Massachusetts uses an equitable distribution of property model, which leaves the division of property and assets up to the judge’s discretion.
The divorce process in Massachusetts, and in many other states across the country, can be extremely daunting. Not only are there often heated emotions involved in the dissolution of a marriage, there are a variety of topics that can be difficult to deal with as well. Dividing marital property and assets may be one of the hardest details for many couples to discuss, as it involves letting go of valued treasures that people have accumulated throughout their marriage.
Equitable distribution of property
Massachusetts, along with the majority of states in the U.S., abides by the equitable distribution of property model when dividing assets and property. Under this model, spouses are not guaranteed an equal share to marital property. It is up to the discretion of the judge who is presiding over the case to determine who gets what. According to Massachusetts state legislature, the judge will take into consideration the following when dividing marital property:
- The age and health of both parties.
- How long the marriage lasted.
- The occupation and/or employability of both parties.
- The amount of income each party has, as well as any income or assets they may have in the future.
- The liabilities of both parties.
- Whether or not alimony was awarded, the type of alimony and how long it will last.
The judge will also look at the specific needs of each party, including those of any children who may be involved in the divorce. If one spouse has contributed more to the acquisition of property or to running the household, the judge may factor that into his or her decision as well.
Premarital vs. Marital property
As a general rule, courts in Massachusetts treat property that was owned by either party prior to the marriage, and gifts received during the course of a marriage, differently from property acquired during the marriage. This also includes any type of inheritance that was given to either party. It is important for people to remember that if they deposit their premarital assets into a joint account or use premarital property either during the marriage or on behalf of the family, the property and assets are more likely to be considered marital and eligible for division in a divorce case. However, judges maintain a good amount of discretion in this area.
Marital property encompasses estates or rental properties owned by the couple, as well as retirement, insurance, pension, and social security benefits, according to Massachusetts state legislation. Any investments, 401K plans, annuities, IRAs, or stocks that were acquired or have gained interest during the course of the marriage may be distributed as well.
When to contact an attorney
The decisions you make when going through a divorce are critical, and can affect the rest of your life. Having an established attorney on your side ensures that you will make the right decisions for your future.