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In divorce terms, ‘equitable’ has a very different meaning

Divorce is much more than simply choosing to no longer live together. It entails the untangling of an individual’s personal and financial lives from that of a spouse and can therefore become exceptionally complicated. This is especially true in cases where a couple was married for many years and has amassed a considerable amount of wealth.

In a recent blog post, we touched on the legal concept of equitable distribution and discussed how it applies to divorcing couples in Massachusetts. As previously discussed, while the term “equitable” suggests that assets and property are divided equally between spouses, this is rarely the case.

In the eyes of the law, the term equitable does not mean an equal 50/50 split. Rather, in the event a divorcing couple is not able to come to an agreement about the terms of a divorce settlement on their own, a judge will use his or her discretion and attempt to divide property and assets in a fair manner.

When doing so, a judge will take numerous factors into consideration, including how long a couple was married and each spouse’s age, health, current and future income potential and existing financial obligations. Assets to be divided may include those held in banking, savings, retirement and investment accounts as well as annuities and profit-sharing plans.

Additionally, Massachusetts differs from other states in that “everything is ‘in the marital pot’ for distribution upon divorce.” This means that any properties and assets an individual brings to a marriage, as well as those a spouse receives via a gift or inheritance, are considered fair game and included as assets subject to equitable distribution.

For couples who own multiple properties and have considerable and diversified assets, it’s important to retain a divorce attorney who has helped individuals in similar situations garner successful divorce settlements.

Source: Massachusetts Bar Association, “The basics of equitable distribution and the treatment of gifted and inherited assets in Massachusetts,” Patricia A. O’Connell and Donald G. Tye, June 2014

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