Who Gets The House in a Divorce in Maryland?
The answer to the question “Who gets the house in a divorce in Maryland?” is complicated, assuming you both own the home. Determining ownership of the marital home is often a major source of conflict for couples amid a divorce. Real estate is a significant asset, but you may also have deep emotional ties to your home as well.
We at Lebovitz Family Law know how stressful this issue can be for divorcing couples. Let us guide you through Maryland’s divorce laws so you have a better understanding of your rights.
First, it’s important to understand that Maryland is an equitable distribution state.
Understanding Equitable Distribution in Maryland
What is a wife entitled to in a divorce in Maryland? What about the husband? Maryland is an equitable distribution state, along with every other state except for Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Louisana, Wisconsin, Texas, Nevada, Washington, and California. In an equitable distribution state, property is not always divided equally. Instead, the court considers a variety of factors when distributing marital property, including a long list of fairness principles.
Marital Property vs. Non-Marital Property
Maryland judges are responsible for determining what is or isn’t marital property, but here’s a quick explanation of what assets fall into what category. Marital property is almost all property acquired during the marriage, such as houses, appliances, cars, furniture, bank accounts, pensions, furniture, retirement plans, stocks, and bonds.
Non-marital property is property acquired before the marriage. These items remain the property of whoever owned them before you got married. Note that any property received by a spouse during the marriage from a third party is considered non-marital property. Also, property acquired by both spouses while living together before marriage is still considered non-marital property.
Equitable Distribution and Applying Fairness Principles
Once a judge determines what property is marital and non-marital, they’ll assess the value of the property. The judge will then apply fairness principles to determine the division of the property, including the house. Here are some of the fairness principles the court must consider:
- Age of each party
- Duration of the marriage
- The economic circumstances of both parties
- Family contributions made by each party (monetary and non-monetary)
- The mental and physical condition of both parties
- Circumstances of the marriage ending
- Spousal support payments
- When and how retirement assets were acquired
- When and how family use personal property was acquired
If your case goes to trial, the court has the right to consider any other factors deemed appropriate to determine an equitable division of property, including those put forth by you and your lawyer.
What Happens to the House in a Divorce
Now that we’ve defined the key terms, let’s answer the question at hand. If you and your spouse bought your home together and cannot work things out in mediation, the court will determine who gets the house. Depending on the fairness principles listed above, one spouse may be given the house and the other equal funds in a savings account (or multiple assets of equal value). Alternatively, you and your spouse could sell your home and divide the proceeds.
Maryland’s courts go to great lengths to ensure fairness, but that doesn’t mean things will always work out in your favor. If you’re determined to keep your home, it’s essential to seek out legal representation. A professional Towson divorce lawyer can advocate for your interests, whether you’re negotiating in mediation or going to court. By hiring proper legal representation, you’re giving yourself your best chance at your preferred outcome.
What to Consider Before Trying to Keep Your Home
Your instinct may be to vigorously pursue sole ownership of your home in the divorce, which is completely understandable. However, there are cases where holding on to your home can do you more harm than good. Here are two important factors for you to consider before trying to keep your home in a divorce.
Your Financial Limitations
Can you realistically afford to support the household? If you’re going from two incomes to one, you could struggle to keep up with the property taxes, utilities, repair costs, etc. Your economic circumstances will be considered by the court, but this matter is worth examining on your own. You may decide that it’s in your best interests to let your spouse keep the house.
Your Children’s Well-Being
If you have children, their well-being is surely already top of mind. Divorce can be challenging for children of all ages, but allowing your kids to remain in their home and community can give them a much-needed sense of stability.
The court may give one parent the right to use the family home, but this will depend on a few factors. This includes the best interest of the child and if either parent uses the home for business purposes. Contact an experienced family law attorney to learn more about how child custody impacts your right to live in your marital home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have additional questions about marital law or what happens to a house in a divorce? We encourage you to consult our helpful FAQs below. If your question isn’t listed, please read our blog about Maryland divorce laws in 2023 or contact us directly. We’d be happy to set up a consultation with you.
Is Maryland a community property state?
No. Maryland is an equitable distribution state where the court evaluates both spouses’ needs to determine what’s fair rather than what’s equal (though property is often split equally). In community property states, the priority is to split marital property equally.
What happens to property owned before marriage?
Property owned before marriage is not considered a martial asset unless the other spouse was added the title later on. That means the person who owns the property would keep it in the divorce. It should be noted that this is a special exception made in Maryland and not the norm in other equitable distribution states.
Is a wife entitled to half of all property in Maryland?
