Distribution of assets is often one of the most contentious points in Maryland divorces. Who gets what, which assets count as marital property—and do you need a property distribution attorney? The legal team of Fait & DiLima, LLP, a divorce law firm based in Rockville, MD, explains more below. Call (301) 251-0100 to schedule a consultation.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property in Maryland
Generally, Maryland considers all assets and debts acquired during the marriage as marital property. The few exceptions to this rule include:
- Assets that a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement defines as non-marital property
Some types of assets are less clear-cut in the marital vs. non-marital division. For example, a personal injury settlement may include parts that count as marital property, like medical costs and lost wages, and some parts that are non-marital property, like pain and suffering.
Additionally, non-marital property may become marital property unless you keep it separate. For example, let’s say your uncle passes away and leaves you a sum of money, which you invest in a business you own jointly with your spouse. Once assets commingle, keeping your formerly non-marital property out of the divorce settlement is difficult.
The Equitable Distribution Principle
Maryland divorce courts divide assets following a principle called “equitable distribution.” According to this rule, rather than splitting assets 50/50, the court will try to divide property fairly between the spouses. As you may imagine, this principle gives courts a lot of leeway in asset division, which is why working with an experienced property distribution attorney is essential.
Factors that may influence property division in divorce include:
- Each spouse’s earning capacity
- Each spouse’s age and health
- The length of the marriage
- How much each spouse contributed to the acquired estate, including nonmonetary contributions like childcare and domestic chores
- Whether the court has already awarded one of the spouses alimony or assets like the family home
Maryland recognizes no-fault and fault-based divorce. Proven actions like abuse, adultery, or desertion on the part of one spouse may also influence the court’s asset division ruling.
How to Prepare for Property Division
You are going through an emotionally difficult time, and the future seems uncertain. To get a clear picture of your finances and protect your rights regarding asset division, take the following steps:
- Revise your prenup. The prenuptial agreement you signed before marriage might not include some acquired assets. For example, you may have started a family business or received a substantial insurance settlement since the prenup. If so, you will need to work through these points during mediation.
- Valuate your property. Some assets require valuation before a court decides how much money to award to each spouse – and valuation differences may not work in your favor. For example, if your spouse wants to buy out their share of a family business from you, they may try to undervalue the business’s worth to pay less. Hiring an independent valuator can help ensure fairer distribution.
- Watch your assets. It is against the law to hide or intentionally depreciate assets during divorce. If you suspect your spouse is siphoning money from a joint account or attempting to conceal assets, consult a property distribution attorney.
Sometimes it’s hard to trace each spouse’s contribution to marital assets. Here’s an example: Tom started a business using only funds he inherited from his parents. Tom’s wife, Mary, had no official role in the business, but in practice, she handled customer service and deliveries. Proving Mary’s contribution could influence the business share to which she is entitled.
Do You Need a Property Division Lawyer?
While some Maryland couples manage to resolve property division without legal help, working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you avoid conflict and protect your rights. Even if your divorce negotiations start amicably, arguments over money and assets may turn ugly fast.
Working with a skilled property division attorney is especially important if you:
- Have a high-net-worth estate
- Have underage children
- Run or own a business together with your spouse
- Cannot reach an agreement over essential financial matters with your spouse
- Know that your spouse has already retained a lawyer
In general, mediation and a mutually acceptable divorce agreement are nearly always preferable to costly, time-consuming divorce litigation. However, litigation may be unavoidable in complex property division cases or if your spouse has a very high-conflict personality.
Fait & DiLima, LLP: Bold Approaches, Effective Resolutions for Protecting Your Finances In A Maryland Divorce
Financial conflicts during divorce are common, draining—and often preventable. At Fait & DiLima, LLP, we’re here to help you navigate property distribution with minimum stress, hassle, and expenses. Our experienced, empathetic team will represent your interests and help you negotiate with the other side to reach a fair settlement.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.