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Most couples must address property division when going through the divorce process, and there are different theories used by US states when making the determination. While some follow the rule of community property, Maryland property division laws provide for equitable distribution, which is a two-step process:
- Only marital property is subject to division, so it is necessary to separate assets acquired during the marriage from those owned beforehand.
- All marital real estate and personal property are distributed between the parties equitably.
There can be heated disputes over classifying marital and separate property, but equitable distribution can also be a thorny issue. Equity means fairness, and spouses often have very differing views on the subject. Fortunately, there are several factors listed in the statute, and they guide courts in making decisions. An Owings Mills property division attorney can explain how the following considerations apply in your case.
Property Division Factors
Equity and fairness are central concepts when a judge addresses assets in a divorce, and the statute mentions how the court can adjust the rights of the parties to create balance. There are also specific factors to weigh, including:
- Contributions, financial and otherwise, that supported the well-being of the family;
- The circumstances that led the marital relationship to break down, such as misconduct by the parties;
- Any award of alimony, which might result in an adjustment of property division for the payor and/or recipient;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The economic circumstances of the parties at the time of making decisions on equitable distribution;
- The age, physical capabilities, and mental condition of each party; and,
- How a specific item of marital property was acquired and efforts by the parties to accumulate its value.
To make the equitable distribution effective, a judge could order one party to transfer an item to the other, grant a monetary award, or both.
Options for Asset Division in Divorce
When looking at these factors, you can see that determinations on property division can be unpredictable. Fortunately, parties to a divorce case are not bound to these laws if they can work out other arrangements to divvy up marital assets. Maryland law encourages agreement on property division, enabling both parties to maintain control over the proceedings. You are not bound by the factors described above.
Mediation is also an option when the parties are not in full agreement on asset division. A trained mediator oversees this informal proceeding, guiding spouses in productive conversation. It is often possible to compromise through mediation and enter an agreement on property division in court.
Speak to a Maryland Property Division Lawyer About Details
Asset division laws can be complicated, so it is encouraging to know that you can work out the details by agreement. For more information, please contact the Law Office of William F. Mulroney. You can set up a free initial phone consultation by calling (443) 352-8433 or visiting our website. Our office serves clients throughout Baltimore County in a wide range of family law matters, including property division in divorce.