Is Maryland a 50/50 Divorce State?
A common question that we get asked early in the divorce process is: Is Maryland a 50/50 divorce state?
While the question seems straightforward, the truth is that the term “50/50 divorce” requires clarification. Ultimately, the answer depends upon which issue we’re referring to: child custody or property division.
Issue #1: Child Custody
One area where we often talk about Maryland as a 50/50 divorce state is in regard to child custody and sharing of minor children’s time. In Maryland, if both parents are equally willing, deserving, and capable of providing a wholesome environment for the children, and there are no other detrimental or negative factors involved, that is certainly the default. In this case, a Judge or Magistrate is likely to award 50/50 custody, meaning the children will spend half their time with each parent.
However, a lot of different factors can play into a child custody judgement. If you are involved in a child custody dispute, you should seek counsel from an experienced child custody lawyer as soon as possible to ensure the best possible outcome.
Issue #2: Property Division
More commonly, people use the term “50/50” to refer to how money and property is divided in the divorce settlement. Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state, as opposed to a “community property” state. In Maryland, regardless of the circumstances that led to the divorce – no matter who did what to whom, or how bad the behavior of either party was – if the parties don’t work out the terms of their divorce by agreement, a Judge is going to divide money and property fairly between the spouses. While many people refer to Maryland as a 50/50 divorce state based on this information, the truth is that equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50.
Factors Weighed in Determining Equitable Distribution
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. An equitable distribution does not always mean an 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 the 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 is 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.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
If you are facing a separation, divorce, and/or child custody dispute, it is important that you consult with an experienced Maryland family law attorney to ensure that you understand your options, and make smart decisions early in the process.
Experienced divorce lawyer Fred L. Coover has been serving families Howard County and beyond for over 30 years. If you are facing a separation or divorce, contact us at (410) 553-5042 to schedule a $99 no-risk initial consultation and see if our firm is the right fit for you.