The Maryland Senate agreed yesterday on a new divorce property settlement bill that would allow the spouse with custody of the children to keep the family house for three years and would divide some of the property on an equal basis.
The bill awaits final Senate passage next week before going to the House of Delegates.
The bill has been a source of continuing controversy in this year's session and has been repeatedly amended since it was first proposed by women's groups to make property division more equitable in their eyes. Under current procedures the legal owner of the property is presumed to have an advantage in property settlement. That owner is usually the husband.
The centerpiece of the bill is the provision dealing with allocation of the house to the spouse who keeps the children. it is designed to limit the impact of a divorce on children.
"The family is unique. It means that the children don't have to give up their school because their parents got a divorce," said Sen. John J. Bishop Jr., (R-Baltimore County) a major proponent of the bill.
Bishop also said, however, that by restricting a spouse's right to live in the home to only three years the Senate had made a regrettable mistake.
Under old divorce laws the home and furnishings were considered part of the property to be immediately divided. Often, the home would would go up for sale, the money divided and the spouse with children left to find another home without the ability to pay for one.