SPONSORED BY OFFIT KURMAN
Marriage is happily ever after, right? For some people, yes, but for others, not so. The media is constantly covering one celebrity break up or another, but you probably never thought it would happen to you. Then along with the emotional turmoil, you and your spouse are faced with dividing property and assets. This can be a volatile subject with feelings ranging from just wanting it to be over, to full scale war over every single thing. Fortunately, the law has established guidelines that provide a path for navigating this difficult situation.
The process of dividing assets can be overwhelming. If you and your spouse can agree on a division of marital property on your own or with a third party mediator, then a short hearing is usually all that is necessary to gain a judge’s approval.
Generally speaking, anything you and your spouse acquired during the marriage is considered marital property. The exception to this rule is called nonmarital property. Nonmarital would include anything either of you owned before marriage, any inheritance, third party gifts, items excluded by valid agreement and/or anything directly traceable to one of those sources. Nonmarital property is not divided and stays with the original owner.
There are cases where spouses cannot agree on how to divide assets. In this event the court determines equitable distribution using factors established by state law. After the property is identified and valued, these factors will be taken into consideration by the judge when dividing the property. It should be noted that equitable distribution does not necessarily mean equal distribution; it means that the court will divide the property in a way it thinks is fair. Some of the factors taken into consideration are length of marriage, each party’s age, health, educational background, income, the assets, any nonmarital property, contributions to the well being of the family, what led to the breakup of the marriage, and what contributions each party made to the acquisition of the property. To achieve equitable distribution the court has the power to sell jointly titled property, grant a monetary award for marital property titled to only one party, and/or adjust retirement assets using orders that prevent penalties or tax consequences. Whether your divorce is amicable or more sensational, the law and your attorney are there to ensure that the disposition of your marital property is equitable for both parties.
Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 38 years, during which she served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is on the board of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, and is the President of the Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent. She was awarded one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 2015 and 2019. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation, mediation, custody, access, support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution.