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How do Massachusetts courts divide property in a divorce?

Couples going through the process of divorce often have many questions. Many of the questions that tend to be near the top of everyone's list center around property division. Who will get to keep the house? What about the car? The answers to these questions will always depend on each individual couple's circumstances, but some basic information can provide some guidance.

When a family court judge in the State of Massachusetts divides property, he or she does so by way of equitable distribution. This means that the couple's property will be split in a way that is "fair and equitable." This does not necessarily mean that the property will be divided perfectly equally.

The judge will consider the property and make determinations as to what qualifies as marital property and what qualifies as separate property. Marital property includes most things acquired by either spouse during the marriage. It is this property that the court divides by equitable division. Separate property, on the other hand, is property that one spouse owned before the marriage, or acquired during the marriage through gift or inheritance.

In some cases, separate property may become marital property. For example, if a husband has an individual account before marriage, but then turns that account into a joint account upon marriage and it is used for the benefit of both spouses, it may be considered marital property.

Many facts and considerations go into decisions regarding separate and marital property. Couples in the state of Massachusetts do not have to sort through all of the details on their own. Discussing one's situation with an experienced family law attorney is extremely useful as one moves forward with the process of divorce.

Source:, Divorce Property Division FAQ, accessed Oct. 30, 2014

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