(a)(1) In all divorces sought because of irreconcilable differences between the parties, if the defendant is a nonresident, personal service may be effectuated by service upon the secretary of state pursuant to § 20-2-215 .
(2) In lieu of service of process, the defendant may enter into a written notarized marital dissolution agreement with plaintiff that makes specific reference to a pending divorce by a court and docket number, or states that the defendant is aware that one will be filed in this state and that the defendant waives further service and waives filing an answer to the complaint. Such waiver of service shall be valid for a period of one hundred eighty (180) days from the date the last party signs the agreement. The agreement may include the obligation and payment of alimony, in solido or in futuro, to either of the parties, any other law notwithstanding. The signing of such an agreement shall be in lieu of service of process for the period such waiver is valid and shall constitute a general appearance before the court and answer that shall give the court personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and constitute a default judgment for the purpose of granting a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
(3) No divorce heretofore granted shall be invalid because the agreement was signed and notarized or acknowledged prior to filing under prior law before the action was filed.
(b) No divorce shall be granted on the ground of irreconcilable differences unless the court affirmatively finds in its decree that the parties have made adequate and sufficient provision by written agreement for the custody and maintenance of any children of that marriage and for the equitable settlement of any property rights between the parties. If the court does not affirmatively find that the agreement is sufficient or equitable, the cause shall be continued by the court to allow further disposition by the petitioner. If both parties are present at the hearing, they may, at that time, ratify any amendments the court may have to the agreement. The amended agreement shall then become a part of the decree. The agreement shall be incorporated in the decree or incorporated by reference, and such decree may be modified as other decrees for divorce.
(c)(1) Bills for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences must have been on file for sixty (60) days before being heard if the parties have no unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age, and must have been on file at least ninety (90) days before being heard if the parties have an unmarried child under eighteen (18) years of age. The sixty-day or ninety-day period bills for divorce that must be on file shall commence on the date the original bill was filed and not on the date the bill was amended to include the ground of irreconcilable differences.
(2) A divorce decree or order issued prior to March 22, 1996, in which the hearing for such divorce occurred before the specified time periods required by this subsection (c), shall remain valid and the parties shall remain divorced. Likewise, all other issues resolved in the divorce decree, order or agreement, such as distribution of marital property, alimony, child support and custody, shall remain valid and in full force and effect.
(d)(1) A bill of complaint for divorce where the respondent has been personally served or acknowledged as set out in subsection (a), which includes the ground of irreconcilable differences, may be taken as confessed and a final decree entered thereon, as in other cases and without corroborative proof or testimony, §§ 36-4-107 and 36-4-114 to the contrary notwithstanding.
(2) For purposes of this section, “without corroborative proof or testimony” means that the petitioner shall not be required to testify as to the material facts constituting irreconcilable differences or any attempts to reconcile such differences.
(e) If there has been a contest or denial of the grounds of irreconcilable differences, no divorce shall be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. However, a divorce may be granted on the grounds of irreconcilable differences where there has been a contest or denial, if a properly executed marital dissolution agreement is presented to the court.
(g) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary requiring mediation, the filing with the court of a properly executed marital dissolution agreement and, if there are minor children of the marriage, a properly executed parenting plan shall serve to remove any requirement that the parties shall attend mediation. If the court does not approve either the marital dissolution agreement or the parenting plan, then any requirement to attend mediation shall be reinstated as of the date of the court's rejection of either agreement.
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