After you have spent years with the same person, it can be hard to imagine your life after ending your marriage. Especially given how you have blended your financial resources and combined your households, you may struggle to predict what will happen financially in the aftermath of your divorce.
Most people have heard exaggerated or inaccurate stories from others about property division outcomes that make them nervous about divorce. For example, the idea that you have to split everything you own 50/50 with a spouse who didn’t contribute nearly as much to the household as you did might seem very unfair.
Is an even split the goal in property division proceedings in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts approach involves more nuance
Simply dividing everything you own or acquired during the marriage in half is often unfair. There are many different factors that help quantify each spouse’s contributions to the household, from their unpaid work around the home to the income they earned and used to support the family.
When Massachusetts couples go to court to divide their property in divorce proceedings, a judge applies equitable distribution rules. They learn about the marriage and about the current financial circumstances of each spouse. The judge will then seek to divide both property and debts in a way that is fair or equitable.
What is fair can look different depending on the circumstances. A stay-at-home spouse who has sacrificed their earning potential and who will have more parenting responsibility after the divorce might receive more property from the marital estate to offset their reduced earning potential and unpaid contributions. One spouse who earns more than the other might get to keep more of the property but also have to take responsibility for more of the debt that the couple acquired during the marriage.
Property division outcomes can be hard to predict
Given that every judge has their own personal bias and that every couple has unique property and financial circumstances, most divorce decrees in Massachusetts are inherently unique. If you litigate, you will have little control over the outcome and a hard time predicting what a judge will rule.
You and your ex can potentially remove that uncertainty if you negotiate a settlement on your own outside of course. Familiarizing yourself with Massachusetts divorce laws will help you prepare for your upcoming time in court or motivate you to work on a settlement outside of court.