Previous posts here have discussed how Massachusetts is not a community property state. To this end, marital partners may own separate property to which their spouses do not have rights to claim; they may also own marital property jointly. When working through a divorce, it is customary for parties to retain their separate property, but the disposition of their marital property can be somewhat more complex.

Courts maintain the goal that property divisions should be fair given the circumstances of the partners’ relative financial positions. For example, if one partner has significant independent wealth and their soon-to-be ex-spouse owns nothing on their own, it may be equitable to provide the less fortunate spouse with more marital property than the financially solvent spouse so that each may succeed financially when their marriage is over.

However, dividing marital property in a fair and equitable way can be difficult, especially if the partners do not agree about how much it is worth. Consider a work of art that the partners purchased together during the marriage for a modest sum. If one of the partners believes that the art is worth more than it was at the time of its purchase due to the growing fame of the artist, but the other feels it is still without much value, they may dispute the disposition of the piece of art as fair.

When individuals cannot come to agreements about property value and worth, they may need to consult with appraisers and financial experts. It is important that valuation be calculated accurately so that couples subject to divorces receive fair property distributions and settlements as they separate their lives from those of their spouses.