Massachusetts couples are governed by common law divorce

All marriages are susceptible to a divorce. Most marriages start with the best intentions but, as many married couples know, there can be things that drive the couple apart over time. Divorce is an option for Massachusetts married couples seeking to go their separate ways. In Massachusetts, divorce is governed by common law.

What this mean is that a couple’s marital property is governed by common law guidelines. In Massachusetts, the common law provides that property acquired by one member of a married couple is owned completely and solely by that person instead of both parties equally. If both spouses’ names are listed on an asset or a liability, each spouse has an equal interest in that asset or liability. However, this does not mean that property division always results in the assets being evenly split among the ex-spouses.

All divorces must go through the Massachusetts family court, and if litigating, marital property will be reviewed by a family law judge. Each marital property situation is different and thus judges have the power to tailor the property division order to best fit the divorcing couple’s situation. This is why it is important to get a full accounting of assets and liabilities that could become topic of discussion in the marital property division portion of a divorce.

Financial statements are a great place to start in order to determine assets or debts that could become part of a Massachusetts divorce. If you have access to last year’s tax return, this can be very telling of the items you need to get a full accounting of. This can be especially helpful for married couples where one spouse did the majority of the couple’s budgeting and accounting during the marriage. If questions remain, an experienced family law attorney is always a good resource.

Source: FindLaw, “Who owns what in marital property?” Accessed Aug. 15, 2016

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