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.
Among the many items that are eligible for “equitable distribution,” the family home is often the most valuable. Additionally, deciding what to do with the family home is likely to be a challenging issue, fraught with practical and emotional concerns. Fortunately, the divorcing spouses are empowered with the authority to decide what happens to their assets. Of course, if they cannot agree, a court will step in and order the disposition of their property. But couples have many options, and they may tailor an arrangement to suit the needs of their changing family dynamic.
Ideally, when it comes to deciding what to do with the home, the parties will realize that it is typically in their collective best interests to work together to come up with a solution, along with their respective counsel. According to a news article on this very topic, divorcing couples usually choose one of a few options: sell the home, turn it over to one spouse, or agree to continue living under the same roof (for financial and practical reasons). Each option comes with assorted “pros” and “cons,” and no matter which one you choose, be sure to talk it over with your own family law attorney.
If you decide to sell the home, you are encouraged to put some thought into the process and come up with a mutually agreeable plan, including a time frame within which to sell, the listing price, and whether to let the potential buyers know you are going through a divorce. In many cases, the couple simply wants the sale to take place as soon as possible so that they can all move on with their lives.
Some families find it financially impossible to sell the house and live separately, and they will coordinate a plan for both spouses to live under the same roof until a certain point in time. In this situation, if there are children involved, there will likely be less disruption in their day-to-day lives. A common scenario, however, is for one spouse to get the house. And this can arise from a number of different financial arrangements, depending on the family’s circumstances. One spouse could stay in the house with the children for a specified period of time. Many details would need to be addressed, such as mortgage payments, the future sale of the house, and who gets the proceeds.
Clearly, the division of assets and debts in a divorce case is a complicated one, with serious financial ramifications. To be sure you are aware of your rights with respect to marital and separate property, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland family law attorney as soon as possible. Anthony A. Fatemi is a seasoned Maryland family law attorney with a great deal of experience representing parties in all aspects of divorce. Mr. Fatemi can be reached at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.
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