Anyone facing the possibility of a separation and divorce that involves significant assets should confer at an early stage with a Maryland Divorce Attorney. Such a conference should include an evaluation of all property disposition issues. The potential for disappearing or undisclosed assets are just a couple of issues that should be explored at an early phase of separating from a spouse.
In sitting down with a Family Law attorney, you need to understand the context in which property issues will arise. At the time of separation and divorce, a couple's financial affairs become subject to careful scrutiny. Title to property may have been set up in a way that would lead to a disproportionate benefit to one of the parties. In order to avoid an unjust result, Maryland's Marital Property Law empowers the judge at the time of divorce to balance the equities between the spouses. In a three step process, the court identifies marital property, values it and then makes a monetary award. The last step is a subjective decision that the judge makes based on the eleven factors set forth in section 8-205 of the family law article
Sometimes, a divorcing spouse attempts to obstruct this process. One form of obstruction is for marital property to "disappear". Such action can be considered a fraud on the marital rights of the other spouse. There must be evidence that the property was expended for the principle purpose of keeping the judge from considering its existence in making a monetary award. On the other hand the spouse who is charged with dissipation of property has the opportunity to prove that it was used for appropriate purposes, for example mortgage payments and other legitimate expenses.
Maryland's laws relating to property disposition in Divorce are not intuitively obvious to the layman. As discussed in a prior blog post, it is far too easy for a party to inadvertently prejudice their position. Even in separations that are expected to be amicable, careful analysis and understanding of your rights is recommended.