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Whether you and your spouse have significant and complex assets, or only a small amount of money and personal property, you should expect a fair division of marital property in your divorce. Maryland is an "equitable division" state, which means the Court will not divide property fifty-fifty, but instead, in a way that is fair and equitable under the circumstances. A fair property settlement sets you up for security and success in your life post-divorce; an unfair one can leave you struggling.
The term "property" encompasses many things, including the obvious, like houses, cars, bank accounts, jewelry, furniture, and art. But property is more than things you can lay your hands on; it also includes intangible things, like patents, trademarks, the value of certain investments, and goodwill in a business.
In addition to being real or personal, tangible or intangible, property is also classified as "marital" or "separate." Those classifications are not always clear, and they can have a big impact on your property division in divorce.
In divorce, Maryland courts will only divide property that is considered marital—that is, property that was acquired during the marriage. Some property is considered separate, and not subject to division. That includes property acquired by either party before marriage, or property acquired by either party by gift or inheritance, even during the marriage.
To complicate matters, some property is partly separate and partly marital. This could include a 401(k) that one party began contributing to while single, and kept contributing to after the marriage. Other property may start out as separate property, but it can become marital property if it is "commingled" with marital assets. An example of this would be a cash inheritance received by one party that was deposited in the couple's joint bank account. If there is any doubt as to whether certain property is marital or separate, you need an attorney who can competently assist you, as thousands of dollars or more could be riding on the outcome of that issue alone.
In Maryland, marital property is divided by "equitable distribution." This means that the court tries to award property in a way that is fair considering all the circumstances. This doesn't necessarily mean a mathematically equal fifty-fifty division, but most property divisions tend to be close to equal.
Of course, fighting over property consumes the very resources you're trying to keep. At the Law Offices of Dana K. Whitten, we try to help you reach an efficient and fair settlement regarding property so that more money stays in your pocket. However, we will only pursue settlement if that's truly in your best interests. If your spouse is being unfair, minimizing the value of property, or even hiding assets, we have the courtroom experience to fight for you at trial.
Dana Whitten has worked for a large national family law firm and is skilled in Maryland property division issues, including identifying and valuing assets, locating hidden assets, and classification of assets as marital or separate.
Attorney Dana Whitten represents clients in property division in divorce in courts in most Maryland counties, including Montgomery County, where our Rockville office is conveniently located near the courthouse. We invite you to contact us at (301)762-2528 or using our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you.