What are My Rights to Property Owned by Other Spouse?

In Maryland, the definition of marital property is all property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Generally, if one spouse owned property before the marriage, that property will not be subject to distribution. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Premarital Assets

If a spouse brings property into the marriage, that property is considered separate and will remain in the owner’s sole possession. For example, if a spouse owns a house before getting married, that house will not be considered marital property. However, if the house was acquired in contemplation of the marriage, then it may be considered marital property subject to distribution.

Exceptions to the Premarital Asset Rule

There are other exceptions to the general rule that property acquired by one spouse before the marriage remains separate. The following are common exceptions:

Appreciation of assets during marriage: Assets that appreciate passively, such as due to market conditions, are not considered marital property. However, those that appreciate due to marital contributions may be considered marital property; this includes money or work put in by the other spouse to improve the property.

Transmutation: If the spouse who owns separate property takes some action to transform it from separate to marital property, such as retitling the house to include the other spouse’s name, that property may be subject to distribution.

Commingled property: When marital money is not kept separately from personal funds, the whole pool may be considered marital property. This commonly occurs with retirement accounts, which one spouse pays into both before and after the marriage.

Equitable Distribution of Property Upon Divorce

Maryland is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the courts will divide property equitably, or fairly. This is a different type of distribution system than some other states, which divide all property 50/50, according to the community property distribution system. Therefore, Maryland courts will consider several factors when dividing marital property, such as each spouse’s debts or liabilities, each spouse’s contribution to the marital property, and any written agreements between the spouses concerning the marital property.

Property Distribution Upon Death

When one spouse dies, their property will be distributed according to their will or state laws of intestacy. Surviving spouses may be able to claim an elective share of their deceased spouse’s property even if they are not named in the will as long as they were living together as a married couple and there were no valid prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements waiving such elective share in place. An elective share is equal to one-third of the deceased spouse’s estate, excluding funeral and estate administration expenses and enforceable claims.

Baltimore County Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Ensure Your Rights and Interests are Protected During Property Division

If you have questions regarding property distribution, contact a Baltimore County divorce lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. Our experienced attorneys can explain your rights and options in this complex area of law. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 443-589-0150.

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