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What if divorcing spouses can't reach an agreement on their own?

When a married couple in Massachusetts decides to dissolve their marriage, the parties must also decide how to divide their assets. First, the parties list all their assets and then they must separate any personal property from marital property. They must then negotiate until they reach an agreement on how to divide the marital property. They then take this agreement to the court, which reviews the agreement to see if it meets guidelines of fairness. If so, the court will approve the agreement and the divorce will become final in a few months.

In many cases, the court's involvement in a divorce does not go much deeper than this. However, if the divorcing spouses can't reach an agreement on their own, the court must decide for itself how to divide the marital property.

Many Massachusetts residents who are beginning the divorce process express horror at the thought of sitting down at a negotiating table with their soon-to-be-ex to argue about how to value their investments and how to split up their assets and cherished possessions. It should be more horrifying for them to imagine a judge going through the list of all their marital property and deciding for them.

Under Massachusetts law, the court must use a standard known as equitable distribution, which basically means that the division must be fair. In many cases, a court will look at a list of the assets and divide it roughly in half. In others, the court may decide that a 50-50 division would be unfair to one of the parties, and will divide the assets unequally, or even order one party to pay the other alimony.

Of course, making these decisions takes time. Taking up the court's time costs money -- often a lot of money. It's almost always quicker and more cost-effective for the parties to reach agreement on their own. It also gives them more of a sense of control over their divorce and their future. Massachusetts attorneys with experience in these matters can help people at every stage of the property division process.

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