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Understanding Maryland’s ‘Equitable Distribution’ Rule

One of the critical questions in any Maryland divorce is how a couple will divide their property and assets. This is a significant issue that can profoundly impact both spouses’ lives once the divorce is final. Moreover, while state law says couples must divide their shared property equitably, that does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split, and there may be questions about which of the couple’s assets are shared property.

The Gaithersburg and Bethesda divorce lawyers at The McKeon Law Firm have decades of experience helping people through the Maryland divorce process. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about Maryland’s “equitable distribution” laws and how they can impact your divorce.

What Does ‘Equitable Distribution’ Mean When Dividing Marital Property?

“Equitable distribution” is the legal principle most states, including Maryland, follow when divorcing couples need to divide their shared assets. While the term might make it sound like both spouses split everything evenly, that’s not always the case. Instead, the goal is to divide things evenly according to each spouse’s needs, ability to earn a living, and other factors.

In contrast to the equitable distribution approach, a handful of states operate under the “community property” model. In these states, all assets and debts a couple acquires during their marriage belong equally to both spouses. As a result, upon divorce, these assets are typically split down the middle, regardless of individual circumstances or contributions.

What Is Considered Marital Property in Maryland?

Under Maryland law, any property one or both spouses acquire during a marriage is considered marital property. This rule applies even if only one spouse is listed as the owner. Common examples of marital assets in Maryland include:

  • The family home and other real estate
  • Joint bank accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Retirement accounts and pensions
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
  • Jewelry and art
  • Furniture and household items
  • Jointly-owned businesses
  • Life insurance policies with cash value
  • Timeshares
  • Collectibles (stamps, coins, antiques)

What Factors Do Maryland Judges Consider When Dividing Marital Property?

Maryland law lists some factors judges must consider when deciding which spouse gets what property after a divorce. Those factors include:

  • Length of the Marriage: How long the couple stayed together can significantly influence the division of assets.
  • Economic Standing: The financial situation of each spouse at the time of the divorce can affect the distribution of shared property.
  • Monetary and Non-Monetary Contributions: This encompasses everything from how much each spouse contributed financially to how each spouse contributed to the family’s overall well-being.
  • Reasons for the Separation: Examining the events or circumstances that led to the rift between the spouses can sometimes play a role in how the courts will divide the marital property.
  • Health and Age: Each spouse’s physical and mental condition, as well as their age, can influence decisions regarding property division. If one spouse has special needs or significant health concerns, they may be more likely to receive a larger share of their joint assets.
  • Alimony and Other Awards: Judges will consider any alimony payments or other provisions related to family use properties or the primary family residence when deciding how to split a couple’s assets.
  • Other Pertinent Factors: The court can consider any other element it deems necessary or relevant to ensure a fair and just division of assets or property interests.

How Our Gaithersburg and Bethesda Divorce Lawyers Can Help

Navigating a divorce is both emotionally and legally challenging. The Gaithersburg and Bethesda divorce attorneys at The McKeon Law Firm thoroughly understand Maryland’s equitable distribution rules and can fight for your fair share of your property.

The McKeon Law Firm knows how complicated the divorce process is and can protect your rights during this stressful time. Call (301) 417-9222 today or complete our contact form for a confidential case evaluation.

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