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Courts consider several factors in marital property division

Massachusetts law provides some specific guidelines for the court's consideration regarding property division in a divorce proceeding. Since Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, the court is charged with facilitating a settlement that is deemed fair to both parties. This approach differs from a community property division in that "fair" may not necessarily mean "equal."

When a mutually satisfactory division of assets cannot be reached in a divorce proceeding, the court first must determine what assets and debts are to be considered marital property. It must then proceed with an appropriate valuation of that property. Once the property is valued, the court then issues a ruling setting forth a division of property deemed to be equitable.

Several factors must be considered by the court in its decision. These factors are defined by Massachusetts statutes, including the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station and occupation of the parties, the amounts and sources of income, vocational skills and future earning capacities, employability, estate, the liabilities and needs of each party and the amount and duration of any alimony awarded. Additionally, the present and future needs of dependent children must be considered. The court may also consider each party's contributions with regard to the respective estates, the contributions of each party as homemaker and other specific considerations such as health coverage.

The stress of a divorce proceeding can be considerable. Seeking the advice of a family law attorney may help to facilitate the process and ensure that each party's rights are protected and that an equitable distribution is reached. Such an attorney can ensure that the court receives all of the information it needs to issue an equitable distribution of property ruling.

Source: malegislature.gov, "Section 34Alimony or assignment of estate; determination of amount; health insurance", November 17, 2014

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