Bethesda Property Division Lawyer
Dividing spouses’ marital property is a key aspect of the divorce process. While some states require a 50-50 split, this is not the case in Maryland. Instead, Maryland law requires that divorcing spouses divide their assets equitably. What constitutes an “equitable” distribution depends on the circumstances involved, and it is important for each spouse to have an experienced Bethesda property distribution lawyer who can help them achieve a fair outcome.
Separate vs. Marital Property
The requirement for divorcing spouses to divide their assets only applies to the spouses’ “marital” property. Generally speaking, this includes real estate held as tenants by the entirety and any other property acquired by one or both spouses during the marriage.
Any assets that do not qualify as marital property are one spouse’s “separate” property, and these assets are not subject to division in a divorce. Assets owned prior to the marriage are typically separate property (although it is possible for these assets to become marital property in some circumstances). Other assets that may qualify as separate property include gifts from third parties, individual spouses’ inheritances, and assets excluded from marital property by a prenuptial agreement.
Types of Property Subject to Distribution in a Divorce
In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, all of the spouses’ marital assets are on the table in a divorce proceeding. This includes assets such as:
- Real estate
- Cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles
- Boats and recreational vehicles (RVs)
- Furniture, appliances and electronics
- Jewelry, artwork and collectibles
- Tools, musical instruments and recreational equipment
- Digital photo, music and movie libraries
- Family photo albums and keepsakes
- Bank and investment accounts
- Retirement accounts and pensions
- Cryptocurrency wallets and other digital assets
- Privately-held business interests
Oftentimes, one or both spouses will have an emotional attachment to certain marital assets. While this can add to the challenges of dividing a couple’s marital estate, in our experience most couples are able to come to terms through the informal negotiation process. However, divorce mediation and collaborative law are also highly effective tools for helping spouses overcome challenges during the divorce process, and we help our clients utilize these tools as and when necessary.
Our Bethesda Property Division Lawyer Outlines Maryland’s Equitable Distribution Factors
Divorcing spouses in Bethesda must divide their marital property taking into account Maryland’s equitable distribution factors. In the event that a dispute regarding property distribution ends up in court, the judge will consider these same factors in deciding what constitutes a fair outcome. Maryland’s equitable distribution factors include:
- The circumstances leading to the spouses’ divorce
- The duration of the spouses’ marriage
- Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to their family’s wellbeing
- The total value of each spouse’s separate and marital property interests
- The spouses’ respective anticipated economic circumstances post-divorce
- Each spouse’s effort expended in accumulating marital property
- Each spouse’s age, physical condition and mental condition
- Whether either spouse will receive alimony after the divorce
- Whether one spouse will continue to live in the family residence with primary custody of the spouses’ children post-divorce
This list is not exclusive. Maryland law also allows for consideration of other factors “necessary or appropriate in order to arrive at a fair and equitable” outcome. With this in mind, if you believe that any of the circumstances of your marriage or divorce may be particularly relevant to the distribution of your marital property, this is something you will want to discuss with your Bethesda property division lawyer during your free initial consultation.
Options for Dividing Marital Assets During a Divorce in Maryland
Even if divorcing spouses agree that a 50-50 split is equitable, this does not necessarily mean that they will divide everything down the middle. In other words, each spouse does not have to take half of the forks and half of the spoons. There are several other options that will prove more favorable for both spouses in most circumstances, including options such as:
- Each Spouse Keeps Certain Assets, Giving Up His or Her Right to Others – One of the most common approaches to marital property distribution is for each spouse to keep certain assets while giving up his or her right to others. For example, each spouse may keep his or her preferred vehicle; and, rather than dividing both retirement accounts down the middle, each spouse may simply keep his or her own existing account.
- One Spouse “Buys Out” the Other’s Interest in Certain Assets – Another common approach is for one spouse to “buy out” the other’s interest in certain assets. This could involve using funds from the “buying” spouse’s separate property or this spouse’s portion of the couple’s joint savings.
- The Spouses Sell Certain Assets and Divide the Sale Proceeds – Couples can also use the divorce process to dispose of assets that neither spouse wants. For example, if both spouses are planning to relocate after their divorce, they can sell their shared home, pay off the mortgage, and divide the remaining sale proceeds according to Maryland’s equitable distribution factors.
Certain types of assets present some unique considerations. For example, when dividing titled assets or assets that have associated debts (i.e., a family home with a mortgage), there are additional steps involved. Similarly, dividing a tax-advantaged retirement account such as an IRA or 401(k) generally requires divorcing spouses to obtain what is known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Bethesda property division lawyer Brandon Bernstein has significant experience helping spouses address these types of issues, and he can use his experience to help ensure that the distribution of your marital assets—and all aspects of your divorce—is as efficient and amicable as possible.
Request a Free Divorce Consultation with Bethesda Property Division Lawyer Brandon Bernstein
If you would like to know more about how Maryland’s equitable distribution factors are likely to impact the distribution of property in your divorce, we invite you to schedule a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment with Bethesda property division lawyer Brandon Bernstein in person or remotely, please call 240-395-1418 or contact us confidentially online today.