Whether you were married for one year or 30 years, chances are you have accumulated property during the course of your marriage – and all that has to be divided when you divorce.
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. This means that marital assets are divided fairly – not always equally – during a divorce. What exactly does this mean?
You have to separate the marital property from each party’s separate property
Two categories of properties come into the picture during the divorce: marital and separate property. Any property or debt that you acquire before getting married is generally known as separate property. And any property or debt you acquire during the marriage is known as marital property. Marital property can include bank accounts, real estate, stocks as well as credit and debit card debts.
This rule, however, has exceptions. For example, any property one party receives as a gift, an inheritance or that is excluded through a valid agreement may not be treated as marital property. Meanwhile, separate property that was commingled with marital funds may cease being separate.
You have to divide the property in a way that is as fair as possible to both sides
Here are some of the factors the court takes into account when determining what is just and fair when dividing marital property:
- The duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s health, age and employability
- Each spouse’s needs and income
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage
It is not uncommon for the judge to put more focus on certain factors than others. For instance, the duration of the marriage can be a significant factor in a marriage that only lasted a couple of months.
If you are contemplating divorce, then you can be certain that the subject of property division will arise – and it can be contentious. Learning more about Massachusetts property division laws can help you safeguard your rights and interests when litigating this subject.