Property division in Maryland, incident to divorce, has an equitable standard.
Marital Property is Subject to Division
The property acquired by each spouse during the marriage is marital property and subject to division, which can range from a bank account to a business or partnership interest. Issues, however, may arise regarding inherited property, gifts from third parties, or property identified in other agreements between the parties, as these items are not normally subject to division.
Property can also be a hybrid of both non-marital and marital property. Property that falls into this category may include homes purchased prior to the marriage and pensions or other retirement accounts. As a result of the nature of this property, complex valuations may be required to determine what is subject to division.
Determining the Value of Property
Prior to making a distribution of property, the marital property must be valued by the Court. In doing so, this may be a simple itemization or it may require a complete and comprehensive analysis of records. Some issues that may need to be addressed include determining the value of a business or partnership interest or an asset that is a hybrid of marital and non-marital property along with what value should be attributed to an asset that has been wrongfully dissipated by one party. Often times it is necessary to utilize experts such as each party's accountants, business valuators and actuaries to help ascertain the marital interests.
Equitable distribution does not mean an equal distribution between the spouses. Rather, it is a fair and just distribution based upon the facts of the case. The Court will apply eleven (11) factors in determining how the marital property will be distributed, which include, for example, each party’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to the family, the value of all the property held by the parties, each party’s economic circumstances, and other awards made by the court, such as alimony. The Court in distributing the marital property may transfer title or ownership, if available, and/or order a monetary award from one party to the other. All issues become factored into what is determined to be an equitable distribution; however, the Court is limited to what it can do relating to the parties’ debts, and property not owned jointly.