Articles Posted in Equitable Distribution

Family-owned businesses are a staple of the American commercial landscape. Many of these businesses are passed down across multiple generations. Sometimes, though, the family business in question is your spouse’s, not yours. When that happens and you’re divorcing, some or all of that business may be a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Getting a truly just outcome in that scenario means getting a proper determination of both the business’s status (as marital) and its value. A skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can help go about obtaining that just and appropriate outcome.

A recent example of this kind of divorce case comes to us from Baltimore County. The husband’s parents were successful businesspeople, having run a seafood market and restaurant west of Baltimore since 1963.

The husband and wife married in 2004. In 2005, the husband (“Eric”) and his father (“Bill”) formed a corporation to operate the market and restaurant. Initially, Eric owned 25% of the shares and Bill owned 75%. In January 2006, Bill transferred his shares to Eric and Eric’s sister. That left Eric with 75% ownership and the sister with 25%.

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Marriages, especially those entered into by spouses with pre-established careers, can lead to complex divorces when they break down. These kinds of divorces arise when a spouse entered the marriage with substantial non-marital assets, but then also continued to grow their wealth during the course of the marriage. When a marriage like that ends in divorce, it is critical, in order to get everything you deserve, to obtain a judgment that accurately identifies what’s a marital asset and what’s non-marital. A skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can be essential to getting this done right.

The marriage of a businessman and a social worker from Montgomery County was an example of this kind of union. The marriage lasted just two years before irretrievably breaking down.

Much of the divorce litigation centered on the husband’s 401(k) plan. Before the pair wed, the husband worked for a very large bank and had a 401(k) through his employer. Shortly after he and the wife married, the husband rolled that 401(k) over into another account.

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In music and other popular media, there is the stereotype of the deceitful spouse who, during the pendency of the couple’s divorce, empties the couple’s bank accounts and absconds with the funds. That stereotype exists because that sort of malfeasance does happen sometimes. If it has happened to you, or if you have been wrongfully accused of engaging in this type of misconduct, you need a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer going to bat for you.

One Baltimore County couple had a $100,000 dispute of this type in their divorce case. The husband had withdrawn $100,000 from certain marital accounts. The wife said that the husband had impermissibly dissipated the funds, while the husband said that the withdrawals were related to the legal fees he’d amassed in the divorce litigation.

At the outset, it’s important to recognize a few things. One, in Maryland, dissipation of assets occurs when one spouse wastes, spends, or sells a marital asset for reasons not related to the marriage or to reduce the amount his/her spouse will get in the final divorce judgment’s property award.

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There are several factual scenarios that potentially can complicate your divorce. One of these is when you and your spouse separate (and remain that way) for decades before seeking a divorce. Another is when one spouse in a long-separated-but-not-divorced couple comes into significant wealth. These are but two examples among the many. Almost any divorce has its unique elements that can pose challenges, though, which is why it is well worth your time and effort to retain a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer to represent you in your case.

In the United States, late November is a special time to reflect and be thankful for the good things in our lives. Those sources of gratefulness could be everything from finding a new love to continued good health to… winning the lottery.

The joy that can come from “striking it rich” may be lessened, though, if you have an estranged spouse in your life. That was the scenario on the mind of one wife who wrote to the publication The Penny Hoarder recently. The wife left her husband in 1990, but the two never divorced, according to her letter. In recent months, the wife received information that her estranged husband may have won a large lottery prize, and her letter to the publication centered on her options for getting a portion of those lottery winnings.

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When, it comes to marriages, relationships, and divorces, some issues and situations are universal, as a recent divorce case from overseas demonstrates. Even though this court case came from India, much of the circumstances involved could easily have happened in Maryland. While those marital scenarios and pitfalls may be largely universal, the law definitely is not. The distinctions and differences between the law of one place versus another are a crucial reason why having an experienced Maryland divorce attorney on your side is essential when you are seeking to end your marriage in this state.

The Indian case, reported by CNBC TV18, involved a marriage that reportedly was troubled nearly from the start. The spouses became estranged “within a few months of marriage,” then one of the spouses met someone new and that pair began “staying together in a live-in relationship,” according to the report.

The new couple had many questions. Could they continue living together while the divorce was pending? Could they get married before the divorce judgment was finalized? According to Indian law, this Indian couple could continue living together, but they could not get married before the finalization of the divorce without placing the married partner in potential legal peril for bigamy.

