When two people get married and build a life together, they collect multiple types of property. Married couples may pool their income, buy furniture and personal items together, and share ownership of real estate. During a divorce, all of the property that a couple collected needs to be divided equitably between them.
Distributing assets with the help of a skilled divorce attorney during litigation can be a complicated and emotional process. Make sure that you receive your fair share of what you own by contacting a Maryland property division lawyer.
How the Division of Property Works in Maryland
Divorcing couples are only required to split up their marital assets. Property that they each own separately may be treated differently in court. As a result, the first step in distributing assets during a divorce is to decide what is marital property and what is separate property.
Separate property is that which a spouse owned prior to the marriage, received as a gift or inheritance from a third party, or that was purchased by a spouse with money from a gift or inheritance from a third party. Couples can also agree that certain property will remain separate during a divorce.
The parties to a divorce can create an agreement between themselves which distributes their marital property as they see fit. If they cannot agree on the terms of their property settlement, the judge presiding over the divorce will make decisions on their behalf.
Tracing Ownership of Marital Assets and Debts
Just because a spouse may own property prior to a marriage does not mean that that asset will remain separate property. Separately owned property can become part of the marital estate in certain circumstances.
Some types of assets, like real estate, are not usually purchased all at once and are paid off over time. When a person buys something like a house or a vehicle before the marriage, it may be considered separate property. However, if that spouse uses marital funds to pay off the debt, the asset could become marital property that is subject to division.
A family court judge does not have the power to change the title of real estate or other property. When spouses combine their income and resources and use the commingled funds to make payments, the spouse who does not own the property may be entitled to a monetary payment to reimburse them for their contributions during the marriage.
How Courts Distribute Property
If the divorcing spouses cannot agree on the terms of their property division, the judge in the case can determine which spouse receives what property. The judge is not required to split the property 50/50 between the spouses, and one person may receive many more assets than the other.
A judge tasked with dividing a marital estate will rely on the factors found in Family Law §8-205 of the Maryland Code. This statute mandates that a judge consider several criteria when awarding property, including each party’s financial or economic situation, each party’s contributions to the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, any other relevant factors that might affect the fairness of a property award.
In addition to distributing property permanently, a judge may also award temporary ownership of certain assets to one spouse for a limited period. For instance, a judge may allow a spouse with primary child custody to retain possession of the family home for up to three years following the divorce.
Speak with a Maryland Property Division Attorney Today
Creating a property distribution agreement requires negotiation and cooperation between the parties. Many divorcing couples can only reach an agreement with the help of skilled divorce attorneys who can represent their interests in court and in mediation.
If you are planning to get divorced and are worried about how much of your property you will be able to keep, schedule an appointment with a Maryland property division lawyer today.