Guidelines for Division of Assets in Maryland

Interviewer: Okay. So what are the basic rules or guidelines for division of assets?

Anitha Johnson: Maryland is referred to as the Equitable Distribution State and they determine a couple of factors when dividing assets. The first factor is the contributions, whether monetary or non-monetary, that each party made to the wellbeing of the family.

Interviewer: Okay.

Anitha Johnson: The second factor is the value of all the property interests of each party. The third factor is the economic circumstances of each party at the time of the divorce. The duration of the marriage, the age of the party, the physical and mental condition of the party, how and when specific marital property or interests in property described was acquired – all of this is also considered.

Interviewer: It sounds pretty complicated with a lot of factors.

Anitha Johnson: Yes. There are a lot.

Interviewer: So that’s why you can’t say that it’s fifty-fifty. It could be all over the place depending on the various factors, right?

Anitha Johnson: Yes.

Interviewer: Okay.

Anitha Johnson: DC is also considered Equitable Distribution and they have their own factors, which are very similar.

Interviewer: Okay. Anything different about DC or are they pretty much the same factors?

Anitha Johnson: It’s pretty much the same: contributions, the length of the marriage, the occupation of the spouse, the vocational skills, the employability of the spouse, the assets and debts of the spouse, the prior marriage of each spouse, whether the property warrant is made instead of alimony, any custody provisions for the children, the age, health.

Interviewer: What happens in reality, though? With all these factors, do people tend to end up fifty-fifty or is there a tendency to be a lot more lopsided in the division of assets?

Anitha Johnson: It really depends. A lot of times, I guess it’s that people are lazy. They disagree on a fifty-fifty division but they don’t have to. When they go to court, they can show significant factors where one party not contributing at all, one party was not a regular participant in the wellbeing of the marriage financially and physically. Then the court would use that as a way to not give them fifty percent.

Interviewer: Can you give me some examples of contributing to the marriage? I don’t really understand what that means.

Anitha Johnson: The contribution of each spouse could be either monetarily or non-monetarily. One thing they say is if it’s not monetary, then it’s in the form of being a homemaker. One spouse is cooking, cleaning, making sure everything in the house is good, and just being a homemaker. They’re taking care of the children and making sure the family functions even though they are not being the financial provider.

Interviewer: Okay, so it’s the major contribution. Got it. So say there is a man sitting on the couch, drinking a beer, watching sports. I know it’s not necessarily typical but let’s just say …

Anitha Johnson: Yes, I can say. I can give you an example from my client. A case that I just won where my client was a man, and even though he didn’t make as much money, he showed that he was a big part of the wellbeing of the home because he always cut the grass. He made sure he was responsible for all the repairs, and he would even fix them himself. He washed their clothes on a weekly basis. The court found that to be significant and gave him fifty percent of the home, which was highly contested because she made all the mortgage payments.

Interviewer: Okay. Interesting.

Anitha Johnson: But I had another one in DC where the guy always had different jobs. Never financially contributed and he couldn’t prove that he was a devoted husband. The court didn’t give him fifty percent. He didn’t even get close.

Interviewer: Oh, well. Okay. So it’s not just that the one spouse is the breadwinner and the other spouse has to prove many factors, right?

Anitha Johnson: Yes.

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