Just as the court will use and equitable distribution method in Washington, DC divorce cases, judges in Maryland will also use an equitable distribution method when dividing martial property. However, it should be noted that, in many cases, if the parties are willing to work together, they can reach an agreement that will be used in place of the court making a decision after hearing evidence at a trial. It is generally preferable if the parties can form their own agreement, as they are more likely to get what they actually want. This will also perhaps allow the parties to avoid a lengthy trial, and that will make things a lost less expensive for everyone involved.
Assuming an agreement cannot be reached, the court will hold a hearing and make a decision based upon the factors as set out in the Maryland Code of Laws. The first thing that the court will do is to determine what is and what is not in the marital estate.
In the state Maryland, pursuant to Code of Laws, (Section 8-205), the judge has jurisdiction to transfer ownership in property such as:
• Pensions and retirement accounts. This can include deferred compensation plans
• Real estate including the martial home and investment property
• Cash and other liquid funds held in a deposit account or investment account
• Personal property including household items and automobiles
• Any other property the court determines to be part of the martial estate.
Assets that are not generally considered part of the marital estate are things such as inheritance distributed to only one spouse from the probate estate of a deceased relative, property owned prior to the marriage, and gifts made only to one spouse. However, as you will discuss with your experienced Maryland divorce attorney, even property which is not typically considered to be part of the marital estate can become part of the marital estate (transmutation) if it is used in am manner that is consistent with a finding of marital property.
For example, of an inheritance is put in the same account as other marital assets, and that money is used to pay for things for both parties, it may be considered commingled at this point and could become a joint marital asset. A joint marital asset is one that is subject to equitable distribution in a Maryland divorce case.
Another thing to keep in mind with regard to pensions and retirement accounts is in order to transfer these assets or change the beneficiary in the case of a divorce, you will need to have a document known as Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO – Pronounced as “Quad Ro” by Maryland and DC divorce attorneys) drafted to accomplish that transfer. This is very technical process and you should certainly consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Additionally, in the DMV area, there are many federal employees and military. These workers typically have a FERS retirement plan, a CSRS plan, or a military retirement plan along with a thrift savings plan (TSP). These types of plans require your attorney to prepare a document know as a Court Order Acceptable for Processing (COAP – Pronounced as “Co App”) for OPM or a private equity firm to handle this transfer. It is important that you do not overlook this, as it can cause many problems much later.
If you need assistance with a divorce or any other family law matter in the District of Columbia or Maryland, please contact the Law Offices of Daniel A. Gross for a consultation.