How Marital Property Is Divided in Maryland Divorce
Maryland law does not follow a 50/50 division of marital property as other states do. Read on to explore how marital property is equitably distributed.
No newlywed couple imagines they will one day have to divide up everything they own.
You buy a new house and lovingly furnish it. You have children and accumulate more cars. Maybe you buy a boat or a holiday home. One spouse’s mother dies, and they get a massive inheritance.
Perhaps one spouse became an avid stamp collector and found some rare and valuable pieces.
More than two couples out of every 1,000 who get married will eventually get a divorce in Maryland. Dividing up marital property is one of the hardest parts of any divorce.
In Maryland, the rules are somewhat different from other states.
Read on to learn more about how a court will split marital assets.
Dividing Marital Property in Maryland
You might think that if you and your spouse disagree on how to divide your property and finances, a judge will step in and split everything 50-50.
In several states, anything acquired during a marriage becomes known as community property. The court will divide this evenly between the husband and wife during divorce litigation.
However, Maryland follows a system known as equitable distribution. This means that a judge will decide the fair division of assets. They will do so based on specific factors in the marital property act.
These elements can include various kinds of contributions to the family’s wellbeing. The length of the marriage can play a role. So can specific factors that ended the marriage, such as infidelity.
In the end, the judge will decide based on what they think is fair to both parties. In some cases, this might be a 50-50 division. However, the outcome of a divorce can be pretty uncertain.
What Is Marital Property?
So, you have decided it is time to hire a divorce lawyer. You cannot agree on how to divide your goods, and a judge has stepped in to determine how to divide the marital property.
Marital property is any property that you acquire as a couple during the marriage. This can be in the name of both parties or only in the name of one. It does not matter who paid for the item.
This can include physical items such as houses, cars, boats, or furniture. It also includes any bank or investment accounts. Savings and pension accounts are also considered marital property.
The court can also divvy up a business or shares in a company. The judge will also consider a private collection as marital property, such as art, wine, or comic books.
The court will also determine the value of any intellectual property, and this will be divided between the spouses. There may also be a division of future royalties related to intellectual property.
What Is Not Marital Property?
A specific agreement such as a prenuptial deal can exclude something from being considered marital property. In this case, the judge will not divide it during the divorce.
Any property acquired before the marriage will fall under non-marital property. However, in some cases, it might be open to equitable distribution.
Suppose the wife owned a house before getting married but used common funds to pay the mortgage during the marriage. In this case, the husband may receive some of the value of the house.
If one of the spouses received an inheritance or a gift from someone else, this is non-marital property. If they use inheritance money to buy expensive jewelry or a car, this will also be theirs alone.
A judge will not divide personal debt in a divorce. In Maryland, the debt belongs to the person who took it out. If all of the family credit cards are in your name, you will have to pay them off.
Neither partner will be liable for any contracts or lawsuits involving the other.
Suppose you mix money or property you had before getting married with money or property accrued during the marriage. In this case, it might be considered marital property.
Suppose you inherit money and use some of that money to pay off marital debt. In this case, you have “commingled” the inheritance, and it becomes marital property.
When it comes to marital property disputes, your law firm will help you navigate these complexities.
How Does the Judge Decide?
The first thing the court will do is determine what will fall under marital property.
The judge will then determine the total value of the marital property. Then the court will transfer ownership or set a monetary award to fairly distribute the assets.
There are some factors the judge will have in mind when dividing the property.
A key factor is what either spouse contributed to the family. This can be in financial terms or the contribution to the overall wellbeing. For example, childcare or sacrifices made to support the other person’s career.
Other things that will help the judge decide are:
- How long the marriage lasted
- The reason for the divorce
- The financial circumstances of either spouse
- The age and health of each partner
- The mental condition of each partner
- How the marital property was acquired
- If alimony is being awarded
- If either spouse will get the family home
Once the court settles the exact division, sharing out property can take several forms.
You might get physical ownership of an item or be allowed to buy it from the other person. The court can also order a monetary award to balance out the distributions of property.
For example, if one gets the family boat or the house, the court might order them to pay an amount to their former spouse to compensate.
Getting a Fair Divorce
It is heartbreaking when a marriage ends, and the divorce can be a bumpy ride. You will have to sift through all of your belongings and have a judge tell you what is and is not marital property.
The right Maryland divorce attorney will make this process easier for you. Contact us for any advice and assistance with marital property disputes.