Massachusetts Legal Blog

Who Gets the Dog? Property Division Laws MA

How Property is Divided in a Divorce Battle

Each family and couple is unique, therefore when it comes to deciding who will get the dog, the juicer, or even the couch, there simply can’t be a set formula for a judge to follow. Judges in Massachusetts have a lot of discretion in the area of property division based on the fact that each case is so different. While they work to be fair, it boils down to their version of “fair”, not the couple’s. This is why there are many questions regarding property division.

In Massachusetts property division law states that there must equitable distribution of marital assets. But, actually doing a 50/50 split of everything isn’t logical or even possible in most cases. The property and assets a couple acquires during their marriage can be impossible to split down the middle, especially when it comes to “living” assets such as pets. There may even be cases where property that was considered separate property has become marital property in the eyes of the law. For example, one party may have had a bank account for themselves before marriage (separate property), but if the other spouse contributed anything to it at any point in time, it may now arguably be marital property.

Assigning Value

Because of the all of the complexities, a judge will do everything in his or her power to assign a value to assets and take a look at the various factors involved in each individual case. An independent appraisal of assets, such as antiques, heirlooms, homes, and collector items may help a judge get a clearer picture as to how to divide property. Other factors that a judge will use when determining how to divide everything include:

•    The length of the marriage
•    Age of parties
•    Amount of debt carried by each
•    Contribution of assets by each party
•    Employability or skills of each
•    Needs of children and the custody situation
•    Earnings and the capacity for future earnings

Other Circumstances

There are other circumstances a judge may consider also, such as if there was behavior by one party that led to the divorce or plummeting of marital property value. For example, if one spouse had a gambling problem that depleted the couples assets and financial holdings, a judge may weigh that issue before dividing property. Other factors that may make it more difficult to simply split marital assets down the middle can affect a same sex couples divorce. If a same sex couple was only married for two years, then seeks a divorce, they may have amassed a great deal of property that reaches way beyond the two years they were legally married. If they shared a home, bank accounts, and established a home for a decade or more, assets from that time may be considered marital property by a judge.

By: Shapiro Law Group