Before two parties to a marriage can legally dissolve their union and truly separate from one another, they must divide their assets and property in a way that is equitable. Under Massachusetts law, all marital property is subject to equitable division. In most states, separate property is not subject to equitable division and is instead exempted from this requirement. For many couples, this is confusing – what exactly constitutes separate vs. marital property, and how does the state of Massachusetts handle each in a divorce case? Consider the following information about how separate assets are defined, as well as how Massachusetts deals with separate and marital property in a divorce case. Call Attorney Heather M. Ward, for more information specific to your case–

What Is Marital vs. Separate Property?

Marital property refers to all property, rights, and assets acquired during the course of the marriage, regardless of which spouse actually acquired them. Traditionally–and is the law in other states– separate property is thought of as property acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage, or as a result of gift or inheritance during the course of the marriage. For example, if the great uncle of someone dies and leaves the beneficiary a large sum of money, this would traditionally be considered separate property, even if the inheritance is granted during the course of a marriage. But in Massachusetts, the law is a bit different. 

In Massachusetts, Both Marital and Separate Property Are Up for Division

While the court may honor separate property in some cases and allow one spouse in a marriage to keep their separate property, it is more likely that both the separate property and the marital property of a couple will be subject to division. This is because the law in Massachusetts actually defines marital property very broadly, and includes property that was acquired before the marriage was entered into as well as property acquired during the course of the marriage. When a state does not make any distinction between marital and separate property in a divorce case, it is called a “kitchen sink” state. 

So What Does a Court Consider When Dividing Property?

Rather than just looking at the value of marital vs. separate assets in a divorce case, the court will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the value of income, how each spouse contributed to the total value of property in the marriage, and more. 

Get Help with Your Divorce Case

Understanding the law in Massachusetts, rules for equitable division, what types of property will be subject to equitable division, and how a court will make a decision about property division in your divorce can feel overwhelming. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our experienced divorce attorney can represent you throughout your case and advocate for your best interests. You can call our divorce lawyer to schedule your first consultation today at (617) 903-8955, or send our firm a confidential message online at your convenience.