Dividing the property acquired over the course of a marriage is always difficult, especially when disputes arise about who should receive certain property, or how certain property should be valued. The Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram regularly helps clients with marital property disputes, and below we offer answers to the questions about Maryland marital property we hear most often.
In some cases, it is impossible for the court to divide marital property. For example, if your family has one car, the court cannot equitably divide a car and preserve it as a useful asset for both parties. You can't cut a car in half and still drive it. A monetary award may be granted in divorce as a way to equalize the value of assets that can't otherwise be divided.
In Maryland, marital property is subject to equitable distribution.
Marital property is any property acquired by you or your spouse during your marriage that is not received by inheritance, gift from a third party, excluded by valid agreement, or directly traceable to any of these sources.
In Maryland divorce, marital property is subject to equitable distribution. This is not the same as a 50-50 division of property, although in many cases 50-50 is an equitable result. If the court is asked to divide your marital property they will evaluate a number of factors to determine what is "equitable" in your case, in no particular order, these factors include: 1. Length of marriage. 2. Age of each party. 3. Health (physical and mental) of each party. 4. How and when marital property was acquired, including the effort each party made towards acquisition. 5. Reasons for the break-up of the marriage. 6. Monetary and non-monetary contributions to the well-being of the family during the marriage. 7. Value of marital property. 8. Alimony award or award of family use personal property or use and possession of a family home. 9. Anything that the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider to arrive at a "fair" monetary award or transfer of property.
In most cases, an engagement ring is a gift purchased by a spouse and gifted to the other prior to marriage. If an engagement ring was purchased and gifted prior to marriage, then it may be non-marital property. It is important to evaluate the source of funds used to purchase property and the date of acquisition to determine whether or not property is marital.
If the gift was purchased during your marriage with income that was earned while married, then the gift may be marital property.
Property that was acquired during the marriage, even though titled in your own name, may be marital. As with most questions about marital property, this is not something that should be left to guess work. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, we are familiar with marital property issues and we can help you evaluate what property is marital; how your property may be divided in the event of divorce or separation; and when it is necessary to take additional action to protect your interest in property that is non-marital.
Until you are actually divorced, all property that you and your spouse acquire is marital property, regardless of whether you have already separated and regardless of title. All income you earn after your separation and all personal or real property you acquire with marital funds, will be factored into the court’s determination as to the value and character of marital property. If you are separated from your spouse and acquiring property, then you may first want to consider a Separation Agreement to shield any property acquired between your separation and divorce.
If you and your spouse own real property, then your decision to move out of the property, whatever the circumstances may be, does not surrender your interest in the property. Your spouse cannot sell or otherwise dispose of jointly owned real property without your consent, and the court will include the real property in its valuation of your marital property even if you have moved out.
If you and your spouse are jointly titled on the deed to your home, then you both retain a legal right to entry and use of the home. Your spouse’s decision to move out does not surrender or terminate those legal rights. While you may have legal authority to change the locks, your spouse may do so as well to regain entry. If you believe that your spouse presents an imminent threat to your safety or the safety of your children, then it may be time to consider seeking a protective order.
The answers to these questions are general in nature and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to replace specific legal advice. We invite you to contact our office at (301) 658-7354 to schedule a consultation, so that we can learn about the facts of your case and respond to the particulars of your unique situation.