Divorces that involve high-value assets are anything but ordinary. Couples who have accumulated significant assets during their marriage may face many challenges during a divorce, such as complex property division, tax implications and conflict regarding areas like child support and alimony.
When going through a high asset divorce in Maryland, it is essential to have a highly experienced family law attorney to guide clients through the process and ensure a satisfactory outcome. Here are a few things that individuals should know when seeking an attorney to assist them with navigating a high asset divorce in Maryland.
What Is A High Asset Divorce?
A high asset divorce is generally defined as a divorce that involves more than one million dollars in liquid assets. Assets in a divorce can take on many forms, such as real estate, overseas investments, business shares, stock options, deferred compensation and tax benefits like capital loss carry-forward. When there are numerous assets involved in a divorce, the case can become even more complicated.
Every divorce case is unique, and each case’s specifics will ultimately influence the final division of property. One or both spouses may have contributed income or assets to the marriage, and how much each contributed may cause conflict during a separation. In some cases, a couple will have a prenuptial agreement in place that dictates how assets will be divided during a divorce.
Valuing assets can also be complex, ranging from what value to assign to real property, ownership interests in businesses or partnerships, as well as expensive collections. Expert witnesses are often required to assist divorce attorneys in high asset complex divorce cases.
Types Of Divorces In Maryland
In Maryland, there are two main types of divorce: absolute divorce and limited divorce.
In an absolute divorce, the marriage is legally ended and all issues are settled, including matters involving property and assets. Once an absolute divorce is finalized, both parties can legally remarry.
A couple can settle some important issues in a limited divorce, but the marriage is not ended right away. Instead, spouses can address the court and figure out issues such as child custody, alimony and finances. In some cases, a court requires a couple to go through a limited divorce before they are eligible for an absolute divorce. Most recently, Courts are allowing couples to make every effort to skip the step of a limited divorce, where possible, to assist them in moving towards their final divorce.
Division Of Marital Property
Maryland is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court is not obligated to divide marital property equally between the spouses. Instead, the court will divide assets and property in a way that a judge finds fair, but not necessarily a 50/50 split. However, in many cases, each spouse gets half of the marital property. When there are high-valued assets involved, dividing property fairly can be much more complicated.
Marital property refers to any assets that belong to the marriage, meaning both spouses, rather than just one spouse which is considered separate property. Examples of marital property include real property, such as a house or land that the couple owned during the marriage. It also includes other types of property acquired during the marriage, such as vehicles. It may not include property given by a third person to one spouse, such as a gift or inheritance.
When dividing property, the court will consider a variety of factors. These factors include what each spouse contributed to the marriage, how long the marriage lasted, the economic circumstances of each spouse, how the assets were acquired, and the health, age, physical and mental condition of each spouse.
The Effect Of Non-Marital Property In A High Asset Divorce
In many cases, there are a great deal of assets that are not marital. In these cases, whether you are in trial or in mediation, there are strategies to employ that may result in the party who owns the non-marital assets keeping them but not getting half of the marital assets. This is a true case by case evaluation.
Support For Spouses And Children
In a high asset divorce, issues of support for spouses and children may also be involved. Due to their higher level of wealth, spouses in a high asset divorce may be required to provide child support payments that are above the standard guidelines used in Maryland. This is because Maryland family law judges are often given a degree of discretion when setting child support payments.
Both child support and spousal support payments are based on factors like income, assets and property. It is important that all assets are identified and valued properly during a divorce to ensure that both parties’ final payment arrangement is fair. The Maryland court will generally reach a payment amount based on the best interests of any spouses or children involved.
The alimony conversation is its own separate topic because it can become so complex. Judges have a great deal of discretion in determining an amount of alimony to be awarded, as well as the duration of that alimony. Occasionally, when a party who might otherwise be eligible for alimony will receive several millions of dollars in assets, the Court will not grant alimony at all, if that party can utilize the assets instead.
Speak With An Experienced Family Law Attorney
Wealth and accumulated assets are major influential factors when two spouses separate in Maryland. Due to the many complexities involved in a high asset divorce, it is essential to hire a reputable family law attorney that has experience working with clients going through a high asset divorce.
Protecting assets and ensuring a fair distribution of property is key when two spouses separate, and one has separate property or has contributed more to the marriage. To learn more about navigating a high asset divorce in Maryland or to speak with an experienced family law attorney about a high asset divorce case, reach out to the legal professionals at SIEGELLAW.