Divorce Property Settlement in Maryland
Divorce is a very difficult time for the people involved. In addition to the emotional difficulties, property division disputes can make matters even worse. In Maryland, as well as the greater DC, Rockville and Greenbelt areas, the court determines how to fairly distribute property – but that doesn’t always mean it is split down the middle.
At Houlon Berman, our family law team is devoted to complex divorce matters. Let us help you through your divorce property settlement.
How Maryland Handles Property Division
Maryland is an equitable distribution state. Despite the verbiage, this doesn’t mean the court divides everything equally (although it often means each spouse walks away with half of the marital property.) Possessions acquired by both spouses during the marriage are considered marital property (which includes houses and land).
However, the division of marital property does not include what each spouse brought separately to the union or what one spouse may have received via an inheritance or gift from an outside party during the marriage. Non-marital property also includes any directly traceable proceeds from the sale of such separate property or excluded by a valid agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement.
For example, if one spouse owned a boat before the marriage and sold that boat to buy a snowmobile, that snowmobile does not become marital property and remains that spouse’s separate property.
How Property Division is Decided
In order to determine the fairest way to divide property, the court examines how much each spouse contributed to the marriage. This includes financial input as well as other factors such as taking care of children. Conversely, the court also looks at negative factors such as marital debts from mortgages and credit cards as well as any personal misconduct either spouse may have committed that could have led to the divorce.
The Maryland court will typically look at the following factors as part of a divorce property division decision:
- Marriage length
- Age, health and physical/mental condition of each spouse
- Any alimony or family home/property use agreements
- Monetary and non-monetary contributions to the family well-being
- The economic circumstances of each spouse
- How and when specific property was acquired
- Any marital misconduct that resulted in the divorce
Protect Yourself in a Divorce Property Settlement
Dealing with a divorce property settlement can seem overwhelming but there are ways to protect yourself. Start by making an inventory of your property – make a list of what you have and its estimated worth. Without this, you won’t have an accurate picture of what is truly at stake. It can also help expedite matters since it will enable your attorney to quickly access the situation at hand.
A good attorney can also help organize your records, uncover valuable information, and provide essential legal advice. The latter is crucial since dividing property can become very complicated.
For instance, since the court cannot transfer marital property titled in one spouse’s name to the other, the court may order one spouse to buy the other one out. But if the parties are not amicable, the court may order them to sell the property and divide the proceeds.
An attorney can help you understand the ramifications of such a ruling and show you the best way to proceed to protect yourself and ensure that you receive a property settlement that is fair.
If you need to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer for family law, please contact our team today.