How Is Property Split in Massachusetts Divorce?
Understanding Property Division in Massachusetts Divorce
States in the U.S. divide property by method of equitable distribution or community property (sometimes a combination of the two). In Massachusetts, property is divided equitably. This means that all marital property (this excludes separate property) is divided fairly but not necessarily equally.
One of the biggest questions we are asked is: “Who gets what? How do we split our property? How do we get rid of our stuff?”
Let’s talk about how it’s done in Massachusetts. First, Massachusetts follows what’s called an equitable distribution statute. That means that based on 20 or 25 factors, the judge will weigh the facts against the factors and determine what’s fair. Equitable doesn’t mean equal, but it means what’s fair based on those 20 or 25 factors. If you look on the website, you are going to see a worksheet called Who Gets What? and it outlines all the factors.
Here’s a strategy and here’s how we work with our clients.
The factors start with:
- Length of the marriage
- Conduct of the parties during the marriage
- Age of the parties
What we ask our clients to do is tell us a story about your marriage under those 20 or 25 different headings. We know the law; you know the facts. When we put the facts with the law together, we have a compelling story as to how you should get your property division.
Understand, it’s kind of like the grocery store or the supermarket. You take all of your assets and all of your belongings — from bank accounts to retirement accounts to all your furniture and belongings, any stock, any pensions or retirement — and you put it in the grocery basket. All the debt goes on the bottom. You add up all the debt and take it from what the assets are and that’s basically a net total of your estate. Is it going to be split 50/50? That might be a starting point. No one ever said it would be done equally, but equitably.
The clients are the ones who can help the lawyers. When you tell your story, we can help present it to the court and get you your fair share of the property division.