When you and your spouse finally decide to follow through with a divorce, you may have several questions, one of which is, how will the courts divvy up your property? Will the judge divide everything 50/50, or will he or she split up the property based on who paid for what? The answer is, neither. Few states recognize community property laws, which dictate that divorcing individuals get half of all jointly-owned property. Massachusetts is not one of these states.

According to FindLaw, Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. What this means is that the deciding party — whether that be a judge, a mediator or arbitrator — will distribute property in a way that is fair but not necessarily equal. To do this, the decision-maker will consider several factors.

For one, the judge will ask you and your spouse to identify all jointly-owned property. Separate property is not up for division, though an exception exists when parties comingle separate assets with marital assets.

Once you identify all marital and separate property, you and your spouse will need to sit down and assign a value to said property. Some items, such as your home or vehicles, may be easier to value than others, such as artwork and antiques. If you and your spouse disagree as to the value of an asset, you may need to hire a professional appraiser.

With a list of your property and assigned values before him or her, the judge can finally begin the property division process. To ensure the utmost fairness, the judge will look to several factors, including but not limited to yours and your spouse’s source of income, earning potential, age and health and needs and obligations. The judge will also consider the length of your marriage and whether or not either party was guilty of marital misconduct.

This article is for educational purposes only. You should not use it as legal advice.