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Divorce in Massachusetts is governed by common law

Going through a divorce can be mentally and emotionally draining and while it can be difficult to maintain a level head during the process, there are important aspects of property and assets that should be kept in mind. Firstly, all marital property is subject to property division during the divorce proceedings. However, that does not mean that all the property a divorcing couple "shares" is considered marital property.

Since "common law" is the governing law in Massachusetts, property is divided in what many people might consider a common-sense way. If the property is acquired during the marriage, but only one person is listed as the owner, that person owns the property. If a couple bought a house together during the marriage and both names are listed then that property is owned equally by both spouses.

It's important to remember the property that was acquired before a marriage. This is sole property of the person who purchased it and is usually not classified as marital property. Marital property is property that belongs to both spouses. Therefore, if one spouse purchased a vehicle before the marriage, that vehicle is property of that spouse only.

Once an understanding of Massachusetts being a common law state in regards to divorce is gained, it can make it much easier to envision what marital property is and, sometimes more importantly, what isn't. There can be, however, many more elements of finance during a divorce. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help provide clarity to such situations.

Source:, "Who Owns What in Marital Property?," Accessed July 26, 2014

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