For Maryland residents facing the difficult decision to end their marriage, understanding the distinction between separate and marital property is crucial.
If you are navigating divorce, considering these intricacies can significantly impact your approach to the division of assets and debts that comprise your marital estate.
What’s the primary distinction?
Separate property, also known as non-marital property, are the assets considered the sole property of one spouse. For instance, any property acquired by either spouse before the marriage is generally categorized as separate property. This can encompass real estate, vehicles, bank accounts or investments held prior to the wedding day. Only the spouse who owns separate property has any claims to it during the divorce process.
In contrast to separate property, marital property is generally comprised of the pool of assets acquired during the marriage. Each spouse has claims to marital property, unless some exception applies to their circumstances. The state follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital property.
What’s the equitable distribution principle?
The state’s law dictates that marital property should be distributed equitably. However, this does not necessarily mean equally. The court considers various factors, such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s financial contributions and their respective needs.
However, you should note that commingling can occur when separate property is mixed with marital assets. This can complicate the distinction between the two types of property. To avoid this, maintaining meticulous records is crucial. Moreover, suppose separate property appreciates in value during the marriage due to factors such as market conditions or investments. In that case, the increase may be considered marital property. This can be a contentious issue during divorce negotiations.
How courts handle property division
When a divorce case goes to court, the judge is tasked with determining a fair and just division of marital property. The court assesses each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including financial support, homemaking and childcare. This evaluation helps in determining an equitable distribution. The judge also considers the future financial needs of each spouse, especially if one party requires support to maintain a similar standard of living post-divorce.
Alternatively, couples can reach a marital settlement agreement outside of court – perhaps via mediation and/or attorney-led negotiations – so that they can set the terms of their process without judicial intervention.
Comprehending the difference between separate and marital property is important when strategizing your approach to the divorce process. Seeking legal guidance right away can help to ensure your interests are protected as your case evolves.