Maryland divorce: Dividing marital property guidelines

Part of the process couples must address when they decide to divorce is how to divide up the property. In Maryland, property distribution is based on the concept of equitable distribution, which means marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. This means that it is especially important to make sure the property is accurately valued, that all property is included, and that a spouse does not dissipate assets before the dissolution is finalized.

Property valuation

Part of ensuring that marital property is divided fairly means that it is important to make sure that it is given an accurate market value. This can be done by hiring a financial professional experienced in valuation. Each spouse will likely want to have their own financial advisor to determine the value of the entire marriage estate or the court may assign a third party to do the work.

Generally a date is assigned in order to establish a monetary value of assets and property. Sometimes, people tend to use the date of their official separation but this may for or against one of the spouses. If a spouse owns property that poised to continue to increase in value such, as stocks and investments, then the other spouse may be unable to include the increased value after that date of valuation.

In addition to the valuation of physical property, each spouse should put together a personal valuation. Items in the personal valuation should include:

  • Personal income
  • Age and health
  • Financial position post-divorce
  • Contributions made to spouse's education/career/success
  • Custodial parent financial responsibilities
  • Marriage length

By putting together a personal valuation, spouses may be able to successfully argue that while they have not contributed in terms of income, their support of their spouse and the caring of children made it possible for the spouse to be successful.

Complete inventory of property

In Maryland, most property acquired after the marriage before the divorce is final is considered marital property and should be included in the inventory provided to the court. While putting together a list of all marital property sounds fairly simple, there are some assets that spouses do not realize count as marital property, such as 401Ks, retirement plans under one spouse's name and employee stocks.

Separate property is exempt from the marital property inventory. This includes property acquired before the marriage, gifts, inheritances and even personal injury compensations.

Dissipation of property

Sometimes, a spouse will try to hide or get rid of property in order to keep the other spouse from receiving part of it. One method that a spouse can use to stop the other spouse from doing so is a preliminary injunction. A preliminary injunction legally prevents the other spouse from taking any action in relation to marital property without permission.

In order to get a preliminary injunction, a spouse generally has to show that the other spouse has a history of getting rid of property or that there is a real possibility that the spouse is trying to dissipate marital property. If you are considering divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you throughout your divorce and answer your questions and concerns about property division.