When a couple goes through a divorce in Massachusetts, anything owned before a marriage is generally considered separate property while anything acquired during the marriage is joint property. Dividing joint property can be a difficult and contentious process, and property division in Massachusetts falls under equitable distribution laws.
Equitable distribution refers to a fair but not necessarily equal division of property. This means a couple will likely not split everything 50/50 but must try to come to an agreement that gives each person a fair amount of property. If a couple cannot agree about how to divide property, a judge must decide instead. To avoid this, one may need to consult a family law attorney.
For example, the primary breadwinner is not automatically entitled to most of the assets and property in a marriage. The other party would likely want a share of the joint property that allows them to live independently after the marriage. Additionally, a partner that makes less money may still have contributed significantly to a marriage as the efforts of a homemaker or caregiver for children added value to a marriage.
Where Complications Arise
Before a couple can even begin to discuss how to divide joint property, disagreements may arise about what exactly is joint property. While one partner may have separate assets, it is very easy to mix joint and separate property during the length of a marriage. Once any separate property is combined with joint property, a spouse might argue that he or she now deserves a portion of the separate property.
For example, if joint money gets put into a separate bank account, one can no longer definitively say whether the money coming out of the account is from the separate or joint dollars. This may make all of the money subject to equitable distribution.
If you’re considering divorce, contact us to ensure you receive a fair amount when dividing property in Massachusetts.