Divorce Property Division in Maryland

Which Assets and Liabilities Will You Keep in the Divorce Settlement?

A necessary part of divorce in Maryland is dividing marital property, both assets and debts. Property division is not as straightforward as it might sometimes seem, and the consequences of potential mistakes can be quite costly. What each spouse keeps and how it impacts their future financial health is dependent on

  • Proper specification of what portion of each asset and debt is marital vs separate
  • Your choice of divorce process and the extent to which the court gets involved
  • Proper valuation of each type of asset
  • The impact of taxes
  • Whether the division will allow each spouse to meet both short-term cash flow requirements and long-term net worth goals

Separate vs Marital Property

Definitions. It is marital property, not your individual separate property, that is subject to division. Assets are marital property when they have been acquired during the marriage. In Maryland, they also include the increase in value of any asset that was owned individually before marriage. For example, if the value of the home you alone bought and owned was worth $200,000 when you were married and the current value is $500,000, the marital portion is $300,000.

Examples of marital assets include your home, vacation properties, rental properties, furniture, jewelry, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and pensions, executive compensation, personal property, and autos. Marital debts are handled similarly to marital assets and they include mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, student loans and credit cards.

Exclusions. Typically excluded from marital property in Maryland is what’s been specified as separate in a pre or post-nuptial agreement, gifts, inheritances, medical malpractice or accident settlements, and debt accrued in marital deception (e.g., affairs, gambling).  Also excluded from marital property is the growth of an individual’s asset, e.g., an employee retirement plan, which occurs after the date of separation.

Commingling. Commingling refers to mixing funds from separate assets with marital funds. Commingling of property may make what was originally separate property entirely marital. For example, if you inherited $100,000 and then deposited it in a joint bank account, it’s no longer considered separate. In some cases it is still possible to distinguish what portion of a commingled asset remains separate based on “separate property tracing.” If that’s applicable to your case, you will need a divorce financial analyst to help you with this, as it is not straightforward, and most lawyers and courts will take the path of least resistance and rule that the commingled asset is entirely marital.

Passive vs Active Appreciation. In separating marital from separate property the court may consider whether the growth in the value of an asset that was separate at the time of marriage was passively or actively created by the spouse who originally held the separate property. Passive appreciation in an asset (e.g. economic circumstances contributing to a retirement fund’s growth) makes it more likely that it will be treated as marital. Active appreciation (e.g., resulting from active management of a business) will substantiate a claim that it remains separate property.

Transmutation of Assets. In some jurisdictions, but not prevalent in Maryland, a court may also reduce the amount of an asset’s separate value over the duration of the marriage (called transmutation of separate assets). Using our prior example, if the value of the home you’d owned before the marriage was worth $200,000 and the current value is $500,000 and you’ve been married for several years, the marital portion may be deemed to have increased to $350,000 as its separate value has converted to marital over time.

Hidden Assets. One may believe that their spouse has been secretly funneling money to a separate account. In such cases, you will need a forensic expert to trace these assets. Fraud is the one thing that can overturn a divorce settlement after the divorce decree has been entered.

How Maryland Approaches Property Division

Maryland is an equitable distribution state, not a community property state. This means the legal system doesn’t necessarily see an equitable distribution as a 50/50 split. Instead, the courts will divide property per factors including the age of the parties and their ability to add to their future retirement, monetary and nonmonetary contributions made by each party to the marriage, the circumstances of the divorce, duration of the marriage, alimony awarded, and any other factor the court considers necessary or appropriate. In other words, a 60/40 or even 80/20 split of property is acceptable in Maryland.

The Role of Your Choice of a Divorce Process

How division of property is achieved can be dependent on how you go about your divorce.

Litigation. If you litigate and allow the court to decide, then the judge or hearing officer will divide your property based on their view of equitable distribution. Because there is a fair amount of subjectivity involved, you will have little control over how the hearing officer or judge will rule. Your attorney may be telling you it will turn out one way and the decision might just be entirely another.

Represented Negotiation. If you and your spouse both hire attorneys and have them negotiate on your behalf, you are still relinquishing control and you’re going to spend a lot of money on lawyer fees before you get to an agreement, money that could remain in your own pockets. In attorney negotiation, your lawyers will talk to you, to your spouse, then to each other, file petitions and motions to posture, talk to you and your spouse again, and on and on—all at an outrageous billable rate.

