Massachusetts Property Division Laws – Alimony Attorney

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Property Acquired During Divorce Proceedings Remain Subject to Division

When a couple is going through a divorce and figuring out alimony, the amount of alimony is calculated based upon the “length of the marriage.” While this term seems arbitrary, Massachusetts General Law c. 208, § 48, inserted by St. 2011, c. 124, § 3, which was adopted as part of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, defines the length of the marriage as “the number of months from the date of legal marriage to the date of service of a complaint or petition for divorce or separate support.”

In August, the Massachusetts Appeals Court was faced with the task of determining whether the definition used in calculating alimony should also be used in determining the length of the marriage when dividing marital assets. Valaskatgis v. Valaskatgis, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 756 (2015).

In this case, the wife was served with the complaint for divorce on August 29, 2012 and the parties entered into a separation agreement on September 30, 2013. During this time period, the husband earned approximately $96,000 in overtime compensation. The lower court found that the marital assets were to be divided as of the date of the separation agreement and not as of the date of service of the complaint.

The husband appealed the ruling, arguing that the definition from the Alimony Reform Act should be applied and that his overtime should not be included as part of the marital estate since it was earned after the divorce complaint was served. The wife, on the other hand, argued that the earned income should be included in the marital estate and that she was rightly entitled to one-half of the $96,000.  

The Appeals Court determined that the definition of the length of the marriage as being the number of months from the date of the marriage to the date of service is not applicable when used elsewhere in Massachusetts General Laws. A couple is not divorced until the judgment becomes absolute pursuant to Massachusetts General Law c. 208, § 21. Additionally, judges have a great deal of discretion when determining the division of marital assets, which includes examining the time period after the complaint was served.

The Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s decision to divide the marital assets, including the husband’s additional income of $96,000, from the date of the separation agreement.

If you feel like you may be entitled to marital property acquired subsequent to the complaint for divorce being served or have general questions pertaining to divisible marital assets and divorce, please contact the Family and Domestic Relations Division at Shapiro Law Group, PC.

By Anna Shapiro

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