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Share of Property in A Divorce in Massachusetts
“What share of marital property does my spouse have?” is the question on everyone’s mind when getting divorced in Massachusetts or elsewhere in the United States. Sadly, married couples usually give very little thought to the matter of division of marital property until it’s too late.
When getting married, many people are under the illusion that they will remain with their spouse for the rest of their life. But about half of them are wrong. Fact: As you may know, up to 50 percent of married couples in our country get divorced, according to the American Psychological Association, though the decision to get divorced doesn’t happen overnight.
Typically, many married individuals begin to wonder, “How would our marital property be split in the event of a divorce?” and “Who owns the property acquired during the marriage?” and “How does Massachusetts law distribute assets after divorce?” only after their marriage has hit rock bottom.
Our experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer from The Law Offices of Richard Mucci is here to shed light on the issue of “marital property division” in Massachusetts law.
Division of Marital Property in Massachusetts Law: Overview
Contrary to popular belief, owning property in your own name does not protect the asset in the event of a divorce in our state. Likewise, just because Massachusetts law requires the division of property in a divorce to be “equitable” does not mean that the assets will be divided equally between you and your soon-to-be ex-wife or ex-husband.
While the division of property will not necessarily be equal, our state law requires it to be equitable. According to Merriam-Webster, the word equitable means “dealing fairly and equally with all concerned.”
“Typically, property is divided by giving each spouse the right to keep specific items by (a) selling assets and (b) apportioning the proceeds”.
If spouses are unable to reach a consensus without getting the court involved, their marital property, as well as shared debts, will be divided by an arbitrator or judge in a way that is considered “equitable” and “fair” under the circumstances. As you can guess, being represented by a skilled divorce lawyer is highly advised to protect your interests at this stage.
Dividing marital property is by no means a random process. In fact, a court will consider a variety of factors, including each spouse’s separate property, age, health, income, debts, occupation, liabilities, and many more.
Marital vs. Separate Property: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?
First and foremost, let’s make sure that we are on the same page on the meaning of “marital property” and “separate property.” Under Massachusetts law, marital property refers to any property acquired by a married couple in the course of their marriage. This type of property must be divided in a manner that seems fair and equitable.
Separate property, on the other hand, is any property that each spouse (a) owned before the marriage or (b) acquired by inheritance or gift during the marriage.
Although many married individuals incorrectly assume that “marital property” is the only type of property that gets divided in a divorce, it often happens that a judge divides both marital and separate property if dividing the couple’s property in that manner is deemed fair under the circumstances.
Therefore, your spouse could be awarded your separate property even though you had acquired it before the marriage. In most divorce cases, however, a judge will award separate property to the original owner, though it’s always a good idea to be represented by an experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer to make sure that you get to keep the property that you owned before the marriage.
In many divorce cases, it’s difficult to determine what property is marital and what property is separate. Also, many married couples in Massachusetts choose to sign a premarital agreement defining property as either separate or marital. In that case, having a prenuptial agreements makes the process of dividing property more straightforward and less complicated.
As we have mentioned earlier, couples who cannot agree on the matter of dividing property in a divorce on their own can take their case to court and let an arbitrator or judge resolve their property-related differences.
‘What’s My Spouse’s Share in Property Division?’
Division of property would not be possible without assigning a monetary value to each item that is being divided between the spouses. Generally, the spouses assign a value on their own, but in cases where they cannot agree, the court will make the determination for them. Typically, appraisals involve the help of financial analysts to accurately evaluate how much each item of property is worth.
If there are debts that were incurred by you or your spouse during the marriage, all the debts, including car loans, mortgages, and cred card debts, will be assigned to you or your soon-to-be former wife or husband. Other assets can be either assigned to either spouse or sold to divide the proceeds. In rare cases, the divorcees agree to hold property together, though it would be not practical for someone looking for a clean break.
When deciding your spouse’s share in property division, the court will consider a plethora of factors (see the full list of these factors in our recent blog post about the division of property in Massachusetts divorce), including spousal misconduct that caused the erosion of the marriage, waste or dissipation of marital assets, and many more.
When assigning the property to either spouse, the court will also consider any contributions to the acquisition, preservation, or increase in value before and during the marriage as well as each spouse’s contributions as a homemaker.
‘Why Do I Need a Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer?’
Some of you might be wondering at this point, “Why do I actually need a divorce attorney, especially if my spouse and I can reach an agreement on our own?” Well, every divorce case depends on the individual facts and circumstances. A divorce lawyer by your side will make sure that (a) you understand what types of property cannot and should not be shared with your spouse, (b) you accurately determine the value of your assets, and (c) the division of property is 100 percent fair.
Besides, as we have mentioned in our previous blog posts, divorce is a stressful and life-changing event in any person’s life, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to go through it alone. Contact the Law Offices Of Richard Mucci to schedule a free consultation with our divorce attorneys in Massachusetts. Call at 781-729-3999.