Mediation or Collaborative Divorce. If you want to control how your property is divided and keep more of your own money, you should instead consider mediation or, possibly, a collaborative process that is committed to resolving your divorce outside of the courts. Mediation involves working with a “neutral” who will facilitate your negotiations and help you find a settlement that will work best for the both of you. The goal using a collaborative process is much the same, but it involves two attorneys, a financial specialist, a divorce coach, and, if applicable, a child specialist. In mediation or collaborative, you make the decisions.

If you mediate with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®), or have the support of one in collaboration, you get assurance you’ve properly identified and valued all your marital assets and guidance on the impact of various settlement options on both the short and long-term horizon, including capital gains and income taxes, liquidity, and asset growth rates. The relative benefit of mediation over collaboration is that is typically far less expensive than Collaborative Law.

The Cost of Mistakes

Mistakes in settlement agreements  are too frequently made. You certainly don’t want to discover that you didn’t get or keep what you were entitled to. Keep in mind that property division, once you have your divorce decree, can’t be modified unless there is evidence of fraud on the part of either party.


You only get one chance to get it right and we’re here to help you get an optimal divorce settlement in Maryland. Download our free 29-point divorce financial planning guide and then schedule a short call and we’ll explore your best path forward.

Take Control of Your Future

When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Berni Stevens, a Mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®.)

Berni provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, Berni will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.

Schedule Your Complimentary Divorce Strategy Session Today!


Should I Use Divorce Mediation in Maryland?

Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead and move forward with a divorce, the next step is deciding how you want to pursue a divorce settlement agreement. One of the questions that you might ask yourself is whether divorce mediation is the right choice for you here in Maryland.

If you’re getting a divorce in the state of Maryland, the first step is to explore the options that are available to you locally. Did you know that most modern divorces don’t go to court? It’s true. Unless there are issues present that are complicating your divorce and barring you from reaching any kind of reasonable mutual agreement, you probably won’t be needing to hire a family law lawyer to handle your divorce proceedings.

1. Why divorce mediation is a great alternative to hiring a lawyer

If you’re seeking divorce mediation in Montgomery County, you might know that it’s a great alternative to hiring a divorce attorney to handle the proceedings. Why? For starters, divorce isn’t cheap. While the rates charged by divorce mediators and family law lawyers vary by location and different professionals bring with them a different level of expertise, divorce mediation is generally more affordable. Divorce mediators in the US charge anywhere between $100 and $1000 an hour, and the average cost of mediation varies between $3,500 to $7,500 (this is dependent on the nature of mediation services and on how long it takes to reach an agreement). 

2. Mediators are out-of-court settlement negotiation experts

Another reason that many divorcing couples choose to work with divorce mediators over hiring attorneys is that it’s not always necessary for a divorce to go to court. Court is costly in terms of dollars and time spent for all parties involved—you, your soon-to-be-ex, your lawyer, court officials, etc. The fact of the matter is that unless your divorce is hopelessly contested, you will be settling it outside of the courtroom.

The court plays a very small role in uncontested divorces in terms of filing paperwork and submitting fees. Your divorce settlement agreement won’t be legally presided over by a judge but will be recognized and upheld by the court as legally binding. Professional mediators have the expertise and know-how to handle the ins-and-outs of out of court settlements with the same ease that a divorce lawyer can. Both specialize in handling divorce negotiations. Lawyers only provide an edge when the court is involved because they know the court system and can better navigate contested divorces.

3. How to go about choosing a divorce mediator

If you choose to seek out the services of a local mediator, it’s important to do your homework. Ask questions about their mediation process and about the professional expertise that they bring to the table. This will not only help you gauge expectations when it comes to the mediation process, it will provide you with a clear picture of the services you’re paying for.

Looking to explore your options for divorce mediation in the Towson, Maryland area? TruNorth Divorce Solutions can provide divorce mediation packages tailored to fit your needs. Visit our Maryland office or schedule a free strategy session to learn more.

5 Interview Questions for a Divorce Mediator in Annapolis

 So, you’ve decided to seek a mediation for your divorce, and you’re exploring local options. With emotions running high, picking a divorce mediator in Annapolis can seem like a daunting task. The professional you decide to work with needs to hold a level of your trust—after all, they will be helping you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse navigate the murky waters of divorce.

Choosing a mediator that fits your needs is a careful decision, it’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time. Thinking about the types of things you might ask a professional mediator before you make the decision to commit to one is a good way to prep for an initial consultation. TruNorth Divorce Solutions has put together a quick list of questions that you might want to ask your prospective mediator.

