Property Division in Maryland
In addition to issues to dealing with children, such as child custody, child support, and child visitation, and issues like alimony, property can be major area of dispute in a Maryland divorce proceeding.
The first thing you should understand is, if the parties can come to agreement with the help of their Montgomery County divorce attorneys, and draft that agreement in the form of a settlement agreement, the court well honor the parties’ agreement and use the document to divide the marital estate, rather than using the property division factors as outlined in the Maryland Code. If, on the other hand, the parties cannot agree, the judge will have a trial on the issue of property division and decide based upon the domestic relations law of the state of Maryland and general principles of equity. For this reason, it is often best for the parties to work together to the greatest extent reasonably possible and reach a settlement as to property division before trial, and hopefully before even filing a Maryland divorce proceeding.
How is Property Divided in the State of Maryland during a Divorce?
Property division during a Maryland divorce is handled through the process of equitable distribution, just as it is in a Washington, DC divorce case. The court will consider a variety of factors in making an award as to how the marital estate should be divided.
The first thing the court will do in fashioning a property division award is to determine what property is part of the marital estate. Only property that is deemed part of the marital estate is subject to equitable distribution. Any other property is deemed personal property of the respective spouse and is not part of the marital estate.
Generally speaking, personal property includes any property:
- Acquired prior to the parties entering into the marriage.
- Acquired by inheritance or gift from a third party.
- Excluded by a valid agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement.
- Directly traceable to any of these sources.
- An inheritance paid to one spouse during a marriage.
With respect to the marital home, the court will generally look to the same factors as listed above for a determination of personal property. In Maryland, the court also uses the term family use personal property to include household items, appliances, cars, furniture, and other similar items.
Once the court has defined the marital estate, the court will look at a variety of factors in deciding on an equitable distribution award. Some of the factors are as follows:
- Contributions each party has made to the well being of the family both monetary and non-monetary.
- The total value of the marital estate.
- The economic circumstances of each party at the time the award is to be made.
- Why the parties decided to get divorced (fault grounds).
- How long the parties were married.
- The age of the respective parties at the time of divorce.
- The physical and mental condition of each party.
Using some or all of these factors, the Maryland divorce judge will fashion an equitable distribution of the property if the parties cannot agree. It is important to remember that, while equity means fair, equity does not mean equal.
The family law attorneys at DiPietro & Wise, LLC have years of experience handling domestic relations cases in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (301) 970-9286.