Montgomery County Marital Property Lawyers
Except for assets titled in the names of both spouses, retirement assets, and real property held by both parties as tenants by the entireties (a form of ownership that only married individuals can hold), the courts in Maryland do not have the authority to transfer assets from one party to the other party. So what happens if most of the assets are titled only in the name of one spouse? If the assets are marital property (meaning that they were acquired (i.e. paid for) during the marriage), then the court can grant the spouse who does not own the assets a monetary award. A monetary award is an award used by a court to balance any unfairness in the way that marital property is titled. In Maryland, that process is called “equitable distribution.” Unlike community property states which usually divide property equally, a monetary award does not have to be equal. It only has to be fair and equitable.
Marital property is any property that is acquired during the marriage. Acquired means paid for using marital funds. Real property held as tenants by the entirety, unless excluded by valid agreement, is also, by definition, marital property. Marital property includes personal property (furniture, cars, etc.), businesses, retirement accounts, 401k’s, IRA’s, pension plans, financial investments, and more.
Non-marital property is any property: 1) Acquired before the marriage; 2) Acquired by inheritance or gift from a third party; 3) Excluded by valid agreement; or 4) Directly traceable to any of these sources.
At times, determining what is marital property and what is non-marital property can be complicated. For example, if someone had an account before the marriage, but then deposited additional funds earned during the marriage into the account, all of the non-marital funds could be commingled and thus converted into marital property.
In making a monetary award, the Court follows a 3-step process: 1) The Court determines which property is marital property; 2) The Court determines the value of all marital property; and 3) After the Court determines which property is marital property and values all of the marital property, the Court may grant a monetary award after considering the 11 factors contained in the monetary award statute. Those factors include the contributions (monetary and non-monetary) of each party to the marriage, the value of all property interests of each party, the economic circumstances of each party at the time that the monetary award is made, the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of each party, how and when specific marital property was acquired, any alimony award, and any other necessary factor. There is no specific formula for determining what is fair and how much a monetary award should be.
For certain assets, valuation of marital property can be quite complicated. For example, valuation of a business, stock options, or retirement interests can be very difficult. In those cases, an expert is usually hired to determine the value of the business, stock option, or retirement interest.
Due to the complexity of determining what is marital property and what is non-marital property, the complexity of valuing certain marital assets, and the many factors that have to be considered in making a monetary award, you should have an attorney with the experience and expertise to represent you in your divorce case. The lawyers at Meiselman Helfant and Wills have the expertise and decades of experience handling complicated marital property cases. Contact or visit Meiselman Helfant & Wills to assist you in understanding and navigating the complicated issues of marital property and monetary awards. Meiselman Helfant & Wills also has significant experience representing business owners and high net worth individuals in connection with the equitable distribution of marital property.