Prior to filing for divorce, Maryland spouses are advised to think about asset protection. A fair and equitable division of assets is more likely if some effort is put into accumulating records, receipts, and other important documentation. This is true even if you believe that the parting will be amicable. It may not always be possible to predict with complete accuracy how agreeable each party will remain during the course of a process that can get emotional at times. A spouse that takes concrete steps to protect assets may forgo some of the anxieties and concerns that can accompany a divorce.
Acquire and Protect Financial Records
When contemplating divorce, you should gather records documenting your assets. That would include: deeds to property, titles to cars, retirement statements, bank statements, investment accounts, birth certificates, passports, mortgage documents, phone records, and credit card statements. While some of these items may be retrievable from other sources, it is better to have them readily available when needed, rather than having to conduct a search during a critical time in the divorce process.
Create Separate Accounts
Normally, joint accounts are subject to the demand of either party. To preserve and protect those joint assets, you may need to move them from both names to one name. In the best of circumstances, this transfer is done with the consent of both parties involved. The person who receives those joint assets then clearly has the advantage with regard to access, and the other party may not be happy with the decisions made. The goal of transferring joint assets is preservation so that disagreements do not lead to squandered assets.
Log Personal Gifts and Inheritances
Gifts from a third person and inheritance are non-marital property. To preserve their character as non-marital (and therefore belonging solely to the recipient), you should be careful not to co-mingle the assets. If you receive a gift of money or inheritance money, it is wise to open a separate account into which no money other than the gift or inheritance goes. That way, it preserves its non-marital character. If that same money is deposited into an account which contains money that either or both parties earned during the marriage, then the non-marital becomes mingled with marital and loses its character as non-marital.
Secure Property Title
Assets that are held as tenants by the entirety are protected from each other and from creditors. A property typically so titled is the marital home. When titled that way, neither party can sell or dispose of the property without the other party. The legal premise is that each party owns the whole and their interests are not divisible. Property held as tenants by the entirety are also protected from the creditors of either party; however, a creditor of both parties may be able to make a claim against the property.
When a property is just in one name, it may still be marital, but it cannot be ordered sold by the court. If you have an interest in making sure something is not subject to sale, then you may title it solely in your name. Understand, you may still be liable for a monetary award to adjust the equity in the property, but the property will remain titled to you.
Finding an attorney that you are confident in and comfortable with can ease the transition from married to divorced. For additional information about asset protection, or to discuss your situation, please contact Linda Sorg Ostovitz at email@example.com or telephone (301) 575-0381.
ABOUT LINDA SORG OSTOVITZ
Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 34 years. In this time, she has served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Currently, she serves as President for the Business Women’s Network of Howard County, by which she was chosen Woman of Distinction for 2014. Mrs. Ostovitz represents clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore Counties. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation and mediation, child custody and access, child support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution. In addition to providing legal representation in court, Mrs. Ostovitz provides mediation services to help families come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the traditional court proceedings.
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