When spouses divorce in an equitable distribution state such as Maryland, their assets (and debts) should be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Of course, many divorce cases never go to trial, and the spouses work out an agreement between themselves.

However, the spouses may be from different financial backgrounds, and it can be a shock for one spouse to realize that he or she faces a different standard of living after divorce. Can a divorce really be fair when one party has a lot of family money but the other does not?

The court probably cannot touch other parties’ assets

Say that you and your spouse have been living in a house owned by your parents-in-law. Could the house, or ownership of the house, be up for negotiation in the divorce? Probably not, since it is not yours or your spouse’s to decide what to do with.

However, because your spouse will have a house to live in by default (and no house payments), you could theoretically negotiate from a better position if you claim that you are owed a greater share of your jointly-held assets or that you are entitled to spousal support payments. After all, you will be on the hook for your own rent or mortgage payments after the divorce while your spouse does not have to worry about them.

For future reference, a postnuptial agreement can be helpful if you are about to invest your own money for repairs or renovations to a house that is neither yours nor your spouse’s but rather belongs to your spouse’s family. The agreement could stipulate that your spouse would pay you back for some or all of the repairs or renovations if you divorced.

Is there a prenuptial agreement?

When one person has family money, the family may recommend a prenuptial agreement. If you signed such an agreement with your spouse, it hopefully makes provisions for your life after the divorce. Judges tend to be pretty good at identifying unfair prenuptial agreements, and the longer you have been married, the better. Judges want both spouses to be able to live decently after the divorce, not have one struggle to make ends meet while the other lives the high life. The same goes for postnuptial agreements.