No, this is only true in community property states. In Maryland, various fairness principles are considered to determine what would be a fair distribution of property for spouses of any gender.
What if my spouse doesn’t want the house?
If only one party wants the house, it may be beneficial for the divorcing couple to divide their property in mediation. In meditation, the couple has control over the decision rather than the court.
Who lives in the house during the divorce?
If you have children, the primary caregiver is usually the one who stays in the marital home during the divorce. In cases where you don’t have children and both own the home, things get more complicated. Neither of you can force the other to leave, which means doing things like changing the locks is completely unacceptable. You’ll need to come to an agreement on your own or have your lawyers work it out. There is an exception, however, for cases where domestic violence is involved.
What if my spouse changes the locks?
If you own a home, you have the right to enter it. Your spouse is not permitted to change the locks without your permission or a court order (in cases of domestic abuse), even if you’ve moved out. If this happens to you, you have every right to call the police and demand access to your home.
Who keeps the home if there is domestic abuse?
If you are a victim of domestic abuse or have reason to believe your spouse will injure you, it’s important to seek help. One option is to file an “Application for a Temporary Protection Order.” The hearing typically takes place that same day without the other spouse being present or knowing about the hearing.
Assuming the temporary order is granted, the case will proceed to a “Final Protective Order” hearing, which would take place within a week. If you and your lawyer present sufficient evidence and the court rules in your favor, your spouse will be ordered to leave your home for up to one year. Lebovitz Law is here to support you in all legal matters pertaining to domestic violence and divorce, but we encourage you to seek out resources for victims of domestic violence like MNADV. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911 right away.
Dividing Marital Property Out of Court
As mentioned above, you don’t have to go to court to determine who gets the house. It’s not a possibility for everyone, but some couples can divide their assets, marital and non-marital, out of court. This includes everything from houses and cars to lamps and cutlery.
Settling these matters through a process like mediation can be very beneficial to both parties. Opting for negotiation and mediation can help you maintain a healthy relationship with your former spouse. This is especially important if you intend on co-parenting or possibly continuing a romantic relationship after ending your marriage. Finding a resolution through mediation also saves you the time, money, and effort required to prove the value of your home and other marital property in court.
The court will have to ensure your agreement is fair before approving it. If the court is unsatisfied and you’re unable to reach a fair agreement, going to court may be necessary.
Don’t Negotiate Without Legal Representation
Even if you and your former spouse agree to divide your marital property out of court, it’s still essential that you seek out legal representation. Without an experienced family law attorney, you could get manipulated or intimidated out of the property you’re entitled to, whether it’s the house, a car, or valuable furniture.
With Lebovitz Law advocating for you, you don’t have to worry about getting the short end of the stick. We’ll fight to ensure your contributions to your marriage and other fairness principles are recognized. We go into mediation fully equipped to negotiate on your behalf, no matter the circumstances. If we believe going to court is necessary to get you what you’re owed, we’ll explain your options and assist you every step of the way.
Valuable Resources for Divorcing Couples
Divorce is complicated, even under the best of circumstances. That’s why we’ve curated a list of resources to help you through this process, whether you have questions about Maryland divorce law, child custody, or domestic violence.
- Women’s Law Center of Maryland – Domestic Violence
- Equitable Distribution: Definition and State List
- Helping Children Cope With Divorce Guide
- Maryland Child Custody Laws
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more information about any of the topics discussed above. Lebovitz Law LLC has the expertise to help you navigate any divorce smoothly, even if there are children involved and/or domestic violence concerns. We will give your case the attention and care it deserves so you can start the next chapter of your life.
Choose an Advocate With Decades of Experience
Lebovitz Law LLC is led by Richard Lebovitz, a third-generation attorney who has practiced law for 30 years. Specializing in family law, Richard has spent the last three decades tackling cases regarding divorce, child support, child custody, pre-nuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements, domestic violence, and more.
Whether you need help dividing marital property in Maryland or removing an abusive spouse from your home, you can count on Lebovitz Law LLC. Empowered by his experience and determination, Richard will work tirelessly to protect your rights and interests at every turn. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable — hire an attorney you can trust to advocate for you.
Contact Lebovitz Family Law Today
Over the years, Richard Lebovitz has earned a reputation for integrity and excellence. He treats every client with respect and operates with absolute transparency, ensuring you have the information you need to make confident choices throughout the legal process.
If you have questions and would like to discuss your case, please contact us by calling 410-417-7803. We’ll schedule a consultation so you can have a better understanding of your options and Maryland’s divorce laws.