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Maryland's long-standing policy to require a year-long wait for most divorces would evaporate under a bill approved by a Senate panel Tuesday afternoon.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee passed a bill that would allow couples to dissolve a marriage by mutual consent, bypassing the state's requirement that couples live apart for a full year before applying for a divorce.

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The vote sends the measure to the Senate floor, where a similar proposal passed unanimously last year. It died in a House committee without a vote last spring.

Currently, couples seeking divorce can only avoid the waiting period in cases of abuse, adultery, a year-long desertion and serious criminal convictions. The waiting period can be costly for couples who need to divide their assets -- selling a home, for instance -- in order to afford two separates residences.

Baltimore County Democrat Sen. Bobby Zirkin, an attorney who handles divorces, sponsored the bill.

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