divorce, there are two general types of assets or properties: marital assets and
separate assets. Marital property consists of only assets that a couple
acquires during the marriage, while separate property is property one
spouse owns before marriage or acquires by gift or inheritance during
However, marital and separate property can become mixed together—which
is known as “commingling.” For example, a house owned by one
spouse alone can become marital property if both spouses pay the mortgage
or other expenses. A premarital bank account belonging to one spouse can
become marital property if the other spouse makes deposits to it.
So how are marital property and separate
property divided in the event of a divorce?
Unlike many states, Massachusetts does not make any distinction between
marital property and separate property when dividing property in a divorce.
It is known as a “kitchen-sink” state, meaning the court can
divide any property owner either by spouse, regardless if it was acquired
before the marriage or inherited by one spouse.
The state divides marital property based on an equitable distribution doctrine.
This means the court will divide all marital assets and debts based on
what it considers to be “fair.” This does not necessarily
mean that each spouse receives an equal portion. In actuality, the court
can make any distribution as long as it finds it equitable.
Remember, couples have the power to determine their own agreement about
dividing property. If, however, they cannot agree, the court will make
the decision on their behalf.
For more information,
schedule a free consultation with our Wellesley divorce attorney at
Saponaro Barach Bingham LLP today.