One of the most important (and often most contentious) aspects of divorce is the division of marital property. If you are facing divorce in Massachusetts, a strong understanding of marital and separate property can help you set clear priorities and put a strong legal plan into action.
What is marital property?
Generally speaking, marital property includes wealth and assets acquired during the course of a marriage. Under Massachusetts law, spouses must divide this property in an equitable manner upon divorce. What does equitable mean in this context? It means fair and just, taking into account factors such as:
- The age and earning capacity of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- Misconduct by either of the spouses
What property remains separate?
Not all of the property you own is subject to division upon divorce. Wealth and assets you owned before marriage generally remain separate. The situation becomes more complex when separate property increases in value or generates interest during the course of the marriage. The increase such property gains during your marriage would likely be considered marital property.
Not all property obtained during marriage is marital property. Certain gifts and inheritances, for instance, remain separate.
A momentous legal issue
The outcome of property division proceedings will play a significant role in the financial futures of both spouses. Property that is subject to division includes:
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Retirement savings, including pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs
- Business assets
- The family home
- Furniture, jewelry and personal possessions
If you are going through a divorce now or see a potential divorce in the future, the sooner you begin planning for property division proceedings, the better. Taking a proactive stance can help you enter post-divorce life in an advantageous financial situation.