Equitable Distribution Law for Divorce in Maryland

By Wayne Thomas

Sharing property is an important component of many marriages, but when couples divorce, questions often arise as to how property acquired during the marriage should be divided. Maryland uses a system known as equitable distribution, which allocates marital assets on the basis of fairness. Knowing what factors the court can consider as part of equitable distribution, and how you can reduce uncertainty through voluntary agreements, will help you best prepare for the property-division phase of your Maryland divorce.

Overview of Equitable Distribution

Maryland is an equitable distribution state. This means that when parties divorce, the court has the authority to divide most property acquired during the marriage on the basis of fairness, regardless of which spouse holds title to the property or is in current possession of it. And equitable distribution does not necessarily mean an equal distribution -- the court is free to consider both monetary and non-monetary factors.

Separate Property

Property acquired before the marriage is not subject to division in divorce, and the same is true of certain property that is acquired during the marriage and remains the property of the spouse who acquired it. This is referred to as separate property in Maryland and includes direct gifts, inheritances and any assets that can be traced to these sources. All other property is considered marital property and is subject to equitable distribution.

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Factors to Be Considered

In determining a fair division of marital property between spouses, the court will consider several factors outlined in Maryland law. These include the age of the parties, the length of the marriage, and each spouse's individual contribution to the marriage and to the assets. The court may also take into consideration the size of any spousal support if awarded, and any other factor the court deems necessary and appropriate to the analysis of what constitutes equitable distribution.

Agreements of the Parties

Given the leeway that judges have in determining a fair allocation of marital property, the equitable distribution process can create uncertainty during divorce. However, couples are always free to reach an agreement in advance of marriage regarding how to divide assets in the event that they get divorced. These are known as prenuptial agreements, and they are valid in Maryland provided the agreement is in writing and signed by both spouses after full disclosure of each party's assets.

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