Dividing Assets in a Massachusetts Divorce
In Massachusetts, a Probate and Family Court’s authority to distribute property upon divorce is governed by M.G.L. c. 208, § 34. The court may assign to either husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other, including but not limited to, all vested and non-vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage, which can include retirement benefits, military retirement benefits to the extent provided by federal law, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation and insurance. Each party’s a property/estate is defined broadly to include all property to which a party holds the title, however, acquired.
Massachusetts does not have a statutory presumption in favor of an equal (50/50) division of the marital estate. In determining the division of the marital estate, the court will not follow a specific formula nor is the court required to divide the estate with mathematical precision. The court will determine an equitable division of a marital estate by weighing the following statutory factors:
MANDATORY FACTORS THE COURT MUST CONSIDER:
(a) Length of the marriage.
(b) The conduct of the parties during the marriage.
(c) Age of the parties.
(d) Health of the parties.
(e) Station of the parties.
(f) Occupation of the parties.
(g) Amount and sources of income of the parties.
(h) Vocational skills of each party.
(i) Employability of each party.
(j) Estate of each party.
(k) Liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
(l) The opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income
(m) Amount and duration of Alimony.
(n) The present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage.
DISCRETIONARY FACTORS THE COURT MAY CONSIDER:
(o) Contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in the value of their respective estates.
(p) Contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.
In drafting a judgment to distribute the marital estate, the court must make it clear in written findings of fact that he/she considered each one of the mandatory factors set forth in M.G.L. c. 208, § 34. Further, the court must provide a clear rationale, based on its findings, for the judgment reached.