The process of dividing property between a divorcing couple ranks near the top of the stress scale. Maryland law provides for the equitable distribution of marital property. Through this process, the court distributes both assets and debts. By court interpretation, equitable does not necessarily mean equal or require a 50/50 split.
The court maintains broad discretion to determine property distribution in a divorce. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions to help explain the process.
What is the difference between non-marital property and marital property?
Marital property is property which was acquired during the marriage. Non-marital property is property or assets a spouse acquired before the marriage or as a gift. It can also be property excluded from equitable distribution by a prenuptial or other legal agreement.
What factors does the court consider when dividing property?
The court considers the following factors when dividing marital property equitably:
- Length of the marriage
- Age, health, skills and abilities of the parties
- Amount of separate property owned by each spouse
- Relative ability of the parties to acquire property in the future
- Financial needs and liabilities of the parties
- Contribution to the education or to the earning power of the other
- Contribution to the value of the marital property or the separate property
- Non-marital property
- Financial conditions of each party
- Tax consequences
- Use and possession
- Other factors that the court considers appropriate (like misconduct)
Can the court change a property title?
Except for pensions, the court may not change title to property.
How does the court divide marital property?
The court first determines what property is marital property. If, in the court’s opinion, one spouse has an inequitable amount of property in his or her name, it can order a sale of jointly owned property and make a monetary award to the other spouse from the proceeds of the sale to make the split more equitable.
Will we be forced to sell our jointly-owned home?
The court may grant the parent who has primary custody of the children possession of the marital home for up three years. After that, the parties must agree on the market value of the home and all debts related to the property. The couple may sell the home and divide the proceeds or one spouse may decide to refinance the home and buy the other out. If the couple cannot agree on how to sell the property, the court may order a sale.
Will I have to pay my spouse’s debts?
The court deducts marital debt from the value of the marital property. Maryland considers debt incurred to acquire marital property as marital debt. Daily living expenses do not count toward marital debt. Separate debt, such as student loans that may have been acquired before the marriage, are generally allocated to the spouse who received the education.
Family law disputes take a financial and emotional toll on everyone involved. For experienced legal representatives who know the law and who fight for your interests, contact Rick Offutt, a Carroll County divorce attorney, at our office today.