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Dividing marital assets in Massachusetts divorces

Couples do not have to be of celebrity status to find themselves in the midst of a high-asset divorce. Dual-income Massachusetts families with decent retirement packages may find themselves at swords' points attempting the property division phase of their divorce. Below are some important things to know about marital property and equitable division of assets.

Massachusetts is not a state that recognizes the concept of community property. Instead, "marital property" encompasses the entirety of all assets and interests acquired by couples during their respective marriages.

Under Massachusetts law, the division of the marital property must be equitable or fair, which does not necessarily mean equal. Couples unable to resolve their property issues between themselves will wind up in court awaiting a judge or arbitrator to decide.

Assets and interests accumulated during the couple's marriage make up their marital property and may include the following:

-- any mortgages and the family home

-- wages earned by the two during their marriage

-- interest on income from business operations and investments

-- furnishings and property bought with marital earnings

Separate property encompasses:

-- all that was owned by either party prior to their marriage

-- monies earned by either after the date of separation

-- gifts and inheritances received during the marriage

Some examples of a divorcing couple's separate property might include the proceeds from personal injury settlements or judgments, separately held bank accounts and property purchased or acquired after the marriage has been dissolved.

In some circumstances, the divisions can blur, such as when one of the parties receives a gift or inheritance during the marriage but commingles it in a shared bank account or under other circumstances.

Left up to jurisprudence, three factors come into play during the division of marital property: each spouse's earning capacity; which one is the child(ren)'s legal caretaker and in "at-fault" divorces, whether cruelty or adultery occurred.

There are other factors that come into play during the division of property phase of a divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can provide more information.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce and Property" Aug. 14, 2014

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