If you have an upcoming divorce, you may be curious as to how the court will divide your assets and debt. You may have heard that your separate property will remain yours and that the court will divide your marital property between the two of you. But what constitutes marital property, and what factors will the court use to decide how to divide it?
What counts as marital property?
Maryland’s family law statutes outline a specific definition of the term “marital property.” Under the statutes, in general, anything either couple acquires after their wedding day falls into the category of marital property, and thus can be divided by the court in a divorce proceeding.
There are a few exceptions to the above categorization. For example, if you receive an inheritance or a bequest that is specifically for you, it generally remains as your separate property, even if you receive it during your marriage. The same applies to anything you can directly trace back to this inheritance, such as property that you purchase with inherited money.
How do courts divide marital property?
The first thing to know about property division is that the court does not have to divide it for you. If you and your spouse are willing to negotiate, you can come up with your own agreement concerning who will keep what. As long as the agreement doesn’t blatantly favor one party at the expense of the other, the court is likely to adopt your agreement.
If you need the court to resolve disputes concerning marital property, then they will aim for a fair distribution. Fair does not necessarily mean equal. For example, if you have a much higher earning capacity than your spouse, then it’s possible that the court could decide that fairness requires them to give your spouse a greater share of the marital property.
In determining a fair distribution, courts also take into account things such as which spouse contributed the most to the acquisition of marital property, how long your marriage lasted, the reason for your divorce, and each spouse’s age and physical condition.
It’s not easy to prepare yourself mentally for a divorce, especially if you and your spouse have a contentious relationship. Knowing what to expect from the asset division process can help you to decide which pieces of marital property you’re most determined to fight for, and where you can make compromises.