By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Certified Divorce Mediator and selected Super Lawyer®
As a mediator, I work hard to get divorcing parties to a property agreement quickly and for less cost.
In Massachusetts, the general rule is that only material property is divided. And, that material property will be divided fairly, not necessarily equally. Massachusetts law does not require a 50/50 split.
All material property needs to be properly listed and described in each spouse’s Financial Statement.
Usually, after reading each Financial Statement, I start with asking if there is any reason why a fifty/fifty division of the listed property would not be fair. If any reasons are offered and there is a disagreement as to a division, I apply different mediation strategies until the parties are brought “together”.
Usually, material property includes: real estate, large bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts and valuable unique items, e.g., art work, a yacht or a private business.
It is not unusual to divide value rather than an actual item. For example, if property includes a house with an equity of $300,000.00 and the husband’s business with an equity value of $300,000.00, the agreement may be that the wife keeps the house and the husband keeps the business.
Generally, immaterial assets stay with whomever owned or primarily used the asset, examples include: an automobile, a wedding ring, a tool.
Reasons for not equally dividing property include: the marriage lasted less than five years; a spouse’s conduct resulted in unreasonable spending; a spouse’s health problems result in uninsured health care costs; a spouse’s lack of any contribution toward the acquisition of a piece of property.
A properly prepared Financial Statement allows me to:
- See how each piece of property is “legally held or owned”.
- See the value of each separate piece of property.
- Obtain the complete name of each property and any account number.
Once full agreement is achieved, I need all of the above information to write the draft Separation Agreement.
Marital debt must also be divided and can affect a property division; this is a subject for another day.
The 2 takeaways:
– In Massachusetts, property is divided fairly, not equally.
– Clients who choose to ignore instructions for completing Financial Statements will cause delay and more cost.
©2021 Anthony C. Adamopoulos