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One of the biggest questions a divorcing couple in Maryland may face is “who gets the house?” Depending on the specific facts of your divorce and the ability of you and your spouse to reach mutual agreements about your marital property, the answer may be “neither of you.” Whether you end up resolving the question of property distribution through agreement or through litigation, you need someone who is keenly familiar with Maryland law, so make sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer representing you throughout the process.

Take, for example, this divorce case from Charles County. The husband and wife were a couple who ran a working farm that produced naturally raised meats and local raw honey. The success of the farm, regrettably, outlasted that of the marriage, and the wife filed for divorce in 2015.

The spouses could not agree regarding how to distribute much of their marital property, including the marital home. Frequently, when the spouses cannot agree, the court will (as this judge did) appoint a trustee, who is a neutral third-party individual charged with selling the marital properties and then distributing the proceeds of those sales.

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When two people marry in Maryland, especially if they marry later in life, they may bring multiple assets into the marriage, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and more. Those assets may start out as non-marital but, if you and your spouse mix marital funds with a non-marital account’s funds, that mixing may change how the law views that asset, and may entitle you to a more favorable distribution of assets. Whether you are seeking or opposing a finding that an asset is non-marital in your divorce, it pays to have an experienced Maryland divorce attorney on your side to get the fair resolution you deserve.

A.S. and T.R. were a couple with these kinds of assets. The pair married in 2006 then separated a decade later. The wife had an individual retirement account that, at the time of the couple’s divorce trial, had a balance of $86,453. In the trial court’s final judgment of divorce, the judge found that the IRA’s funds were almost entirely non-marital.

The husband appealed successfully. A key reason for that related to the way the trial court erred in analyzing the couple’s marital and non-marital assets.

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Lawyers, of course, keep up with new rulings from the courts all the time to make certain they are up-to-date on the law in the areas where they practice. That’s important because, when you are working with the right Maryland divorce attorney, you have the benefit of a legal advocate who possesses a thorough, complete, and up-to-date knowledge of the law in this state.

Many court rulings, however, also have information that can be really useful for most anyone facing a particular circumstance, like going through a divorce. Take, as an example, this divorce case from Baltimore.

The wife filed for divorce in 2019 after 17 years of marriage. Each spouse accused the other of financial misconduct.

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In a divorce where there are no minor children, possibly the biggest single thing that you’ll need to address is the marital home. One spouse may desire to stay in the home, but that can be challenging if the home isn’t paid off. Certainly, you don’t want to be liable for a mortgage loan securing a home that the court distributed to your ex-spouse. These things point out an important fact: in a divorce, it’s not just getting the assets you deserve, it also about escaping liabilities that you shouldn’t have. When it comes to doing these things, a skilled Maryland divorce attorney can help you protect yourself.

The courts, as we can see in a recent divorce case from Howard County, have substantial discretion in customizing an order dividing up a divorcing couple’s property and debts. The judge is free to award the marital home to one spouse but also to command that spouse, if the house is not paid off, to refinance or otherwise remove the other spouse’s name from the mortgage loan on the property.

So, what happens if s/he gets the house but then doesn’t refinance it? Typically, the court will, within its order, provide specific instructions about the refinancing. The order will give her a deadline by which s/he has to get your name off the loan, and will state what happens if s/he doesn’t act or doesn’t get the task completed by the deadline.

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In many different types of legal or business settings, one receives the advice to “get it in writing.” Why is that? It’s because a written document carries much more weight as evidence in court than oral testimony about the contents of an oral contract. Getting “it in writing” has the potential to help either side or both sides. Additionally, thanks to something within the law called the “Statute of Frauds,” a failure to get it in writing can cost you dearly when it comes to many types of agreements.

What does this mean to you if you’re going through a divorce? It means that, whether you are creating a new marital settlement agreement or modifying an existing one, it pays to get it in written down. It also pays to have an experienced Maryland family law attorney on your side.

For an example of this concept, look at this recent ruling and you can see why it is so important to get it in writing. In 2010, A.M. and R.H. agreed to the terms of a marital settlement agreement. The agreement called for the husband to buy out the wife’s ownership interest in the couple’s marital home and for the wife, after getting paid, to relinquish her ownership rights to the property.

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