A couple can acquire a lot of things––from a home to vehicles to investments to bank accounts––while married. When they decide to divorce, all of that property must be divided. It can become one of the most heated part of a divorce, especially when the assets (and debts) are extensive.
At Sequel Law, we understand what you are going through and take steps to make the process as smooth as possible. We will help you understand the process of dividing property and just as importantly, we will help you identify all of the assets that should be divided. Contact us online or call us at (508) 986-9966 to schedule a Free Consultation.
What is the Equitable Division of Marital Property in Massachusetts?
The term “Division of Marital Property” refers to the process of deciding who gets what possessions when a married couple divorces. Different states have different ways of viewing how marital property should be divided. There are two schools of thought. Communal property is one way where states that adhere to that doctrine divide marital property evenly––a 50/50 split.
Equitable distribution, on the other hand, is an approach that does not necessarily stick to the 50/50 rule when deciding who gets what. Instead, the court tries to find a solution that is fair to both parties, in other words: equitable. At times, this may mean taking into consideration property that is owned separately by just one spouse when deciding the best way to divvy up belongings.
Massachusetts is an equitable division state, so fair and reasonable are the keywords to remember. Equitable could still mean equal in Massachusetts, but it could also mean that the property division is heavily weighted towards one party.
What Is Included as Marital Property in Massachusetts?
Marital property is all property that was accumulated by the couple during the life of their marriage. Items that may be considered marital property include:
- Motor Vehicles
- Furniture and household items
- Retirement accounts
- Bank accounts
- Financial assets
- and anything else you can think of...
If one spouse owns property separate from the other, that may or may not be considered marital property. An example would be a home owned prior to marriage. Sometimes this may be kept as separate property, or other times it may be "woven into the fabric of the marriage" over the course of the marriage.
Debt is another matter which must be considered when couples divorce. In most communal states, debt incurred after the couple is married but before the couple separates is considered to be the debt of both parties, even if it is only in the name of one.
In most equitable states (like Massachusetts), debt incurred during the life of the marriage is the responsibility of both parties. Each spouse, however, may also have debt that is separate and belongs only to them, just like property.
What Are Common Challenges to the Equitable Division of Property?
Spouses in both equitable property and communal property states can challenge the court's division of property. Two common reasons for challenges are:
- Hiding Assets. One spouse may claim that the other is hiding assets that should be included as marital property and used to determine each party's fair share. One way this may be done is by asking that certain bonuses or work promotions not occur until after the divorce is final.
- Classification of Debt/Assets. It is not uncommon for one party to claim that the court is incorrectly classifying debt or assets as marital or separate property.
- Contributions to the marriage. One party may be the breadwinner, while the other is the homemaker. The breadwinner usually feels that they should receive a larger chunk of the marital assets based on their financial contributions, however, Massachusetts considers the contributions of the homemaker or caregiver as equally valuable to the marital enterprise.
How Does a Divorce Lawyer Help in the Equitable Division of Property?
A family law attorney can be very helpful when determining the equitable division of property. First of all, they tend to know how to negotiate and determine what is equitable. Sometimes, that could be a 60/40 split, and other times, it could be a perfectly equal 50/50 split. Further, there are circumstances that could be leveraged to gain a better portion of the marital property. For example, if a spouse had an affair and wasted marital property on that affair, your attorney may be able to successfully argue that your portion of the property should reflect a reimbursement of that "waste".
A divorce lawyer will also know how to look for your soon-to-be ex's hidden assets. Ultimately, they can help you negotiate to ensure that you receive the settlement you are owed under the law and that you understand exactly what you may be entitled to.
Contact a Family Law Attorney in Massachusetts Today
At Sequel Law, we want our clients to make informed decisions during their divorce because asset division is FINAL - there are no second chances. We will be honest and straightforward about your options and persistent in making sure your rights and interests are upheld. Contact us today by filling out this form or at (508) 986-9966 to schedule a Free Consultation.