MassachusettsPost Divorce Property Division
Massachusetts Property Division Guide :: Table of Contents
What is property division in a Massachusetts divorce?
Also known as equitable distribution, property division is the process of dividing property rights and obligations between spouses during the process of a divorce. Property division may be agreed upon between the soupses through a property settlement, or it may be decided in court during the judicial process of divorce. The process of property division is affected by state laws such as community property laws, definitions of marital contributions, etc.
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, and assets acquired both during and prior to the marriage can be subject to division following divorce. Some factors considered by Massachusetts courts in a property division case include non-monetary contributions, economic misconduct and a list of other factors defined in Massachusetts law. This page summarizes the most important aspects of property division laws in Massachusetts.
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Massachusetts divides marital assets via equitable distribution, which means that the court attempts to divide marital assets in a fair and equitable manner between the spouses, taking multiple factors into account in order to determine the equitable distribution for each spouse.
What is Considered Under Equitable Division of Property?Under Massachusetts law, marital property is that which is acquired or is a direct result of the labor and investments of the parties during the marriage is subject to equitable division. Equitable division does not mean marital property is divided equally, it is divided in manner that results in a fair or equitable result for each spouse. Some factors a court may consider include the following: the age and health of each spouse; the current job or future employability of each spouse; the needs and obligations of each spouse; spousal sources of income; the length of the marriage; and
any spousal misconduct during the marriage.
Alternatively, non-marital property or property defined as property acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage or property acquired by a spouse intended not to be considered marital property is not subject to equal division.
Massachusetts Property Division FAQ
- Is Massachusetts a community property state?
- Does state of Massachusetts only divide marital property after a divorce?
- Is there a set list of statutory factors for determining property division in the state of Massachusetts?
- Do courts in the state of Massachusetts consider nonmonetary contributions?
- Does Massachusetts consider a spouse's economic misconduct in property division?
- Are contributions to education considered in the state of Massachusetts?
- Can a pre-nuptual agreement affect property division in Massachusetts?
- How can I enforce a property division order in Massachusetts?
- Dower and Curtesy in Massachusetts?
Is Massachusetts a community property state?
Massachusetts is NOT a community property state, which means that marital property is not automatically divided 50/50 between the spouses in a divorce case.
Instead, Massachusetts judges determine property division under the equitable distribution policy, which means that the court divides property between the spouses in what is believed to be a fair distribution, based on each individual's contributions to the marriage and their earning ability and needs following separation. Factors such as one spouse's economic misconduct may also be considered.
In practice, judges in an equitable-distribution state like Massachusetts often divide marital property with approximately 2/3 of marital assets going to the higher-earning spouse, and 1/3 going to the lower-earning spouse.
Does state of Massachusetts only divide marital property after a divorce?
Massachusetts is one of a minority of states that not only divide marital or community property acquired during the course of a marriage, but may also divide assets earned prior to the marriage regardless of which spouse is the title owner. This may result in a significant surprise for spouses who entered a marriage with high-value assets.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for determining property division in the state of Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has a list of factors set by statute that specify what the court will use to determine a fair property division. Examples of factors that are often taken into consideration during property division cases include:
- Marital Fault - In states that allow at-fault divorces, the fault of one spouse may be used by the judge to justify a higher percentage to the injured spouse.
- Economic Misconduct - In Massachusetts, spouses who wastefully or fraudulently spent marital assets may receive a lower percentage of the marital property.
- Income and Earning Capacity - The court may consider the relative incomes and earning capacity of each spouse, which may be affected by factors such as age, education, and health. The spouse with lower economic prospects may receive a larger percentage of the estate.
- Custody of Children - If one spouse has full custody of the couple's children following the breakup, this may result in higher likelihood of receiving a higher percentage of the estate, or certain pieces of marital property (like the family house).
Do courts in the state of Massachusetts consider nonmonetary contributions?
In Massachusetts, statutory law requires judges deciding a property division case to account for the nonmonetary contributions of both spouses to a marriage when determining how to divide property between them. In practice, this generally means that the judge will consider the value of the labor a stay-at-home spouse contributed to the marriage. Nonmonetary contributions may include activities like the following:
- Household chores, cooking, homemaking
- Taking care of children
- Supporting their spouse professionally
Does Massachusetts consider a spouse's economic misconduct in property division?
Massachusetts law allows courts to consider economic misconduct of a spouse as a factor in determining equitable property division. Economic misconduct generally means dissipation of assets, which is the legal term for the wasting or loss of marital funds or assets by a spouse through means like excessive spending, gambling, fraud, etc.
If a spouse is found to have dissipated marital funds in a way that injured the other spouse, the court may take punitive or restorative action by awarding a higher percentage of divided property to the injured spouse.
Are a spouse's contributions to their partner's education considered in the state of Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has no statute requiring courts to consider a spouse's contributions to their partner's education or earning capacity when determining how to divide marital property.
Can a pre-nuptual agreement affect property division in Massachusetts?
A prenuptual agreement, or pre-nup, is a binding legal contract signed by both spouses prior to getting married in Massachusetts. A prenup containing a property division agreement can take precedence over Massachusetts' property division laws by establishing what is considered as separate vs marital property, as well as agreeing on how finances will be structured during the marriage and divided in the event of a divorce.
The existance of a valid prenuptual agreement can prevent a Massachusetts court from having full reign to determine how assets are divided between the spouses, and instead allow them to be divided in a way agreed to by both spouses prior to the event.
How can I enforce a property division order in Massachusetts?
A Massachusetts property division order is a court order issued by a court order issued by a judge, describing how property is to be divided between spouses following a divorce. A property division order is a binding legal obligation, and failure to comply with the terms in full by either spouse can result in being charged with contempt of court. If your spouse is not complying with a property division order, you can consult a family lawyer to discuss potential legal avenues.
Dower and Curtesy?
Curtesy abolished (Ch. 189, §1), but certain dower and curtesy rights (merged and together called “dower”) remain