Articles Posted in Equitable Distribution

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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Whether your spouse is making a claim for alimony, a claim that you dissipated assets, or both, it is important to know that there are certain expectations the law has of her, and certain things she must prove to the court, before she can be entitled to a ruling in her favor. In other words, there is an opportunity for you to oppose these legal arguments successfully by persuading the court that your ex-spouse has failed to meet her burden of proof. To be sure you have the resources you need on your side to win these kinds of legal battles, be sure you have an experienced Maryland alimony / spousal support attorney on your side.

In a divorce case, a claim for alimony is one of the most common issues that may arise, as a spouse who has historically earned less and continues to have a smaller income very commonly will seek a sum of alimony as part of the divorce judgment. While less common that alimony, a spouse’s “dissipation” of assets is another common claim. This means that one spouse allegedly used marital funds for the divorce for some purpose other than marital need. If, for example, you used marital assets to buy an expensive car for your child from a previous marriage, then that could constitute dissipation of assets.

The recent case of two spouses from Frederick County, M.B. and J.B., is helpful in shining light on certain requirements for each of these types of claims. J.B., the wife, sought rehabilitative alimony. For a spouse to be entitled to an award of rehabilitative alimony, she must demonstrate to the trial court that the award will facilitate her rehabilitating herself into a self-supporting divorced individual. Your spouse, if she contends that she needs additional education or professional training, must indicate exactly what education/training is needed and exactly how that would allow her to find “suitable employment.”

The days and weeks that immediately follow the breakup of your marriage can be an incredibly trying time. You may feel hurt, confused, angry, frightened, overwhelmed, betrayed and a host of other emotions. You’ve experienced a great trauma, and like anyone living through that kind of pain, you may not be at your best in terms of decision-making. That includes making decisions like signing a marital settlement agreement. This is just one reason among the many why it pays to have a skilled Maryland divorce attorney on your side. You can trust your attorney to handle your legal affairs while you concentrate on managing your life.

Even if you’ve not heeded that advice, have made a bad decision by signing a bad settlement agreement without consulting an attorney, and later come to conclude that were taken advantage of, you still may have options. As one recent case illustrated, depending on just how extremely one-sided your marital settlement agreement was, you may be able to get it invalidated as ‘unconscionable’ under Maryland law.

In the recent case, the husband, G., and the wife, J., were married for six years when they separated in early 2015. Only a few days after the pair parted ways, the husband gave the wife a proposed marital settlement agreement, which the husband’s attorney had drafted. The agreement gave the husband the marital home, two rental properties, two cars, two motorcycles and all of the retirement accounts. The wife got a one-time payment of $7,000. Additionally, the agreement stated that the wife forever waived her right ever to pursue an alimony claim, either rehabilitative or permanent.

It is not uncommon for a married couple to spend the first 25 to 30 years of their life together working and saving money to enjoy in retirement. Over the course of their lifetime, spouses often invest money in stocks, 401K plans, education plans, pension plans, real estate, and other investment opportunities. Ideally, the couple will have an opportunity to enjoy the results of their labor in retirement together. But an interesting phenomenon is taking place. A large percentage of the baby boom generation is seeking to divorce, resulting in some unexpected financial consequences. If you are considering a separation or divorce at any stage of your life, it is extremely important to protect your financial interests, including any investments. You are encouraged to contact an experienced family law lawyer, someone who understands the local divorce laws in Maryland.

According to a recent article, since divorce among people age 50 and older is so widespread, it is becoming known as a “gray divorce.” The author points out that divorce for this age bracket raises several unique concerns involving how each spouse will retire now that the so-called “nest egg” must be split in two. For instance, in a typical divorce, Maryland law allows for the periodic payment of alimony to one spouse. The ultimate goal of alimony is to give the “supported spouse” an opportunity to become self-supporting. When a court awards alimony, it is intended to be “rehabilitative alimony” for an allotted period of time to enable a dependent spouse to become self-supporting.

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Maryland is an equitable distribution state. This means that in divorce, property and debts acquired during the marriage are subject to “fair and equitable” division (subject to limited exceptions). The law does not guarantee that marital property will be divided equally. For the most part, marital property includes items such as bank accounts, businesses, homes, automobiles, stocks, jewelry, furniture, retirement plans, pensions, and other property acquired during the marriage. Interestingly enough, Maryland does not include the value of professional degrees or licenses earned during the marriage.

Based on this list, it should be clear that a couple’s marital property potentially could be worth a great deal at the end of a marriage. If you are considering separating from your spouse, it is important to preserve your interests in, and rights to, assets acquired during the marriage. One of the best ways to protect your legal and financial rights is to speak with an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible.

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