1.     How do you define success? How do you facilitate this during the mediation process?

This is a great question to ask during your initial meeting with a professional divorce mediator because odds are that this is the first time you’ve sought out a divorce mediation and are unsure about how the process works. Mediation is a collaborative effort between you, your ex, and the mediator you choose to work with.

It’s important to outline expectations before the mediation process begins, and this question can really flush out some of those expectations. Ideally, you want to work towards a divorce settlement that both parties are happy with. Your prospective mediator may go into detail about their strengths and what they bring to the negotiation table.


2.     What is your success rate?

This is a great follow up question to ask in tandem with how your mediator defines success. The answer to this question can provide some much-needed confidence and really influence your choice.

The mediator will probably touch on the depth of their experience in the industry and how many divorcing couples they have worked with. They might also have some metrics (i.e., that they have successfully mediated XX divorces in the Annapolis area for X years) of success to share with you that reflect their professional expertise. They may even share some relevant anecdotes.


3.     How much does mediation cost?

Ah, the price tag. An important question. Make sure to get these details during your initial consultation. Your mediator may bill hourly or have a flat rate mediation fee. While one divorce mediator in Annapolis may charge $1000 an hour for their services another may have a flat rate fee for services of $7000. Don’t make assumptions and ask for rates up front.

Remember, price isn’t always the main consideration behind choosing a mediator and shouldn’t necessarily deter you. While it is important to stay on budget, you should also consider the level of skill and expertise that the mediator has to offer.


4.     How long is each mediation session/how long does mediation typically last?

Another great question to ask your divorce mediator is how long each session will last and how long the process takes overall. These questions can be particularly salient if your mediator bills by the hour. 

 The answer to this question also gives you an idea of how much time you will need to carve out of your schedule for the mediation process. You can also ask about whether your mediator holds private sessions (depending on your circumstances) and other questions surrounding the level of commitment expected of you.

5.      What do your services include?

Being unfamiliar with mediation, you probably want to ask about what is included with their services. Is the mediator drafting up divorce settlement documents for you? Will they be filing them on your behalf? Will you have to pay additional court costs or those included? Asking this question up front will help give you a clear picture of what to expect of your mediator. 

Any reputable mediator would welcome these questions during your consultation, so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Looking for a divorce mediator in the Annapolis area? Contact TruNorth Divorce Solutions for a free divorce strategy session. 



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Why You Need a Divorce Mediator in Maryland

Most of us feel overwhelmed and rather clueless about which direction to take once we conclude we’re going to get a divorce. Traditionally, the first move had been to call a lawyer but you should pause, take a breath, and then reach out to the right professional to get you going in the proper direction for you and your family.

 Other than a DIY divorce (unadvisable unless you have neither assets nor children), mediation is the least expensive and fastest way to get your divorce. A divorce negotiated through mediation will also help you preserve a civil relationship with your spouse, especially important if you have children, and always important for your self-esteem. If you live in Maryland (or any other state) you should first seek the help of a divorce mediator in Maryland to discuss whether this is a viable option for you. 

The Best Mediator for Your Maryland Divorce

Divorce impacts us emotionally and financially and must be processed within the confines of the law. It’s generally not a good idea to go through this process alone, especially when there are qualified professionals who can help guide you through the process and address each of the facets of divorce, not just legal. 

If you choose a divorce mediator in Maryland, identify an experienced moderator who has not only knowledge of Maryland divorce laws and procedures but also training in divorce financial and emotional issues. The mediators at TruNorth Divorce take a holistic perspective on divorce and are dually certified as divorce financial analysts and divorce coaches. They have also been extensively trained in divorce mediation, including how to process your divorce legally. Don’t expect your divorce lawyer-mediator to be  skilled in all of these areas–the reality is that attorneys aren’t trained in anything besides law and often don’t know what they don’t know. Consider adding in a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst CDFA® and divorce coach to your team if you go the lawyer route.

Reach out to a divorce mediator in Maryland if you want a kinder, smarter, and more affordable divorce. If you’re on the fence and you have a list of concerns related to your divorce, don’t hesitate to Schedule a Free Strategy Session to go over your options. 



