Starting a divorce raises questions about everything from who keeps the home to whether you can have visitation of your cat. Here are some of the top things to ask Maryland divorce lawyers about dividing property, and why you should ask the questions.
This blog post will discuss some of the most frequently asked questions for top Maryland divorce lawyers about how to divide property during a divorce. It will cover issues such as separating out non-marital property, equitable division of assets, and what factors the court will consider in calculating a monetary award.
When many couples separate, the first property-related question is “who gets to keep the home?” But when it comes to things to ask your divorce lawyer, the better question is, “can you afford to keep it?” Most families manage a family budget based on two incomes and shared household expenses. When the marriage breaks down and one spouse moves out, suddenly the person in the marital home faces all the same bills with less income. Your divorce attorney can help you review your budget, and what funds you can expect to receive from other sources, like child support or alimony.
Maryland law does provide some tools to help you keep the home, at least for a while. If you are the custodial parent of your children following the divorce, you may be awarded “use and possession” of the home for up to 3 years. In some cases, that award can include an order that your ex-spouse pay some or all of the expenses related to the home during that time. These “use and possession” orders give you time to find new income sources, or a new home, and make the transition easier on your children.
A retirement account is often the single most valuable asset in a divorce (often worth more than the house). That means you may be anxious about whether you will be able to retire if you get divorced. The thing to ask your divorce attorney isn’t always whether your spouse will get your retirement account, but how you can protect your plan to retire.
Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state. That means that in every divorce, each spouse is entitled to his or her fair share of the property that belongs to the marriage. That includes the amount you contributed to your retirement account, and the increased value of that account over the time of your marriage. However, equitable division doesn’t automatically mean you must divide each asset in half. Your family law attorney can review your financial circumstances and help you find a solution that gives each spouse an equitable share of the property and still protects your investments.
In some cases, the family dog or cat can be as important as a child. In those cases, one of the top questions for your divorce lawyer may have nothing to do with dollars and cents, and may have everything to do with the sentimental bond between you and your animal.
What will happen to your pets is largely up to you and your former spouse. Maryland law treats animals like personal property. That means your favorite dog is legally no different from the kennel he sleeps in. While there are not laws specifically allowing a judge to order pet visitation, creative work with your divorce lawyer and your former spouse can sometimes protect everyone’s connection with the family cat.
In other cases, unfortunately, the question “what will happen to your pets” is more about safety than companionship. In cases of domestic partner violence, when a survivor leaves he or she may not be able to take the pets with them. If you find yourself in this situation, your Maryland divorce lawyer can help you get a protective order to shield you and your pets from abuse during the divorce process.
As negotiations over property division come to a close, many people forget to ask their divorce attorneys how and when they will receive the property they are awarded. Depending on the type of property involved, this could be as simple as arranging a moving truck, or it could require a separate order from the court. Before the judgment of absolute divorce is final, be sure to talk to your lawyer about:
Getting a divorce in Maryland isn’t as simple as walking in to court and walking out single. You and your lawyers will need to work together to put values on your assets, identify your priorities and goals, and find an equitable division you can live with. The first step in this process is open communication. You should never be afraid to ask your divorce lawyer questions about property division. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our divorce lawyers work with clients every day, answering their property division questions and helping them move toward a new chapter of their lives. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.