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What Is Non-Marital Property and Why Should I Care?

Non-marital property consists of (a) the property you owned prior to your marriage; (b) the property you acquired during your marriage by inheritance or gift from third parties (not your spouse); and (c) any property directly traceable to any of the above sources. See Md. Code Ann. Family Law § 8-201(e)(3). In a divorce action, each party gets to keep their non-marital property, provided they are able to prove that such property was directly acquired via one of the three above-listed sources.  This is where the proverbial plot thickens, particularly in long-term marriages. 

How many people keep records verifying their acquisition of jewelry or a baseball card collection that they purchased 20 or more years ago?  How many people keep evidence confirming their receipt of funds from a deceased relative’s estate or life insurance policy?  How many people maintain statements dating back to the date of marriage for their existing 401(k) plans?  In my experience, most do not.  And most banks only keep records dating back seven years, further complicating the proof recovery problem. 

What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced “qua-dro”) is an order entered by a court to direct the division of the marital property portion of a retirement interest in a divorce.  A QDRO may also be used to collect payment of child support and/or alimony.  This article focuses on division of retirement in divorce.

Retirement plans, profit sharing, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), pensions, 401Ks, deferred compensation plans, and Keogh plans are just several examples of an exhaustive list of retirement assets that the court may consider marital property subject to division. If the plan is defined as a “tax qualified” plan by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), then the transfer of retirement assets is done through a QDRO.

A QDRO allows the spouse who is not a retirement plan participant to be recognized as an “alternate payee” and to collect all or part of the retirement benefits which belong to the plan participant. The alternate payee may be allowed to receive current or future benefits depending on the plan and/or agreement reached by the spouses.

Client FAQ's - Financial Statements

Sandra Mendez is a Senior Paralegal at DHHW.  She has worked with Dragga, Hannon, Hessler & Wills since 2012.

WHAT IS A FINANCIAL STATEMENT?

A financial statement, in sum, is a monthly overview of your expenses, income and assets and liabilities. You may have completed some version of one when you applied for a loan or a credit card. The Court’s version may look a little different and two forms are available from which to choose. One is known as the Short-Form Financial Statement, and the other one, not surprisingly, is known as the Long-Form Financial Statement. Alas, you cannot just choose the version you prefer to complete.  The circumstances of your case determine which version applies to your case.

Alimony Guidelines – What Are They and Are They Useful?

Alimony (or “spousal support”) is a periodic maintenance payment that a spouse or former spouse pays to the other after the spouses separate or divorce. Generally, the purpose of alimony is to create economic fairness between spouses during the separation and after the marriage ends. Alimony awards in Maryland are governed by Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law Title 11.

There are three types of alimony:

  1. Alimony pendente lite –for a limited time period, while the divorce case is pending and until the divorce is finalized
  2. Term Alimony –  time limited alimony, after the divorce, to enable a dependent spouse the time to financially support themselves.
  3. Indefinite Alimony – alimony for an indefinite amount of time, when the dependent spouse cannot become self-supporting and/or the parties’ standards of living after the divorce will be unconscionably disparate (extremely different).

Therefore, any alimony claim has three components: 1) whether alimony should be paid; 2) the amount of any alimony payment; and, 3) the duration of any alimony payments.

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