What’s Mine Is Ours
Many people labor under the misconception that when a couple divorces all of their property is split between them evenly. The fact that Maryland is an equitable distribution state makes divorce even more confusing. In fact, the term equitable distribution does not necessarily mean equal distribution. Oftentimes, it may work out that property is divided relatively evenly between the parties. But the process to determine who gets what takes many factors into account and is quite complex.
Maryland uses the term marital property to define what needs to be divided between the spouses. The court determines what falls under this umbrella and figures out the monetary value of the property. Non-marital property includes everything you owned before marriage, received as a gift or inheritance at any time before or during the marriage, and anything that both parties agree is non-marital. Marital property is everything else including residential and business property, financial assets, valued belongings, pension and 401K funds and other assets and debts.
This process of defining and valuing property is the foundation for deciding how property is divided. The courts consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the contributions of each spouse to the family, and the way that property was acquired. One of the most important considerations is the family home. If children are involved, it is possible that the home is granted to the custodial spouse regardless of who holds the title.
Often, couples settle these matters out of court to reach an agreement that is as amicable as possible rather than putting these difficult decisions in the arbitrary hands of the courts. It is important to understand that judges have complete discretion over your property once you put the decision in their hands.
Even if the idea of negotiating with your ex seems unbearable, it might be better than finding yourself without certain property that is important to you. With the help of a Maryland family law attorney who can see the big picture and negotiate on your behalf, you are more likely to reach a suitable agreement.