How the Courts Divide Property in a Divorce in Maryland
If spouses cannot agree on a division of their property, then the Maryland courts step in. Maryland courts have an analytical framework for determining a fair and equitable distribution of the property or the value of the property. Maryland courts use a three-step analysis to do this.
Step 1: Marital Property vs Non-Marital PropertyIn the first step of this process, the Maryland courts must distinguish between marital and non-marital property. This is necessary because the courts can only divide marital property during a divorce.
Under Maryland Family Law Code Section 8-201, marital property refers to property the spouses acquired during their marriage. On the other hand, the Maryland courts cannot interfere with non-marital property during a divorce. Under Section 8-201, the term non-marital property includes: (1) Property acquired before marriage; (2) Property received as a gift or inheritance; (3) Property excluded by a valid agreement; and (4) Property directly traceable to any non-marital property or assets.
Step 2: Valuation of Marital PropertyUnder Maryland Family Law Code Section 8-204 the court must determine the value of all marital property, with the exception of certain retirement benefits which might be subject to division as each retirement payment is made in the future per a qualifying court order.
Step 3: Determining an Equitable Distribution of the Value of the Marital PropertyIn the third step of the process, the Maryland courts analyze a series of factors to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of property. Under Maryland Family Law Code Section 8-205, the court must consider a number of factors, including: (1) Monetary and non-monetary contributions each spouse made to their family; (2) Value of existing property interests of each spouse; (3) Economic realities of each spouse; (4) Reasons for which the spouses are pursuing a divorce; (4) Length of time the spouses were married; (5) Age of each spouse; (6) Physical and mental health of each spouse; (7) Efforts of each spouse in acquiring marital property; (8) Contributions of each spouse in securing real property; and (9) Amount of alimony or other support payments. The Maryland courts can decide whether to grant a monetary award, transfer property interests or both. The court decides how much money to award either spouse. Additionally, Section 8-205 allows the court to transfer a property interest in: (1) Pensions; (2) Retirement plans; (3) Personal properties; (4) Profit-sharing plans; (5) Deferred compensation plans; or (6) Real properties owned jointly by both spouses.