Methuen, MA Property Division Lawyer
Carefully Dividing Assets & Debts in Divorce Cases
Almost everyone who goes through a divorce is surprised by how property is divided. Did you know that property may not be divided equally, and all marital property is subject to division, including retirement accounts? In order to ensure your property is divided correctly, you want a lawyer who will educate you upfront about how property division works.
You deserve to be fully informed about what property you may be able to keep, as well as how divisions of assets will impact other aspects of your divorce such as spousal support, child support, and other issues.
At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., our Methuen divorce lawyer is here to educate you and we take the time to listen to your concerns. Contact us today to learn more.
What Property Is Most Important to You?
We also take the time to find out what property is most important to you because that is the property we will create a strategy to protect. From our offices in Boston, Methuen, and Burlington, we handle cases across Massachusetts.
Every divorce case is different and no mix of property is the same, therefore no two people have the same concerns. Perhaps you want to keep the family home or perhaps you do not mind letting your spouse have the home, as long as you get to keep your retirement account intact. Our Methuen divorce lawyer will only move forward when we know what is most important to you.
It is also important to keep in mind that property is not the only thing that is divided during a divorce. Debt is divided as well, so make sure you discuss how the remaining amount that is owed on the family home be handled. We will not overlook any of the details in your case.
Personal vs. Marital Property
Marital property refers to all assets that spouses acquire during the course of a marriage. Personal property (or separate property) is generally what one spouse owned prior to the marriage that was not integrated with marital assets, or gifts given to one spouse. Couples may have the opportunity to create their own mutually acceptable agreement on how the marital property should be divided; however, if this is not possible, then the court will determine an equitable division of the estate. It is important to recognize that the term "equitable" in these matters does not mean that the division is done "equally." There is no specific formula for handling this process. Some of the factors that courts may consider include:
- Contributions of the spouses to the marital estate
- Length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s ability to earn income
- Contributions to the household by homemakers
- Each spouse’s age, health, and more
If you review the many equitable divisions that occur each year in Massachusetts, it is very clear that the results differ on a case-by-case basis.
Discovery and Hidden Assets
When a couple is going through a divorce, the court seeks to divide all marital assets equitably. In order to do so, the court must first locate, identify, and determine the value of all assets. There may be assets that are in the possession of one spouse that the other may not be aware of.
The process of discovery is a required disclosure of all assets. The courts have formalized documents (such as those associated with the Supplemental Probate & Family Court Rule 410), which mandate disclosure of financial information. Common items that must be produced include bank account statements, tax records, and pay stubs. In some cases, the attorneys for the spouses may employ other tools during the discovery process including:
- Interrogatories: A written set of questions.
- Third-party subpoenas: Orders requesting a person or entity appear or produce certain relevant documents or information.
- Request for admissions: Written requests to confirm or deny facts or claims.
- Depositions: Testimony of a witness under oath regarding relevant information.
Some examples of hidden assets include deferred income from an employer or business, assets transferred to friends or family members, and funds in offshore accounts.
Division of Debt
Debts are essentially classified as negative assets which exist in the marital property pool, which are generally allocated as part of the equitable division process. Debts that are tied to an asset will usually be assumed by the spouse who is awarded the asset in the divorce. For example, if one spouse retains a car, he or she also assumes responsibility for the loan on that car. Credit card debt that is not secured by a specific asset (unsecured) will be allocated accordingly in the division process.
When one or both spouses have ownership interest in a business it adds some complexity to the property division. Courts usually discourage continued co-ownership of a business between the spouses following a divorce, thus ownership will be allocated to one spouse and other assets can be used to offset the value.
The first step is to determine the value of the business, which may require assistance from an independent financial professional. Generally speaking, the value of a business equates to the present worth. This can be viewed as the amount that a reasonable buyer and seller would agree on. Part of the challenge in determining the value is that businesses may have significant "intangible benefits" beyond those such as equipment or stocked inventory. Some examples include patents, trademarks, and goodwill.
Goodwill associated specifically with the business is considered to be marital property, thus subject to division. Personal goodwill, which is that associated specifically with the owner, is considered to be separate property. An example of a business where personal goodwill exists is at Dr. Smith’s Dental Office. How viable would the business be if Dr. Smith was no longer associated with the company?
For Complex Divorce, Call a Good Attorney
Legal matters such as divorce can be highly emotional and difficult for you and your family. The legal team at DiBella Law Offices, P.C. has been representing clients in all aspects of family law for many years. It is this experience that has largely contributed to our ability to deliver positive outcomes in these matters. Contact the office today at (978) 327-5140 for a free consultation.
We can help you ensure that certain property and debt is divided fairly, such as:
- Real estate
- Financial assets
- Savings and retirement funds
- Mortgage debt
- Credit card debt
- Other various debt
Call us today at (781) 262-3338 if you would like a free consultation. Spanish translation is available — servicios de traducción están disponibles.
- The Basics of Equitable Distribution and the Treatment of Gifted and Inherited Assets in Massachusetts
- Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 26: General Provision Governing Discovery
- Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 410: Mandatory Self Disclosure
- The "Double-Dipping" Concept in Business Valuation for Divorce Purposes