In most states throughout this country, including Maryland, when a couple seeks to divorce, they may agree to divide up marital property or otherwise be subject to the court’s division of any assets and debts accumulated during the marriage. A critical stage in every divorce case involves the identification and characterization of property subject to division. One hopes that the parties will be honest and disclose all marital assets. But in some cases, spouses may not be completely forthcoming and actually attempt to conceal certain assets. For these reasons alone, it is important that anyone considering a divorce take steps to protect their financial future. One way to do that is to consult with an experienced family law attorney who handles divorce and separation cases on a daily basis.
Under Maryland law, marital property is all the property that you or your spouse accumulated during the marriage, including your bank accounts, houses, cars, furniture, businesses, stocks, bonds, pensions, retirement plans, IRAs, and jewelry. While some states also include the value of professional licenses and degrees, Maryland does not. Some items that are not considered marital property, even though they were acquired during the marriage, are gifts from a third party, something inherited by one spouse alone, or something that the couple mutually agreed would remain separate property.
If a divorcing couple is unable to agree on the appropriate division of assets, a court will then determine each spouse’s share of the property, taking into account many factors, including (but not limited to) how much each party contributed to the welfare of the family, how much each party’s property is worth, the economic circumstances of each party, how long the parties were married, their respective ages and physical and mental conditions, when the parties acquired certain marital property, and how much effort each party expended to accumulate the marital property. Based on this information, one can see how it may be difficult to accurately identify and assess the full value of marital property.
According to a recent news article, the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom recently ruled that two separate women (ex-wives) are entitled to “re-open” their respective, disputed divorce settlements. In both cases, the women claimed that they were entitled to receive more money than they did after the couples separated. Specifically, the two ex-wives alleged that their ex-husbands misled the judges in their cases as to how much they were actually worth. It seems that the bench of seven justices ruled that dishonesty or fraud involving a failure to disclose one’s financial assets in a divorce is a basis for re-negotiating items that were previously in contention.
In one of the cases, the ex-wife alleged that after she accepted a settlement in cash and properties from her husband, she later found out that shares in his company were worth a great deal more than was previously revealed. In the other reported case, the ex-wife claimed to have discovered that her husband had hidden his true worth after he was charged with money laundering crimes.
Observers speculate that this ruling could encourage other couples to revisit previously agreed upon divorce settlements. In the United Kingdom, and here in Maryland, courts attempt to identify the true worth of the parties involved in divorce proceedings. The ultimate goal is to treat the parties fairly and justly, in an otherwise difficult and emotional time in their lives. To ensure that your rights are protected in divorce, you are encouraged to contact a local family law lawyer as soon as possible. Anthony A. Fatemi has a great deal of experience representing parties in family law cases throughout the state of Maryland. For representation and legal guidance in all aspects of divorce, contact Mr. Fatemi at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.
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