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Annapolis Marital Property Division Lawyer

Understanding the Difference Between Marital and Nonmarital Assets

patrickcrawford | September 7, 2020
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Divorce is a legal action that can be highly complicated, to begin with. Ascertaining what is marital property, what is nonmarital property, and how all joint properties should be divided can be one of the most complicated divorce components of all.   

 

Divorce is an emotionally challenging transition that creates roadblocks for spouses choosing to end their marriages. While no two divorces ever follow exactly the same course, they all involve several constants, and one of these is that divorce is destined to significantly affect you and your children’s financial future. The division of your marital property is an important component of this process and is a big part of the reason you need an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer on your side who can protect your rights in your divorce

Maryland: An Equitable Distribution State

In the State of Maryland, your marital property will be divided in a manner that the court determines to be equitable, which means in a manner that the court finds to be fair given the circumstances involved. When it comes to your marital property, the term broadly refers to all property and assets that you and your spouse acquired after you were married. It doesn’t matter who paid for the property or other asset or whose name it’s in. If you acquired it during the course of your marriage, it’s likely marital property. 

 

There are, however, a few narrowly defined exceptions to this rule. Further, even that property that either of you brought into the marriage as separate property can easily transition into marital property if the separate owner among you failed to keep it strictly separate from your marital property.  

 

Marital property can include all of the following:

 

  • Real estate, such as your home and other property holdings
  • Stock, pensions and other retirement assets, and all the other diverse components of your financial portfolio
  • Bank accounts
  • Cars and other vehicles, including boats and recreational vehicles
  • Personal property, including the contents of your home, valuable collections, jewelry, and more

 

Coming to terms with what is and what is not marital property can become one of the most contentious elements of a divorce.

The Exceptions to the Rule

The exceptions to the rule of everything you acquire during your marriage falling under the classification of marital property are certain gifts and inheritances. If either of you receives a gift or inheritance in only your name when you are married, those assets will remain your separate property (as long as you keep them separate throughout your marriage). 

Nonmarital Property: A Closer Look

Nonmarital property is that property that either of you owned prior to the marriage and brought with you into the marriage, and it remains separate unless you gift or title it to your spouse – this exception, however, can be significant. The court’s presumption is that all the property you possess as a couple is marital property unless one or the other of you can prove private ownership. 

 

The following basics related to nonmarital property all apply:

 

  • That property that you acquired during any timeframe in which you lived together but prior to your marriage is not considered marital property (but it can complicate the issue).
  • Upon divorce, to retain your separate property as separate, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that it is, indeed, yours alone. Separate property, however, can become marital property via the appropriate agreements and/or a title transfer. 
  • Any separate, nonmarital property is protected from the other spouse’s debts.
  • Each spouse has the right to dispose of his or her own separate property as he or she sees fit (just as you would if you weren’t married). 
  • Neither spouse is responsible for the other’s business dealings (neither debts nor assets) entered into prior to marriage.

 

Keeping nonmarital property separate is not always as straightforward as it may seem.

Property that Is Both Marital and Nonmarital

Things become even more complicated from here. Some properties are both marital and nonmarital. For instance, if one of you came into the marriage owning a home, that home will likely remain the owning spouse’s separate property. Any mortgage payments that you make during the course of your marriage as a married couple, however, render that portion of the home (paid for with marital funds) marital property. Further, any increase in the home’s value during the course of your marriage will also be considered a marital asset. 

Complicating Factors

The designation of separate and marital property and its division can be difficult in even the most straightforward cases. There are, however, several factors that tend to make the matter that much more complicated, including:

 

  • When a couple – or one spouse – owns a business, there can be multiple inherent complications.
  • When a couple owns multiple properties, it can naturally complicate the issue.
  • When a couple’s divorce involves high assets, there are more complexities – and there is more value to fight over. 
  • When one spouse handles all the family’s finances, and the other spouse is in the dark on the matter, it can make it that much more difficult for the spouse with little involvement to obtain his or her equitable share of marital property.

 

Even when a divorce begins amicably enough, the division of marital property can quickly make things less amicable. 

The Division of Your Marital Property

Once it’s determined what is marital property and what is not, which is no easy feat in and of itself, the court will go about the process of dividing your marital property between the two of you in a manner deemed fair given the exact circumstances of your marriage. As such, the court will take all of the following into careful consideration when determining this fair division of your marital property:

 

  • Your marital debts balanced against your marital assets
  • Each spouse’s fair share of the marital property (the fact of separate property owned by one spouse can sway the other spouse’s equitable share of marital property)
  • Each spouse’s monetary and nonmonetary contributions to the marriage (nonmonetary can include childcare, maintenance of the home, and much more)
  • The value of property that cannot be divided, such as a home (how the couple addresses this division is up to the divorcing couple – one can buy out the other, the property can be sold, or any other arrangements that the couple agrees to can be made)

 

It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Annapolis Divorce Lawyer Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you are facing an important legal process that will dramatically affect you and your children’s financial future and future prospects. While your divorce can be emotionally stressful, it’s important to protect your property rights throughout the divorce process. That’s where attorney Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford in Annapolis, Maryland, comes in. Mr. Crawford is a dedicated divorce lawyer who has the experience, commitment, and dedication to tirelessly advocate for a fair determination of what is and what is not marital property and for a fair division of that marital property, in support of your best interests. Your case is important, and we’re on your side – so please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call us at (410) 216-7905 for more information today.

 


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