Division of Marital Property in Maryland

Separating from your spouse means dividing up the family’s assets and property, including everything from sentimental holiday decorations to substantial retirement investments. Understanding how the division of marital property in Maryland works can help you ensure a fair and equitable property distribution after your marriage ends.

What is Marital Property in Maryland?

Marital property is any property acquired by either party during the marriage, in one or both parties’ names. In Maryland, all marital property is subject to equitable division in divorce. That includes:

  • Houses, rental properties, vacation properties and timeshares
  • Cars, boats, and recreational vehicles
  • Bank, investment, and brokerage accounts
  • Personal property, collections, and firearms
  • Shares in a family business
  • Intellectual property rights

How Maryland Courts Handle the Division of Marital Property

Maryland is considered an “equitable distribution” state. This means, Maryland’s Marital Property Act doesn’t require divorce judges to divide property right down the middle. Instead, they can distribute the parties’ assets in a way that is fair under all the circumstances. However, in practice, this often still results in an approximately equal division of property. Maryland property division laws direct judges to:

  1. Determine whether property is marital, non-marital, or family use personal property;
  2. Assess the value of the property
  3. Apply “fairness principles” to the division of property

Non-Marital Property

Property may be marital or separate. Non-marital property (also called separate property) must fit into one of the following non-marital categories:

  • Property acquired prior to the marriage (for example, retirement benefits from an earlier job)
  • Gifts or inheritance (even if received during the marriage)
  • Excluded by a valid prenuptial agreement, post-nuptial agreement or other contract
  • Property directly traceable to any of the above (for example, a car purchased and maintained using inherited funds)

Property may also be partly marital and partly separate. For example, if one party purchased a house before the marriage, but then the family used marital funds to pay the mortgage during the marriage, the non-owner spouse may be entitled to an equitable share of the increased net value of the property.

Treatment of Marital Debts in Maryland

In Maryland, a divorce court generally cannot transfer the title of property from one party to the other, or allocate debts to someone who is not a party to the lending contract. That means that each party will keep any debts in his or her name only, even if they were incurred for the benefit of the family. Often, the party whose name is on the mortgage or car loan will be awarded the related property as well. A Court can consider how debts are allocated between parties in making a determination about equitable division of marital property, as well as the allocation of a monetary award, if any. Monetary awards from marital property are designed to offset family-related debts or titled property values held solely in one party’s name that cannot otherwise be divided. For example, you can’t divide a car.

Family Use Personal Property and Family Home

Providing children with a consistent home environment is important, especially during divorce. To provide that consistency, Maryland divorce judges can dispose of certain property as “family use personal property” or as a “family home” giving exclusive use and possession of that property to the spouse awarded custody of those children for up to three years. In some cases, this can result in one party being responsible for the mortgage on the family home while the other party and the children continue to live there.

Fairness Principles

To reach an equitable division of marital property, the court must consider:

  • Family contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, made by each party
  • Values of all property interests of each party
  • Economic circumstances of each party at the time of the divorce
  • What caused the parties’ estrangement
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Age of each party
  • Physical and mental condition of each party
  • How and when retirement assets and family use personal property was acquired and by whom
  • Contribution by either party to real property held by the parties as tenants by the entirety (such as the marital home)
  • Any alimony award or family use personal property or the family home awards
  • Any other factor that the court considers necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award or transfer of an interest in property

If your case goes to trial, the court will apply each of these factors and then craft a property division that it deems to be equitable, although the actual division does not always feel fair to one or both parties.

To learn more, explore our Frequently Asked Questions about dividing Maryland marital property.

Options for Dividing Marital Property Out of Court

You may not want to go through the time, effort, and expense of proving the value of each piece of your family’s property in court. It may be important to you to maintain a good relationship with your former spouse so you can co-parent or have an ongoing relationship after your divorce. You may also have concerns about how specific property will be treated, or what might happen if your assets and liabilities become part of the public record. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our family law attorneys can help you resolve disputes regarding the disposition of property using negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. These methods often provide for a quick and amicable resolution, conserving the assets you’re trying to protect.

Get Help Negotiating a Fair Property Settlement

Property division can be challenging, especially when some property is difficult to value or if there are disputes about whether certain property is marital or separate. Whatever your specific concerns, the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram is able to help you reach a resolution that works for your family. Call us at (301) 658-7354 or contact us here to schedule a consultation at our Howard County family law firm located in the Maple Lawn business district of Fulton, Maryland. We look forward to working with you.