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Learning about dividing property

Maryland courts follow specific procedures when determining how to dispose of a couple's property through divorce. The first step is to determine whether property is considered separate or marital property. Marital property is generally the property that either you or your spouse acquired during your marriage, such as a bank account, real estate, business, vehicle, furniture, securities, retirement plan or pension. Professional licenses obtained during the marriage are not considered marital property, however.

Separate property is considered property that is not part of the marital estate. Gifts received by one spouse from a third party, as well as inheritances received during the marriage, are normally considered separate property. However, if separate property is commingled with marital property, it may become marital property.

If a couple is unable to come to an agreement, either spouse may petition the court to make an order regarding the division of marital property. Maryland uses an equitable distribution system to dispose of property. When disposing of property, the court considers the amount that each spouse contributed to the family's well-being, the value of each spouse's separate property, the duration of the marriage, the age of each spouse, the physical and mental health of each spouse, the economic circumstances of each spouse and any factors that the court deems relevant to make an equitable assessment. Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean an equal division.

Individuals who are going through the process of divorce may rely on legal assistance in order to ensure that they walk away from the relationship with an equitable share of the marital property. A family law attorney can assist in the negotiation of a comprehensive divorce settlement agreement that would incorporate provisions dealing with property division.

Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland , "Property Disposition in Divorce", October 11, 2014

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