No Negative Marital Property


Barbara and Michael married in 1970 after graduating from Boston College.  They moved to Columbia, Maryland, where Michael got a job as a mathematician for the Department of Defense.   They had two children.  Michael left his government job for a lucrative position in sales for a computer company.  The couple lived off their income and invested Michael’s bonuses.

After 12 years of marriage, however, the parties encountered marital difficulties, and separated.   They divorced in 1984.

One of the issues in their divorce involved the valuation of two of their investments, namely limited partnership interests in real estate ventures.  The managing partner testified that one of the investments was worth about $50,000 and the other was insolvent and owed more than it was worth.  The court valued Michael’s share of the first partnership at about $11,000 and the second partnership at a negative value of approximately $15,000.

This was erroneous the Court of Special Appeals ruled.  The trial court has to value each item of marital property separately and there is no provision in the statute for deducting a loss on a bad investment from other marital property.  Therefore, the court could not assign a negative value.  The lowest value marital property can have is zero.

Green v. Green, 64 Md. App. 122; 494 A.2d 721 (1985)