Over the course of your marriage, you and your spouse have probably accumulated substantial assets, as well as some debts, such as your mortgage and your credit card balances. When you begin to worry that your marriage has become unhealthy or you simply believe that the end is in sight, you may question how a divorce would impact your ownership of certain assets, as well as how the Maryland courts will handle your debts.
Some couples can agree to terms before they file for divorce, making the process simpler through an uncontested filing. However, if you can’t reach an agreement on how you want to split up your assets before you go to the courts, the judge presiding over your case will likely be the one with the final say about ownership and the division of your assets. Familiarize yourself with Maryland’s asset division standards to make it easier for you to understand the process.
Equitable division is the guiding principle in Maryland divorces
Like the majority of states, Maryland’s laws make it an equitable distribution state when it comes to asset division in a divorce. Equitable distribution means that the courts will seek and outcome that is reasonable and fair for both parties.
Fair will not always mean an even split. A truly 50/50 asset division outcome is uncommon, as a variety of factors influence what is fair for any given family. The income of each spouse, the custody of any minor children, health concerns and many other unique considerations can influence what the courts view as appropriate for your family.
Marital property and marital debts are subject to division
During divorce proceedings, you and your spouse will both want to secure a favorable outcome, which often means retaining as much of the marital estate as possible. The courts generally only divide assets acquired during the marriage. Income earned by either spouse and any property purchased with that income is typically marital property.
Regardless of who made more, each spouse will have a share in the total assets acquired during their marriage. Assets owned prior to marriage or inherited by only one spouse typically remain separate property, although complications can arise that change separate property to marital property.
Marital debts are also subject to division. Not all debts incurred during the marriage will wind up split between spouses. If your ex opened a credit card without telling you and did not have you co-sign, for example, you may not be responsible for those debts unless your ex can show that every purchase went toward basic household needs, like groceries. If they went on a shopping spree for their personal benefit, that debt may wind up being their own, separate property.