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Can your spouse simply “take everything” in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2023 | Property division

If you’re in an unhappy marriage, why stay? For a lot of folks, the answer is pretty simple: They’re afraid that their spouse will “take everything” in the divorce, and that they’ll end up worse off and even more unhappy if they leave.

Maybe your spouse has made threats already, or maybe you just know from dealing with them that they’re inclined to be vindictive. While divorcing a difficult spouse can be challenging, the reality is that your spouse doesn’t have as much control over the situation as you (and they) may think.

Property laws aim to protect both spouses

Maryland isn’t a community property state. That means all marital property has to be divided equitably, with an eye toward what’s actually fair.

Absent a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that says otherwise, marital property is almost everything a couple acquires after their marriage begins. This allows for a great deal of flexibility by the courts in the process. If your spouse tries to empty the bank accounts, hide assets or otherwise pull some kind of financial shenanigans to spend down marital assets, the court can, and often will, step in.

Child custody is more than likely to be shared

Under Maryland’s laws, neither parent has a better claim to custody over the other. Modern sensibilities about child-rearing and studies indicate that children usually thrive better when both parents remain actively involved in their upbringing, so that makes the courts inclined toward shared parenting schedules that are mostly equal.

Unless your spouse can prove that you’re an unfit parent, they cannot simply demand full physical and legal custody and get it because that’s what they want – and it takes a lot to prove that a parent is unfit. The courts always consider the best interests of the children above the wants or needs of the parents.

If you’re in a marriage that’s become increasingly uncomfortable or unfulfilling, don’t let your fears (or your spouse’s threats of retribution) stop you from making the changes that you need to make. Seeking experienced legal guidance can help you gain a realistic perspective of your situation and ease some of your concerns.