While matters involving the custody of children and financial support obligations may take priority in many divorce proceedings, it is also important to be prepared for the division of marital assets and debts. Determining who will receive which assets and liabilities can be a contentious part of many divorce cases.
If you have valuable property that you wish to keep after the dissolution of your marriage, it may be wise to seek assistance from an established divorce law firm. A Montgomery County property division lawyer can explain the legal differences between various types of assets, determine how a court would likely rule on your particular case, and advocate for your wishes and best interests.
Marital Versus Separate Property
It is important to understand the difference between marital assets and separate assets before beginning the process of property division in a MoCo divorce. Only marital assets are subject to division. Marital property includes any assets that were purchased by either party during their marriage, while separate property is any asset that either party acquired prior to marriage, was gifted by a third party, or was inherited by either party.
However, separate assets can become marital property under certain circumstances. For example, a house previously owned by one spouse could become marital property if the original owner adds their spouse to the property title or uses marital funds (i.e. income generated by either spouse during the marriage) to pay off the mortgage.
On the other hand, divorcing spouses can make a private agreement to treat certain marital assets as separate property. This allows couples to make their own decisions on how their property should be split, rather than letting the court decide for them. A local attorney who specializes in property division can help couples classify and evaluate various assets and debts.
What Happens if Divorcing Spouses Cannot Agree?
The outcome of property division can be decided independently by divorcing spouses and culminate in a marital separation agreement, or the parties can proceed to litigate in court. If both parties are able to agree on a fair division of their marital assets and debts, the court overseeing their case will incorporate and not merge the parties’ written agreement it into their final divorce decree.
However, if divorcing individuals cannot come to an agreement, the court will establish an equitable distribution of their marital property. This means that a judge will interpret what is fair to both parties and divide marital assets and debts accordingly, which may not be a 50/50 split. As per Maryland Code, Family Law §8-205(b), a court may take the following non-exclusive list of factors into consideration when determining the equitable distribution of a couple’s assets:
- The age, physical wellness, and mental stability of both parties
- The current income and future earning potential of both parties
- Contributions each party made to their marriage, as well as any existing spousal support obligations
- How long the marriage lasted
- How much each party contributed to maintaining or creating different assets or debts
Whether a divorcing couple wants to draft their own agreement or a court is making the final decision on the division of their property, retaining a skilled attorney from our community can be key to securing a favorable outcome.
Let a Montgomery County Property Division Attorney Represent You
Deciding who gets to keep what after divorce can cause significant conflicts that often requires input from a MoCo court to resolve. With professional legal guidance and support, you can successfully negotiate an equitable solution without a judge’s intervention, or advocate effectively for a positive ruling if your case goes to court.
No matter the details of your divorce, a seasoned Montgomery County property division lawyer can advise you on every available option. Call our firm today to set up a consultation.