Each state has specific rules that apply to property division for divorcing couples. Massachusetts calls for the equitable division of marital property, which means the spouses must fairly divide shared assets and debts.
Before negotiating a divorce agreement in Massachusetts, learn more about how the state determines who gets what if you and your former spouse cannot agree.
Separate vs. marital property
Unlike some states in which the court distinguishes between separate and marital property, the Massachusetts judge in a divorce case can divide both types of property. In general, however, you will keep property you owned before the marriage and inheritances or gifts you alone received during the marriage.
The court is more likely to consider separate property as marital property if you commingled separate and marital funds. For example, if you owned a home before meeting your spouse but he or she has since paid part of the mortgage, the judge will typically consider the house marital property. When individuals cannot agree on who owns what assets, the court may ask them to sell the property in question and split the proceeds.
Factors in property division
When creating a fair division of property, the judge in your case will review:
- Whether either spouse contributed to the dissolution of the marriage with his or her misconduct
- How long the marriage lasted
- The source and amount of income for each spouse
- Each spouse’s financial obligations and living expenses
- Whether each spouse has a job and will remain employable
- Each spouse’s age and health status
- Each spouse’s contribution to marital assets, including contributions such as homemaking and child care
If you and your spouse have a valid premarital agreement, the court will follow its provisions when dividing property in a divorce. If you share real estate, art, business interests, investments and other complex assets with your spouse, you must seek a professional appraisal as part of the proceedings.