Dividing Marital Property

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A common misconception in Maryland divorce proceedings is that divorce will result in a 50/50 split of marital property.  Any Maryland divorce attorney would caution against this expectation.  After all, divorces would not be notorious for how expensive they can be if the division was this simple.

The first thing to understand when contemplating a divorce is what constitutes marital property.  Marital property, generally speaking, is all the assets, tangible and intangible, that a married couple acquires during their marriage.  Examples of these typically include the marital home, jointly titled cars, joint bank accounts, employment benefits, retirement accounts, and other things the couple acquired and maintained together.

The division of marital property is a function of the laws of the particular state in which a couple wishes to file for divorce.  There are two general types of property division states: community property states and equitable distribution states.  Your Maryland family law attorney can help explain where you must file and which type of division of marital property applies to you.

Community Property States

Community property states are less common than equitable distribution states.  Community property states subscribe to the notion that both parties to a marriage contribute equally to the maintenance of the property and assets accumulated during the marriage, regardless of any disproportionate financial input by one spouse over the other.  A stay-at-home spouse, for example, may be entitled to assets accumulated by the other spouse if those assets were accumulated as part of the maintenance of the marriage.

The goal of the community property approach is to divide the sum of the fair market value of the marital assets, not to divide each asset individually.  The court will attempt to keep as many assets intact as possible, such as vehicles or land, rather than require that the assets be sold and the proceeds divided.

Equitable Distribution States

By contrast, equitable distribution states are far more common.  The likely reason is that equitable distribution is much more flexible, allowing specific circumstances of the marriage or separation to govern the division of the assets.  On that note, it is important to realize that “equitable” distribution does not mean “equal” distribution.  A family law judge may use his or his discretion, in light of the evidence, to award one spouse a disproportionate share over the other.

One way to think of it is “What percentage does this spouse deserve?”  In many states, the answer to this question can be affected by evidence of the spouse’s contributions, financial and otherwise, to the family unit.  In some states, a judge may even consider the circumstances of the separation in calculating what percentage a spouse deserves.  If the jurisdiction allows for such discretion, a judge may even decide to grant an adulterous or abusive spouse a lesser share.  Your Maryland divorce lawyer can help you evaluate how your marital assets might be divided.

Divorce is a stressful and emotional prospect.  An experienced Maryland family lawyer can worry about securing the assets you deserve so that you can worry about beginning the healing process.

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