Property division during a Massachusetts divorce is rarely a cut-and-dry issue.
One of the most complicated aspects of a divorce in Massachusetts is determining how the couple’s property will be split. There are laws in place that demand the equitable distribution of assets, which means that property is divided based on what is fair, not necessarily what is equal.
There are several factors to keep in mind when going through a divorce to ensure that the spouses’ rights are protected. Below is a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions.
What property is subject to division?
Under the law, only marital property may be divided. These are assets that were acquired by either spouse after the marriage, unless the asset was a gift of inheritance or expressly noted in a prenuptial agreement. Marital property includes wages earned, benefits and profit-sharing as well as debts that were created.
What factors are considered when dividing assets?
Couples in Massachusetts going through divorce are permitted to draw up their own agreement dividing property, which a judge may review and sign. If an agreement cannot be reached, a court determines who gets what. The factors the court considers includes the following:
- The age, health and employability of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- Each party’s needs and income
- The needs of any children involved
- How each spouse contributed to the marriage
It is possible for a judge to give more weight to certain factors than to others. For example, in a marriage that only lasted a few months, the time factor may be most relevant.
Does infidelity come into play?
Judges are permitted to consider the conduct of spouses during a marriage when looking at asset division as well as determinations for spousal support and maintenance. For example, if a spouse spends money on an affair or lavish gifts for someone who is not his or her spouse, a judge could hold those assets against the person in property division.
What happens to the family home?
It is a common concern to establish what will happen to the house. After all, it is likely one of the largest assets a couple has. Massachusetts law clearly states that a court has the right to order a spouse to vacate the home if there is a suspicion that his or her presence there would be damaging to one of the parties or minor children.
Aside from that, the home could be addressed in several ways. For example, the couple may choose to sell the home and divide the earnings accordingly. Or, one spouse could remain in the home in exchange for another asset or combination of assets.
It is essential for people going through a divorce to get a comprehensive look at all the assets and debts involved. Working with professionals, such as a forensic accountant, is often a good idea. People who have questions should speak with a family law attorney in Massachusetts.