Before a judge will grant a divorce, the couple must divide the marital property and debt. They can either come to an agreement, or have the court decide what is to be done on their behalf.
Community Property States
For community property states, the court presumes that all assets and debts should be divided 50/50. If property was brought into the marriage by one spouse or acquired independently during the relationship, the spouse must ask the court to award them with it.
Equitable Distribution States
Maryland is an equitable distribution state. For equitable distribution states, the court looks to what is fair. Although it may be an even division of the property, that is not always deemed equitable.
Property, whether it is a home, bank account, retirement fund, or investment, is categorized as either marital property or non-marital property. Non-marital property ownership must be proven, which can be done by providing receipts. The titling of property is wholly separate from whether property is marital or non-marital
Five Steps to Dividing Marital Property
Create a List of All Assets
Each spouse can make a list of all assets considered marital property and indicate who is to receive the item. They then compare each of their lists and check for discrepancies, which they should attempt to remedy.
Assets to be identified include insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement accounts, pensions, vehicles, real estate, recreational vehicles, equipment, and more.
Disclosure of all marital assets is necessary for a property settlement to definitively stand.
Value the Assets
Courts will usually accept each asset at Fair Market Value (FMV), the value that you would likely receive for the item if you were to sell it on the open market at present.
It is best to agree upon the value of each asset. For those assets that cannot be agreed upon, it may be in the divorcing couple’s best interest to hire an appraiser. If that does not work, it may be best that each hire an independent appraiser and have the judge decide.
Determine if the Property is Marital or Non-Marital
It is important to decide whether each asset is marital or separate property. If you have separate property, it is to remain in your possession.
For those assets whose ownership is disputed, the individual who is claiming ownership has the burden of proving that it is owned separately.
Consider Any Debt
The Court is by law not able to apportion debt between the parties. Thus, if one spouse has debt in their name alone, a court cannot force the other spouse to pay it. Likewise, if debt is joint, the court cannot absolve someone from the debt. However, the court may take debt into consideration when determine how to divide assets.
Draft a Settlement Agreement
If you and your spouse come to an agreement on a property settlement, it is helpful to list each asset and debt, the owner, and the value. Most judges will honor the agreement.
Discrepancies of Asset Ownership
When the couple cannot agree on what to do with a specific asset, the situation can be remedied by selling the property and splitting the proceeds or asking the court to make the determination.
A Baltimore County Divorce Lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Can Help with Marital Property Division
If you are going through a divorce, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Baltimore County divorce lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can help to provide you with legal advice. For a free consultation, contact us online or call 443-589-0150. We proudly serve clients throughout Maryland, including Hunt Valley, Westminster, Baltimore, Bel Air, Columbia, and Baltimore County, including the communities of Monkton, Sparks and Parkton.