Marital property is the property that the partners to a couple acquire together and after their relationship has been formalized with a marriage. Separate property is property that the partners to a couple owned prior to their union, that they do not convert to marital property once they are married, or that they acquire through gifts or inheritances after entering into their marriages. In Massachusetts, marital property is divided equitably between the partners during a divorce while separate property remains under the exclusive ownership of the original owner.
There are many factors that courts can consider when deciding how to equitably divide a couple's martial property. They can consider the length of the partners' marriage and they can weigh the incomes that the partners are earning or can earn if they re-enter the workforce. Courts can evaluate if fault played a role in the demise of a couple's marriage and they may also look into if the partners have means of supporting themselves outside of their jobs.
Another factor that courts can use to decide how to equitably divide a couple's marital property is the presence, or lack thereof, of the parties' separate property. If one party has extensive separate bank or retirement accounts, owns real estate separate and apart from their spouse, or has interests in business holdings that their partner is not a part of, then the rules of equity may lead a court to grant the other spouse a greater share of the couple's shared assets.
Property division matters can be complex and every couple will encounter challenges based on their own financial situations. In order to protect one's interests in their separate and martial property a person contemplating divorce may choose to solicit the aid of a family law attorney to guide them through their divorce-related challenges.