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How to Get a Divorce in Maryland

Most “How to Get Divorced” articles take a rather narrow view, i.e., the legal process. Obviously, these articles are typically written by lawyers. 😉 

How to get divorced can be a multi-faceted, complicated, entangled, frustrating, non-linear, jumble of a messy process. Not surprising, given that there are two spouses, years of history, hot emotions, finances, children, a home, secrets and lies, and hidden agendas involved.

Given all this, though, let me try to keep this “how to get divorced in Maryland” piece as simple as possible for this medium (please contact us for more detail.) Here are what we consider to be three essential components.

 #1: Financially Prepare and Protect Yourself Before You Start the Divorce

  • Open a separate checking and credit card account at a new bank
  • Check your credit report and score and then periodically track
  • Establish private communication, e.g., P.O. box, email account
  • Gather and copy financial and legal documents—tax returns, statements for loans, bank and retirement accounts, investments, wills, trusts, deeds, car registrations, insurance policies—and store them outside of the marital home

#2: Talk to Professionals

Most think to first call a lawyer after they talk to a few of their friends and family members. Let me suggest otherwise. Friends and Cousin Amy are great for support but they aren’t likely stellar for advice on how to handle one of the most important and costly events of your life. While well-intentioned, their cases and knowledge of others’ situations are different than yours and you will need the advice of a professional for accurate advice.

You’re best first stop is not with a lawyer but with a far more neutral and resourceful individual: a reputable divorce coach. She or he can help you assess your situation and choose the best path forward and how to execute. They can also help you with setting objectives for how you want to handle the divorce on a personal level, i.e., how to be your “best self.” They can help you better work with a lawyer or mediator, saving you money and significant angst. They are more than anything, the quarterback on your divorce team who can help you assemble the right individuals for the jobs you’ll need to get done.

Lawyers, of course, are a critical component for their knowledge of the legal process. They will often unnecessarily steer you, though, to costly litigation, without regard for what will be best for you and your spouse. Many lawyers are now moving into mediation as its become more popular with divorcing couples, but keep in mind that lawyers aren’t necessarily the best choice for mediation. They are also not equipped to handle the emotional, practical, or complex financial issues of divorce, so make sure you talk to more than just a lawyer early on in the divorce process.

Mediators are a good information source as you consider mediation as a divorce process. Other professionals to consider are a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) to discuss optimal or creative financial settlement options, or a therapist who may be able to provide extended emotional support.

 # 3: Familiarize Yourself with MD Divorce Law and County Procedures

a. Legal Separation

In Maryland, there is no legal separation but a “limited divorce” serves as a legal separation. Even without legal recognition of a separation you can still create a legally binding separation agreement that covers such things as child support, spousal support, joint bills, parenting plan, health insurance, loans and other debts, etc.  

b. Residency

If the ground for divorce occurred in Maryland, you need only be currently living in Maryland at the time you file for divorce. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside Maryland, you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least six months before filing your divorce complaint.

 c. Types of Divorce, Waiting Periods, and Filings

 In Maryland, there are two types of divorce: limited and absolute. A limited divorce is essentially a legal separation.  

  • Grounds for limited divorce
    • Separation
    • Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct
    • Desertion
  • Additional grounds for absolute divorce
    • 12-month separaton 
    • Mutual consent
    • Adultery
    • Imprisonment for a crime
    • Insanity

Additionally, there are no-fault divorces and at fault divorces and they may be treated differently when it comes to awarding alimony and sometimes, custody if the fault ground negatively affects the children. A no-fault divorce is based on either a 12-month separation or mutual consent. At fault grounds include adultery, actual desertion, and constructive desertion (typically this is cruelty). At-fault divorces will not be granted if the plaintiff is also determined to be at-fault.

 Divorce filings are handled by county court. Filing can take place where either of the spouses resides. Each county has its own procedures and fees and should be researched prior to filing.

 d. Support, Settlement and Custody Agreements

It’s important to note that if you have financial and custody issues to work out before the divorce is finalized you must do so before the waiting period is over or the decisions will be deferred to the court. The court will look to the filing spouse for their preferences.

If you both hire attorneys and litigate in the courts, you will likely spend a minimum of $30,000 – $40,000. Mediation can reduce fees to less than $10,000. Courts will appoint legal representation for those in need or you can negotiate the financial and custody terms yourselves.

 So, that, in a nutshell is “How to Get a Divorce in Maryland.” It’s a bit more nuanced than this as, stated earlier, divorce can be a multi-faceted, complicated, entangled, frustrating, non-linear, jumble of a messy process, right? Call or request a consultation if you want more info. 

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