How Marital Property is Divided in Maryland Divorce
The recent news of Bill and Melinda Gates’ billion-dollar divorce sheds light on an often complicated aspect of the dissolution of a marriage—how marital property is divided. The couple acquired several assets since the onset of their marriage, including vacation homes, stocks, rare artifacts, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With the rise in couples divorcing later in life, also known as “gray divorce”, many spouses also find themselves in complex situations when it comes to dividing their marital property.
Marital property can be a complicated issue in a divorce settlement or trial. It is important that your family law attorney understands the laws specific to the State of Maryland (as it differs from State to State) and has experience handling the division of marital property. At the Law Office of Laurie M. Wasserman, our team can help. Continue reading to learn more about marital property and what to expect in a Maryland divorce:
What is marital property?
Generally, marital property is all property or assets acquired by one or both parties during the marriage, regardless of title. Certain items, such as an inheritance given to just one spouse, gifts, or property excluded by agreement, may not be considered marital property. Common types of marital property include:
· A home or property that was purchased during the marriage
· A vehicle
· Home furnishings and possessions
· Savings and checking accounts or financial investments
· Retirement accounts
How is marital property divided?
The Court must follow a three-step process when determining the division of property upon divorce.
The Court must identify all property, and classify each as “marital” or “non-marital”;
The Court must determine the value of all the marital property;
The Court must then apply ten legal factors to divide the marital property and make an award to balance the equities.
The state of Maryland operates as an “equitable distribution” state. This means the Court will divide marital property fairly, but not necessarily equally, amongst both parties. A judge will examine ten factors during Step 3 when deciding how to divide marital property, including, but not limited to:
How much each spouse contributed to the family and household during the marriage;
If one spouse has received alimony;
The duration of the marriage;
The financial circumstances of each spouse;
When and how large assets, such as a home, property, or vehicle were purchased;
The approximate value of marital property and assets;
The overall mental and physical health of each spouse; and
The circumstances that contributed to the divorce (such as having an affair)
What about property owned before marriage?
In most cases, assets purchased or acquired before the marriage will remain with the spouse that owns it. Items such as gifts or an inheritance that are given to just one spouse, even if they are given to them during the marriage, may remain the sole property of that spouse Even if the property is non-marital, it still must be considered in the overall picture of dividing up marital property in a divorce.
How is debt divided?
Shared debt can be a complicated aspect of a divorce. In general, a Court can only consider “marital debt” during a divorce – meaning a debt that is directly traceable to the acquisition of marital property. This can include a mortgage on a home or a lien on a vehicle. In Maryland, a judge will determine what debts are marital, and how that factors into the overall division of marital property and a monetary award.
Non-marital debts, such as credit card debt accrued before the marriage, will often remain the responsibility of the spouse that owns it unless the parties agree otherwise. The Court cannot reassign credit card debts. They can; however, award a party a monetary award if one is taking on more debts than the other in the divorce.
Contact us with any questions
We understand that issues like the division of marital property are nuanced. We are here to help you understand your options and determine the best way to proceed in your case.
If you or someone you know needs legal representation for a divorce settlement involving marital property, contact our firm today. When you choose to have us represent you, know that you are never alone. We are committed to providing families with solutions, one piece at a time.
Please contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our main number 410-842-1070. For the foreseeable future, we will be available by telephone and virtually to serve our clients.
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