges to determine the extent of the relationship and mark it in criminal records at the time of sentencing, allowing other law enforcement to access information to quickly distinguish whether a crime is domestic violence-related.

Quick Evictions in Maryland

It has come to my attention that there are national companies marketing on the internet that market towards landlords to help them evict their tenants. They have catchy names and logos to capture the imagination of prospective clients that this is an easy process.

This tactic and marketing strategy may be effective in other jurisdictions, however, here in Maryland, most evictions and tenant issues can be resolved by the litigants themselves without requiring attorney intervention. The District Court of Maryland hears the majority of landlord tenant disputes in Maryland. Some counties, specifically, Montgomery County has a separate Landlord Tenant Commission to help resolve disputes between landlords and tenants prior to filing in the District Court.

While many potential litigants, both landlords and tenants may feel overwhelmed by the process and uncomfortable going to court, attorneys can be a helpful resource. However, the District Court provides a web site with links to all the necessary forms and has frequently asked questions and answers available. Click on the following link to obtain all relevant information from the District Court. This site has links for forms and simple instructions on how to complete the forms.

You may also click on this link ( )for access to all available forms from the District Court. Many can be downloaded in pdf format and typed on your computer and then printed while a few must be picked up for free from any District Court location.


Prior to filing a complaint, the court requires proof that any defendant is not in active military service. There is a link for the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center
This website can help determine whether someone is currently in active military service or not.


In the State of Maryland, landlord’s can file actions in rent court, a subdivision of the District Court seeking to collect unpaid rent when tenants fail to pay rent and money for damages caused by tenants when they move out. Landlords may file a complaint for failure to pay rent or for breach of lease. Prior to filing a complaint, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant to vacate the property.

Landlords must give 30 days notice (or 14 days if there is clear and imminent danger of the tenant or person who is on property doing serious harm to themselves, other tenants, the landlord, the landlord’s property or representatives, or any other person on the property).

You must provide proof that each defendant has been served prior to a hearing being scheduled.

If you have questions regarding this process, please feel free to contact me or any other attorney or click on one of these high profile eviction companies. But remember that there is plenty of free information available from the Courts.

New Maryland No Fault Divorce Law effective October 1, 2011



Maryland currently has two “no-fault”


grounds for an absolute divorce: a mutual and


voluntary separation of one year, or a separation


of two years. As of October 1, 2011, the new


law eliminates voluntary separation as a ground


for absolute divorce and shortens the


period the parties must be living separate and apart


from two years to one year.


This is a major change in Maryland Divorce Law. It shortens


the time a spouse, who does not have an


agreement to separate or a fault ground for


divorce, has to wait for a divorce to one year


down from two years.


Maryland’s  no fault ground requires


that there be no sexual relations during the one


year separation and that both spouses live in separate


residences for the entire year.




When to consider shared physical custody in Maryland

Under Maryland law sole physical custody becomes shared custody as the number of over nights spent with the non custodial parent exceeds 35% or 128 per year. The non custodial parent, the one who has less visitation than the primary care giving parent should make sure they have more than 128 overnights of visitation with their child after the date of separation prior to filing for shared custody.  There are two important principles the court takes into consideration when deciding a Maryland Custody Order. One is what kind of living arrangement is in the best interest of the child. The other principal is one of the factors embedded into the best interest of the child list- is maintaining the status quo and to not grant additional visitation to the non custodial parent who has not recently had a significant involvement in their child’s life. That requesting shared custody in a Maryland custody case without already exceeding 35% of the yearly overnights will be very unlikely to be granted absent testimony that questions the custodial parent’s ability to parent, discipline and care for the child. In other words, what kind of informal agreement have the parties been operating under leading up to the custody hearing and has the child been doing well under that arrangement. If yes, then more likely than not, the court will fashion a Maryland custody order according to the present arrangements.

Too many times, parents know about their equal right to the upbringing of their child, but are not aware of the best interest factors a court takes into consideration when deciding Maryland custody. Establishing and maintaining the status quo is an important factor to plan for so that your day in court will truly reflect what is in the best interest of the child, as opposed to being the result of your ignorance of the law. In the event that one parent denies visitation, or flees out of state, consult with your Maryland Child Custody attorney as to what your parental rights are in response.Finally, don’t forget to ask your Maryland custody attorney about a consent order regarding an initial custody order.

Grandparent Visitation in Maryland

On Wednesday, June 2, 2010, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision in Brandenburg v. LaBarre (2010 WL 2179774 (MD.App.)) reversed a finding of the Circuit Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County of exceptional circumstances for grandparent visitation, holding that “The [grandparents] bore the ultimate burden of showing harm and they failed to present the court with facts from which it could draw a reasonable inference of significant deleterious effect.”  Contact, closeness of relationship, etc are no longer enough–if a grandparent wants visitation, s/he must show the grandchildren are suffering actual harm by not seeing them.  This makes grandparent visitation very difficult as its virtually impossible to show actual harm if the grandparents can’t have access to the grandchildren.

This Court created a new test in Koshko v. Haining, 398 Md. 404, 921 A.2d 171 (2007) that a threshold showing of either parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances is required before grandparental visitation can be ordered. In Bradenburg, this court stated that

The trial court was not permitted to draw an inference from the mere amount of time the children once had spent with the grandparents and the generally loving and bonded relationship they had had with them that the cessation of contact between the appellees and the children had harmed the children. The LaBarres bore the ultimate burden of showing harm and they failed to present the court with facts from which it could draw a reasonable inference of significant deleterious effect.

This court further considered the type of evidence of harm that grandparents might present to satisfy the exceptional circumstances threshold, concluding that “[e]xpert testimony may be desirable and, frequently, may be necessary” to meet the burden imposed in Koshko. Id. at 85, 972 A.2d 905.

The current case law in Maryland confirms that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit. This presumption is very difficult to overcome.

Now, grandparent’s visitation rights are in jeopardy. One result from this decision will be that grandchildren will be forced to testify in court about how sad and upset they are about not seeing their grandparents anymore as the best way for grandparents to make a case. Grandparents will need to reconcile with their children and not openly criticize their children if they desire to have a relationship with their grandchildren.

Custody litigation in general and specifically grandparent visitation cases can be difficult and affect the lives of all involved. They take many months to years to litigate and can be very costly to pursue. To overcome the current threshold of exceptional circumstances, “expert” testimony will be required increasing the already high costs to all parties involved in this type of litigation.