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Divorce In Massachusetts: Equitable Doesn’t Necessarily Mean 50/50

muccilegal March 15, 2021

Couples getting divorced in Massachusetts must deal with three issues before they can be legally separated. These issues are related to parenting/custody, alimony, and division of property & debts.

Lawful distribution of property can be a complicated process, leading to significant conflict during the divorce proceedings.

Usually, one party is adamant about acquiring a particular asset, perhaps because they earned it. Or they feel entitled to a more significant percentage of assets due to other spouse’s actions or fault.

According to American Psychological Association, about 50% of all married couples get divorced in the United States. This makes it imperative for the husband and wife to understand what they can claim, what is at stake, etc., before they agree to any property division conditions.

Lawyer preparing a contractMassachusetts: Property Division in Divorce

The property includes both spouse’s rental possessions, trucks, cars, trailers, livestock, equipment, crops, ranch, and family home. It also takes into account investments (annuities, bonds, stocks, and mutual funds), bank accounts, retirement accounts, pension plans, profit-sharing plans, and life insurance (cash value).

Massachusetts is an “equitable distribution” state where they make fair settlements. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50.

Community or marital property is anything that the individuals acquire during the marriage, even if one spouse paid for it from their salary or has only one of their names on the title document.

To determine how property will be distributed/divided, the court takes into account many factors. Here are some of the mandatory ones:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The conduct of both the parties for the duration of the marriage
  • The health, age, occupation, and station of the spouses
  • The sources and amount of income, each spouse’s employability, vocational skills,
  • Liabilities, needs, the estate of both the parties and the potential opportunity for the future acquirement of income and capital assets
  • The contribution of each of the parties’ contribution as a homemaker
  • Future and present requirements of the dependent children
  • Each party’s contribution in the preservation, appreciation, and acquisition in their respective estate’s value

Division Of Assets And Marital Property

A wife or husband shall not be entitled to dower or courtesy in another spouse’s land after a divorce. Any personal and real property owned before marriage will be considered the respective spouse’s private property.

If the husband or wife deposit their separate money into their marital-property account, this creates a joint bank account. It can obscure the process to identify how precisely is marital versus independent property of each of the parties.

And these shared funds can make the situation even more complicated.

Massachusetts Law considers the property and liabilities division in a divorce to be impartial, which means that it must be fair, but not always equal.  This means that the courts in Massachusetts can divide both separate and marital property as they see fit.

However, the court generally, but not necessarily, award the individual and separate property to the owner in case of a divorce. Separate property refers to something a spouse acquires before the marriage or received as a gift during the marriage.

There is no definite method to determine what is equitable and what’s not. Every case is based and assessed on the individual situation and circumstance. In general, the court is more likely to command an approximately equal property distribution and make sure that both spouses are able to maintain a similar standard of living to the one they had during the married life.

Before any property distribution, the marital estate needs to be identified.  While some states consider some of the property non-marital and others marital, the Massachusetts law directs to divide all the stuff.

Furthermore, the statute lets the court grant either the wife or the husband any part of the shared estate.

Essentially, the court will consider personal property, real estate, retirement benefits, equitable and legal interests in property (e.g., grants and stock options), and inherited and gift assets.


In Massachusetts, debt acquired during a marriage is a “negative asset,” and both parties are legally responsible for it. The husband and the wife are accountable for settlement with some requirements.

Any secured liability by an asset typically becomes the responsibility of the spouse who initially received the property.

For instance, if someone receives property with a mortgage that secures the property, then this debt becomes the responsibility obligation of the individual living in that property or occupies it.

It is imperative to remember that although debt can be assigned to one spouse (such as a mortgage) if it is difficult for the spouse to make payments or refuse to pay, their failure to pay the debt will affect the credit scores of both the spouse.

The nonpayment issues allow the spouse to seek the court’s assistance and request enforced payments.

Lawyer considering the divorce case

Wrapping Up

While child support or alimony payments may subject to adjustment in the future, property distribution is a one-time occurrence except if there are extreme circumstances, such as fraud.

Longer-term marriages with considerable assets, debt allocation, and division of assets can play a significant role in both spouses’ living standards post-divorce.

In case of complicated marital assets, such as real estate that generates income, family-owned businesses, etc., it is key to work with a divorce attorney who has experience dealing with these issues.

If you are fretting about handling your divorce, seeking legal help is critical. Hiring a seasoned, competent divorce advocate is crucial in this regard. Visit our website Mucci Legal or contact us for a free legal consultation today.

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