“Lawyers often joke that we went to law school because we aren’t good at or don’t like math,” quipped a Maryland Court of Special Appeals judge recently. In a similar vein, a student in a law school seminar once interrupted the instructor who was laying out a math-intensive hypothetical. “Pardon me, Professor, but… we don’t do math. If we did, we wouldn’t be here.” Similar to the Court of Special Appeals Judge’s observation, the student was implying that he and his classmates arrived at law school rather than medical school or engineering school solely as a result of their poor math skills or strong dislike of math. In seriousness, though, math and law can — and do — intersect frequently, especially in divorce cases involving the division of marital assets. When you are in a divorce case where that is a significant issue, your outcome can often be enhanced by having on your side a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer (who may or may not love math.)
The case that spawned the Court of Special Appeals’ observation about math was a recent divorce dispute about retirement assets. The judgment in that divorce action stated that the “parties shall equalize their retirement assets.” To do that, the court instructed the wife to roll over $303,388 from her retirement to the husband’s retirement.
The problem was, as the appeals court put it, “something didn’t add up,” and fortunately for the wife, her legal team spotted it and argued it in her motion to enforce the judgment. Specifically, the wife’s counsel found the presence of a typographical error and deduced that a transfer of $303,388 would not equalize the spouses’ assets. To achieve an equal split, the wife argued, the correct sum should have been $40,000 less, or $263,388.
The court reviewed each spouse’s argument and concluded that the wife’s math was correct, lowering the transfer amount to $263,388. (In reality, the parties’ numerical figures contained additional typographical errors, and the correct sum should have been $263,433, but the husband did not contest the failure to consider those other errors.)
The husband challenged the $40,000 change but was unsuccessful in his appeal. The husband contended that, because neither spouse had filed a motion to revise the divorce judgment, the trial court lacked the power to alter the amount of the transfer.
The Intent of the Agreement — to Equalize the Assets — Was What Mattered
That, the appeals court said, was incorrect, as the divorce judgment contained language that expressly “reserved jurisdiction” in the trial court to “effectuate the intent of the parties’ agreement.” That included issuing orders necessary to achieve the goals of the agreement, and the overarching goal of the parties’ agreement and the trial court’s judgment was to “equalize the parties’ retirement assets, to ensure that each walked away from the divorce with an equal amount in their retirement accounts,” according to the appeals court.
Because changing the rollover amount from $303,388 to $263,388 was necessary to achieve that goal, the alteration was proper.
When it comes time to divide assets as part of your divorce, you want to be sure your rights are protected. The knowledgeable Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC can help you do exactly that. Whether you’re negotiating a property settlement, seeking to enforce a property settlement, or litigating the division of assets before the judge, our experienced team can help you to achieve a just outcome. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.