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How can a discrepancy in earning potential influence divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Property Division

Couples in Massachusetts who find themselves contemplating divorce often have many questions about the process. State law provides broad guidelines that couples and judges can interpret based on the specifics of any particular situation.

For example, many modern divorces involve two working spouses who both help contribute to the family’s standard of living. Even if both spouses are successful professionals, there is often a discrepancy in the income reported by both spouses, and that difference in personal income can have a significant influence on the outcome of Massachusetts divorce proceedings, accordingly.

Earning potential may affect property division matters

Some spouses get married with a contract already in place exploring how they will divide their assets should they divorce. Most couples, however, do not have a prenuptial agreement and will instead either need to negotiate a settlement or prepare for litigation and family court.

The equitable distribution standard applied in contentious Massachusetts divorces means that a judge has to consider the specific circumstances of the married couple and each spouse when determining what is a fair and appropriate way to divide the property that they share and any debts that they accumulated during the marriage. The health and age of both spouses, as well as their current income and future earning potential, will influence what a judge decides is appropriate.

They will also consider the standard of living during the marriage. A lower-earning spouse may sometimes receive a slightly larger portion of the marital estate to make up for the difference in economic circumstances. Judges may also reduce how much debt they assign to a lower-earning spouse during litigated property division matters to make the outcome as fair as possible.

Judges will consider not just economic contributions to the marriage but also unpaid services rendered, such as child care and housework throughout the marriage when deciding what is appropriate. There can be a lot of uncertainty about what exactly a judge will deem reasonable during property division proceedings, which is one reason why many higher-asset couples seek to resolve property division matters on their own through attorney-led negotiation, mediation, etc.

Understanding the general rules that guide property division matters and other divorce considerations in Massachusetts can benefit those contemplating divorce or preparing to respond to a spouse’s filing, as this understanding can lead to more informed decision-making.