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How can couples manage real property when they divorce?

Divorcing couples in Massachusetts typically need to find a fair or equitable way to divide their property. For some couples, the process is simple because most of their assets are eligible for direct division. People can split a financial account exactly in half during property division negotiations.

Other assets can be much harder for people to divide. Real property is a perfect example. Many married couples in Massachusetts buy a home where they live together. They cannot actually divide the home when they divorce. Instead, they have to discuss who retains possession and how they would handle the equity accrued in the property. Couples sometimes also have secondary real estate holdings for investment or income purposes.

How can spouses handle real property during a Massachusetts divorce?

The process begins with valuation

Given that only one person can potentially retain any given piece of real property in a divorce, people need to know what their real property holdings are worth to negotiate of reasonable settlement for them. Partnering with a real estate agent or an appraiser can help people establish what their home and other real estate holdings might be worth on the current market.

Once people have agreed on a set value for their home and other real estate holdings, the real negotiations begin. They may need to negotiate an arrangement in which one person remains in the home while the other receives a portion of its equity or other assets worth a comparable amount. Other times, they could agree that selling a home would be the most reasonable way to arrange to share its value.

Spouses should consider their long-term needs

People have an easier time achieving a favorable outcome if they set aside their emotional attachments and think instead about their long-term needs while rebuilding their lives after divorce. The needs of any children in the family are also a key consideration, as relocation could affect their social support networks and the schools that they can attend.

Although it can be a challenge, many couples eventually reach an agreement where they either sell the home to split its value or allow one person to stay at the property. If they own multiple properties as investments, they might liquidate from majority of them, each retain some of them or allow one spouse to keep the property while the other retains other assets instead.

If spouses cannot settle property division matters on their own, then a Massachusetts family law judge will apply state statutes to both marital resources and debts. As such, setting realistic goals related to major assets can inspire people to minimize the conflict that arises during property division negotiations.