The process of identifying, valuing, and equitably distributing your and your spouse’s marital property is often time consuming and complicated, depending upon the parties’ assets and liabilities. At Dragga, Hannon, Hessler and Wills, LLP, we will help you through this process step-by-step, which includes, but is not limited to:
- Identifying, valuing, and tracing your pre-marital and non-marital property;
- Identifying and valuing the existing marital property; and,
- Identifying and valuing any “dissipated” or “extant” property (property that existed prior to the irreconcilable breakdown of the marriage, but was transferred or used for purposes unrelated to the marriage).
- Developing a fair and equitable distribution of marital property assets, some of which may be burdened with tax obligations (e.g. tax-deferred retirement assets, stock, some real estate);
- Crafting an agreement and any applicable court orders that are required for the transfer of retirement interests from one spouse to the other.
Every spouse enters the marriage with some property they acquired prior to their nuptials. The court generally allows you to retain what you owned prior to the marriage, as well as that which you acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage. The issue becomes more complicated when pre-marital assets are co-mingled with marital assets (e.g. depositing inherited funds into a joint checking account containing income from employment from both spouses). Our team will work with you to identify what you owned prior to the marriage, as well as what is “directly traceable” to your pre-marital property in light of transactions that may have occurred during your marriage.
The division of marital property can be complex. “Acquiring” property is an on-going event pursuant to Maryland law, and as a result, it can become difficult to identify the sources that were used to acquire property over a long marriage. This can lead to the creation of property that is partially marital and partially non-marital. A joint bank account containing both marital and non-marital funds is a classic example of “mixed” property. Also, family homes are often acquired with funds from both marital and non-marital sources. We will help you sift through these issues, to preserve your pre-marital and/or non-marital contributions to the extent permitted by law.
Valuing the marital and non-marital property is the next step in the process. For many assets, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts, the “fair market value” is obvious. For other assets, such as business interests, real estate, automobiles, and art and antiques, appraisals may be required. We will work with you to identify cost-effective means for valuing the property in question, and guide you in the selection of appropriate valuation experts for this process.
The last step is equitable distribution of the marital property. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal. The court has limited authority to transfer title to marital property from one spouse to the other. Differences in the value of marital property owned by each spouse are adjusted via monetary award. The court considers a number of factors when deciding how to allocate marital property via a monetary award, including, but not limited to the age and condition of the parties, the duration of the marriage, the parties’ monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, and each party’s economic circumstances at the time of divorce, and the cause for the breakdown of the marriage. We will help you craft a settlement or award which takes into account your individual needs and circumstances, and the realities of your immediate future.