The distribution of marital property is one of the major issues which must be decided during a divorce proceeding. Domestic relations orders for custody and support can often be modified after the divorce if circumstances change, but the final judgment of the Court regarding property distribution is not normally changed.
It is very important to be well-represented during the divorce by a Howard County property division attorney who is experienced in Maryland family law and dissolutions involving high net worth couples or complex asset structures.
The Coover Law Firm in Columbia provides advice and representation in domestic law in Howard County and beyond. We make sure you are well-represented in the property settlement and receive your fair share of the marital estate.
Maryland Marital Property Law
Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state as opposed to a “community property” state. The Judge’s job in a divorce proceeding is not to divide the marital property equally between the two parties, but instead to ensure an equitable, or fair, distribution.
Equitable distribution does not always mean equal distribution, and the property division in a Maryland divorce is not always 50/50. The court considers a variety of factors in deciding what a fair distribution would be, including:
- Length of the marriage
- Age, health, skills, and abilities of each spouse
- Amount of separate property owned by each spouse
- Relative ability of each party to acquire property in the future
- Financial needs of each
- Spousal support or alimony awards
- Who has current use and possession of the home or other property
- Contributions each made to the education or earning power of the other
- Contributions each made to the marital property
- Existing premarital and post-marital separate property
- Financial conditions of each party
- Tax consequences of a distribution
- Marital misconduct or other factors the court deems appropriate to consider.
The court only divides marital property, which is basically all property acquired during marriage, including the income of either spouse. Separate property is property acquired before marriage or property acquired during marriage through gift or inheritance solely to one spouse. However, there are many ways that assets can be commingled, and separate property can become marital property and subject to distribution.
It’s important to remember that debts, as well as assets, are considered and distributed in a divorce, so it is equally important to identify any debts as marital or separate property.
Examples of Property That May Be Subject to Division
Regardless of who paid for it, all property obtained during the marriage will be considered marital property, which can include:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Pensions and retirement assets
- Other personal property.
It’s important to note that any money held in a bank account during a marriage may be subject to division, even if it is individually titled.
Property received by a spouse as a gift, inheritance from a third party, or property excluded by an agreement is not considered marital property; all of these are considered non-marital property. If you have more questions about non-marital property, consult a Howard County property division lawyer.
Monetary Award in Divorce
In divorce terms, a monetary award is a court order for one spouse to pay money to the other. Remember that Maryland is an equitable distribution state, so monetary awards are designed to ensure that what each spouse takes from the marriage is fair, based on the circumstances.
For example, if the court awards one spouse the family home, they might be required to pay the other spouse, especially if a significant portion of the couple’s assets are in the home.
Division of Retirement Assets in Maryland
Under Maryland divorce law, all retirement account contributions are considered marital property and are therefore subject to division. The spouse may contest this division by proving that the property predated the marriage.
In Maryland, retirement assets can only be divided through a special order known as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “quad row”). This is a special type of court order that recognizes the right of an “alternate payee” to receive all or part of a retirement or pension plan belonging to another person (known as the “participant”).
In a QDRO, the retirement or pension plan will be divided between the participant and the alternate payee. The alternate payee could be:
- The spouse or former spouse of the participant
- Child or other dependent of the participant.
Retirement and pension division can be confusing and occasionally, a bitter topic of contention. To obtain the best result in your divorce proceeding, call a Howard County property division lawyer at Coover Law Firm today.
Experienced Howard County Family Law Attorney for Complicated Property Distribution Matters
The distribution of marital property can become very complicated when the couple has a complex financial situation, or when one spouse tries to hide assets or misstate their character or value. It is vital to a fair settlement that every piece of property is located, correctly identified as marital or separate, and accurately valued.
At the Coover Law Firm, we help in even the most complicated situations, such as when one spouse is self-employed or owns a business or interest in a business, or when the marital estate involves stock options, vested or unvested pensions, and other financial matters.
For advice and assistance in developing a property settlement agreement, or representation in a Maryland Divorce Court, call Coover Law Firm, LLC, today to speak with a Howard County property division lawyer.