This is why it's so important to have Springfield property division attorney Brittany J. Smith on your side. As an experienced lawyer and a licensed real estate broker in Massachusetts, Brittany J. Smith knows how to navigate these complex waters and help you find the right solution.
Understanding how Massachusetts treats marital property
Many states, including Massachusetts, make a distinction between marital property and separate property when dividing property after a divorce. For example, property inherited by one spouse or owned by one spouse before the marriage is typically considered separate property, whereas property acquired during the marriage is typically considered marital property. Importantly, this distinction does not depend on whose name is actually on the deed or title to the property; for example, a car purchased during the marriage is usually considered marital property rather than separate property, even if only one spouse's name is on the title and registration.
However, Massachusetts is a "kitchen-sink" state, which means all property owned by either or both spouses at the time the couple files for divorce is subject to division. Even property that was earned or inherited by one spouse with no involvement from the other is in the "pot" to be divided. While it is typical to award separate property to its original owner, the court is under no legal obligation to do so.
Massachusetts is an "equitable distribution" state
In Massachusetts, courts are required to follow the "equitable distribution" standard when dividing property. Note that "equitable" does not necessarily mean "equal" - that is, the division is not required to be 50/50. Rather, the judge is required to find a fair division, taking into account the following factors:
- Length of the marriage
- Conduct of the parties during the marriage
- Age, health and station of each spouse
- Each spouse's occupation, sources of income, vocational skills and employability
- Each party's liabilities and needs
- Each party's opportunity for future acquisition of assets and income
- Each party's contribution to the marriage
Options for "dividing" the marital home and other property
For many divorcing couples, the equity in the marital home is the largest of all divisible assets. This poses a significant challenge because a home cannot be divided in the same manner as liquid assets. Typically, couples have three options to divide the marital home:
- The home is sold and the proceeds divided between the spouses.
- One spouse refinances the home and buys out the other party's interest.
- One spouse, usually the parent with physical custody of the children, remains in the home with exclusive use and possession for a certain amount of time, such as until the youngest child turns 18. Then, the home is sold and divided or the custodial spouse buys out the other spouse, as above.
In addition to the marital home, other property that presents unique challenges in property division cases includes:
- A business owned by one or both spouses
- Any vehicles owned by one or both spouses
- Pensions and retirement accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Any valuable personal property
Attorney Brittany J. Smith and her legal team can help you accurately assess the value of each asset and work toward a reasonable resolution for you and your spouse. As a licensed real estate broker as well as an attorney, attorney Smith is particularly qualified to handle cases involving division of real property, such as the marital home.
How an attorney can help divide marital property
There are many potential legal pitfalls when it comes to dividing assets during divorce, depending on your spouse's level of cooperation. It may be necessary to take legal action to discover hidden assets. An attorney can also help to accurately assess the value of individual assets, which may be a complex question when the asset in question is a business, a home or other real estate property. An attorney can aid in determining whether particular assets are marital or separate property, particularly in situations where both marital and separate assets are "commingled" in the same account.
In most cases, a judge will accept a proposed division of property agreed upon by both spouses, so long as it meets the "equitable distribution" standard. Attorney Brittany J. Smith strives to make divorces as non-contentious as possible, so long as she can do so without compromising her client's interests. In most cases, that means we are able to work out a division of property that is acceptable to both parties - and to the court - through a negotiated settlement or mediation.
However, if your spouse is hiding assets or otherwise refusing to cooperate, you need a fierce advocate who will fight for your interests with integrity and commitment. Brittany J. Smith and her team know how to investigate to find all pertinent information and how to present a strong case to the court for the division of assets that you need to protect your interests, take care of your children and maintain your family's quality of life.
Get a proven advocate in your property division case
Dividing assets is a complex task that will affect you and your family for the rest of your lives. That's why it's so important to have an experienced Springfield divorce attorney on your side. Contact us online or call (413) 781-7170 to speak with attorney Brittany J. Smith today.