Massachusetts Property Division And Alimony

How will our assets and property be divided?

Assets or property held jointly in both parties’ names, held separately in either party’s name, as well as assets acquired prior to the marriage by either party, are all considered “marital property” and must be considered by the court in fashioning a property division. In order to equitably divide assets, the court will need to determine and identify the assets, and then determine the Fair Market Value of each asset. Accordingly, if the parties are unable to agree upon the value of their assets, appraisers are frequently utilized to appraise various assets such as real estate, business interests, and retirement plans. Appraisers can also be utilized to determine the values of other assets as well.

Assets may include real estate, motor vehicles, investment properties, bank accounts, 401K retirement accounts, shares of stock, bonds, furniture, stock options, royalties, jewelry, etc.

The division of assets and property is generally determined by Massachusetts General Laws c. 208, §34, which provides that marital assets are to be divided “equitably”. The Massachusetts “Equitable Division” Statute is quite different than a Community Property State such as California, where virtually all assets which have been acquired during the marriage are generally divided equally. If the parties are unable to determine for themselves how their property is to be divided, then the court will conduct a trial and will consider:

a. The length of the marriage;
b. The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
c. The age, health, station and occupation of each party;
d. The amount and sources of income of each party;
e. Vocational skills and employability of each party;
f. The estate of each party;
g. The liabilities and needs of each party; and
h. The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

In addition to the above, the court may also consider:
1. The contribution of each of the parties in acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates; and
2. The contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.

Am I entitled to (or will I have to pay) alimony?

Unlike child support, a party does not have an entitlement to receive alimony from a spouse. The court will look closely at the overall circumstances of the marriage and will apply the various criteria set forth in G.L. c. 208, §34. Alimony essentially is based upon one party’s need to receive alimony, and upon the other party’s ability to pay alimony. Alimony will generally be appropriate in a long-term marriage in which there is a great disparity in the incomes of the two parties.

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