When going through something as emotional and complicated as a divorce, both members of a partnership will, at some point, wonder what they are owed and what will be considered fair.
In Maryland, courts will examine what is considered equitable, not what is equal—which means that one party could receive more than the other. During a divorce settlement agreement, a desire for compensation can conflict with the desire to avoid conflict with the other party.
However, it is the legal right of both parties to ask for possessions, money, or other requests before the marriage officially concludes, a task best addressed by a legal professional.
To ensure that nothing owed is left unclaimed in the process of the settlement, a divorce attorney will thoroughly review the details of non-marital and marital property, as well as each party’s standard of living when separated, and a variety of other factors.
The following outlines the process followed in Maryland and four of the most common things to ask for in a divorce settlement agreement. Your legal counsel will advise you on whether these claims may be viable in your case.
How Will Divorcing in Maryland Impact the Settlement?
While divorce laws are similar across the country, certain factors of the process will differ based on the standards of the state in which the divorce is filed.
Nine states in the U.S. have community property laws that mandate that spouses divide property and possessions acquired over the course of a marriage evenly.
However, Maryland operates in accordance with an equitable distribution statute instead, which means there is no obligation for the court to divide property evenly—only fairly. Many, if not most, cases in equitable distribution states still reward the parties with close to half of the property each.
Still, there are some circumstances that would potentially reward one party more or keep the other from collecting a full half in the settlement. Alternatively, a party might collect less by choice in order to have more control over what they retain.
What Types of Assets Should You Request in the Divorce Settlement?
Marriages are as unique as the people in them, which means that every divorce settlement agreement will be different. Consider the following common assets and property specifics that may benefit from increased attention.
- Alimony: Alimony is a periodic payment to one former spouse immediately following the end of their marriage. Usually, alimony payments are temporary and are meant to be rehabilitative compensation paid until the newly independent former spouse can support themselves. There are a few other types of alimony, such as alimony pendente lite, which helps maintain a standard of living during the divorce settlement itself, as well as indefinite alimony. Indefinite alimony is relatively rare, available only to those who will likely never be able to support themselves entirely, perhaps due to disability, chronic illness, or age. It is more common in marriages that end after many decades.
- Custody of Children: Deciding the type of custody of a child shared by two divorcing parents can be especially complicated and emotional. Regardless of how they feel about each other, the goal of both parents and the court is to avoid causing the child distress. Custody could be determined by who the primary caregiver is, the parent’s psychological and physical fitness, or the character of the parents. The preference of the child, of a certain age may also be considered.
- Retirement Balances: The retirement funds of each party are important assets that are often overlooked in favor of bank account balances, so it is essential to inquire about them. As with finances, possessions, and property, retirement balances can be split equitably. A QDRO (qualified domestic relations order) will be required in order to avoid any premature withdrawal penalties from retirement accounts divested during a divorce. The equitable division of these assets could be influenced by existing pension or 401(k) plans owned by one or both parties.
- Debt: Debt accrued over the course of the marriage may be distributed similarly to everything else, depending on when it was taken out and who was responsible. The court will examine the debt over the course of the settlement and decide who is liable for the debt and its payment. If one party was solely responsible for the debt or concealed it during the marriage, the opposite party may not have to pay. However, if both parties agree to the debt (such as co-signing on a mortgage), they will typically each need to accept some responsibility for its repayment.
Achieve the Best Available Outcome with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
While every divorce and settlement will be different, the process and outcomes can be significantly improved by the representation of an attorney.
Many people avoid speaking with an attorney due to fear of the cost or perceived difficulty; however, divorcing partners tend to see less favorable outcomes when they do not have qualified representation because they are inexperienced in representing themselves and do not know what to ask for.