Along with child custody, the division of marital assets is one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce. Before the court may grant a divorce, all of the outstanding issues between the couple must be resolved, including the disposition of marital property. Each spouse may have a different claim as to the ownership of property, value of property, whether property or not marital, or how property should be divided/disposed.
The lawyers at Brodsky Renehan Pearlstein & Bouquet will guide you through your divorce process. We can help you negotiate with your spouse, and we are not afraid to litigate your case to pursue the best outcome for you
How Marital Property Is Divided in a Divorce
Marital property can be divided in one of two ways:
- By agreement of the parties, typically set forth in a marital settlement agreement negotiated (either directly between two attorneys or through the help of a mediator)
- Through a Judgment of Absolute Divorce entered after a judge has held a hearing and weighed the required statutory considerations
Property division is a crucial issue in any divorce, because those assets may have a significant impact on the parties’ financial future after the divorce is finalized. Assets and funds received in a divorce will assist parties in beginning a new life and in continuing to build for their financial future.
When you are going through a divorce, you need practical legal counsel from an experienced attorney. At the same time, you also should know that you have an attorney who is not afraid to litigate these issues in court. The attorneys at Brodsky Renehan Pearlstein & Bouquet are pragmatic but also aggressive when necessary, through the negotiation process and litigation.
The Steps to Dividing Marital Property Under Maryland Law
In general, there are 3 steps to the process of dividing marital property in Maryland :
- Categorizing specific property as marital or non-marital,
- Determining the valuation of the property, and
- Making a monetary award (if appropriate) after considering each of the statutory equitable distribution factors.
How Marital Property Is Defined Under Maryland Law
Marital property is defined as all property acquired during the parties’ marriage, that is not directly traceable to an inheritance, gift from a third party, or excluded by valid agreement. Spouses stop acquiring marital property until the divorce, so assets acquired after the parties separate are still marital property.
Marital property includes not only tangible property, such as real estate and tangible personal property (such as cars, jewelry, watches, and furniture), but also intangible property (such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and stocks). . Marital property also It may also include such intangibles as a spouse’s interest in a business and a personal injury lawsuit.
“Marital debt” must also be addressed in a divorce. Marital debt is any debt incurred to acquire marital property (e.g., a mortgage or car loan). Marital debt does not include debts not incurred to acquire property (e.g., credit card debt, personal loans, and school loans). However, those debts that are not considered marital debts may be considered by the court when determining whether to make a monetary award to one party or the other.
Exclusions from Marital Assets
As stated above, certain property is excluded:
- Property that was acquired by a party prior to the marriage,
- A gift or inheritance that was given to one of the spouses,
- Property that was excluded by a valid agreement between the spouses (such as a pre or postnuptial agreement), or
- Any property directly traceable to these sources.
Valuing Marital Assets
Once a determination is made as to the full extent of the property at issue, the property must be assigned a value. This is an easy task for bank, retirement, and investment accounts because the value is the balance in the account at the time of divorce. Real estate is typically easy to value because appraisers may be retained jointly or individually to assess the value. What becomes difficult and a point of contention is valuing business interests. Valuing a business will likely require a business valuation expert, which is extremely complex and complex.
Another complex issue is determining whether property is marital, non-marital, or a combination of the two, when property is owned by one party before the marriage and is still owned during the marriage. This may involve significant document collection and tracing either by an attorney, and more often, by an accounting expert.
BRP Family Law routinely represents clients in addressing these types of complex issues. We have negotiated and litigated cases with complex business interests and financial assets, as well as tracing of assets to determine the marital or non-marital nature. We are detailed oriented and skilled at addressing these issues for our clients.
Equitably Distribution Is Not Always Equal
Maryland is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property does not have to be equally divided. Rather, marital property may be equitably divided. While judges typically divide property 50/50, certain facts may dictate a different division. We have successfully litigated cases and obtained results that amounted to unequal divisions.
The Factors for Equitable Distribution Under Maryland Law
Under Maryland law, courts must consider eleven factors before deciding whether to make a monetary award. While the court must consider each of the factors , a judge will have a considerable amount of discretion in how to weigh each of the factors.
The eleven factors are as follows:
- The monetary and nonmonetary contributions that each spouse made
- The value of all property interests of each party
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time that the court would make the monetary award
- The circumstances that contributed to the end of the marriage (such as adultery, abandonment or excessive cruelty)
- The duration of the marriage
- The age of each party at the time of divorce
- The physical and mental condition of each of the spouses
- How and when the marital property was acquired (including the effort expended by each of the spouses in acquiring the marital property)
- Whether the court has awarded alimony, or there is any other provision that the court has made with respect to family use personal property or the family home
- Any other factors that the court considers appropriate to achieve a fair and equitable monetary award
No case is the same, and what may sway one judge may have little impact on another. Having an attorney with extensive experience in the Maryland family law court system who is familiar with the judges, has a command of the facts of your case, and is able to apply those facts to the above factors is vital to obtaining the best possible result.
Contact an Experienced Maryland Divorce Attorney Today
At BRP Family Law, we know family law well because that is all we do. Our attorneys are experienced in high-stakes divorce cases. We know the issues that you may face when significant assets are involved. It is vital that you contact us early in the process, so we may help protect your legal rights and develop with you a strategy to achieve the best result in your divorce.