How is property divided in a divorce?
In every divorce case in Massachusetts, judges must make an equitable division of all marital assets. An equitable division is a division the judge finds to be fair based on all the factors presented by each side in a case.
An equitable division is often, though not always, an equal division. Judges are given a great deal of discretion to divide the assets with one party receiving far more or far less than fifty percent.
What assets are divided in a divorce?
Any and all assets held by either spouse is subject to division in a divorce. This includes real estate, retirement accounts, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, inheritances, ownership interest in a business, and any other tangible or intangible asset.
Who gets to keep the house?
One of the most contentious issues in most divorce cases is the issue of who stays in the marital home. There are many important factors that determine which party, if either, will remain in the home after a divorce. Frequently these factors include:
- is there equity in the home?
- is there a mortgage on the home and can the mortgage be refinanced into only one party’s name?
- how old are the children and who will be primary custodian?
- Can either party afford to maintain the home after the divorce?
An experienced divorce lawyer can help you understand how these and other factors come into play in determining the best possible division of assets for your particular circumstances.
How do personal belongings get divided?
In my experience, there are few issues Judges hate more dividing personal property. Generally speaking, the parties are truly in the best position to sort out the division of their personal belongings than a Court can ever be. Nevertheless, personal property is subject to an equitable division, just like all other property.
How do retirement accounts get divided?
Most retirement accounts need to be divided by a particular court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO for short). This is an order signed by a Judge that tells the retirement plan company how to divide the retirement account. There are several methods for dividing the retirement plan, including exact dollar figures, percentages, divisions as of certain dates, etc. A division of a pension or other retirement account can often be incredibly complex. I strongly recommend that every unrepresented party have a competent attorney review every QDRO before submitting it to a Judge.
What do I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets?
Uncovering hidden assets is frequently very difficult. In most instances, extensive discovery is required to locate hidden assets. Judges will not simply take your word for it, and instead require substantial proof. Working with an attorney, even on a limited basis, is often the best course of action when you suspect there are hidden assets.
How much is my spouse’s business worth?
Unlike bank accounts, houses and 401(k)s, there is frequently no easy way to determine what a business is worth. Many businesses have no value at all. Some business have no tangible assets, but have substantial value nevertheless. Determining the true value of a business often requires extensive review of financial records, knowledge of the industry and consultation with experts. The impact of ignoring the value of the business however, can be a major mistake in the overall division of assets.
What if I can’t afford the several thousand dollar retainer many attorneys ask for?
That’s where I can help. I offer a wide range of advice and representation for clients seeking help on property division. These can include helping by just reviewing some paperwork, advising on your rights before a mediation, or a “second opinion” before a major decision needs to be made. If you feel uncomfortable going to court, I can represent you for a single hearing. I offer these services on an affordable, flat fee basis.
Many clients prefer to have an attorney throughout the entire case, but simply cannot afford to make a large upfront retainer payment. In these situations, I am happy to break the case down into several individual events and charge only for that service. This allows my clients to spread the cost of the legal services out over the length of the case. It also means that you don’t have to be afraid to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail, because you won’t be getting a bill for that service.