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Massachusetts is NOT a 50/50 State

I am surprised at how often I hear both clients and attorneys tell me that in Massachusetts, when couples divorce, everything is split 50/50.  That is simply not true in Massachusetts.  Splitting everything 50/50 is more akin to community property states such as California.  Let’s break down that sentence and examine it:

Everything is split 50/50

The bolded text “everything” is correct and accurate.  In Massachusetts, when a couple divorces, everything is up for grabs.  Everything includes income and assets acquired during the marriage and also before the marriage.  Everything also includes gifts and inheritances during and before the marriage.

Everything is split 50/50

The bolded text “is split” is somewhat correct.  Since everything is up for grabs, everything is then up to be split.  It doesn’t mean that it will be split but simply that there is a possibility of it being split, depending on the circumstances of each couple.

Everything is split 50/50

The bolded text “50/50” is absolutely false.  Massachusetts is an equitable division state.  It means that at the time of divorce, judges look to see how to split property equitably.  Equitable is a fancy term for “fair and reasonable.”  Fair and reasonable does not mean 50/50 or else our laws would simply say 50/50 or equally.  Equally is not the same as equitably.

Let’s take for example the case where a young couple in their 20’s gets married.  They started the marriage with next to nothing and they’re married for 9 years and had no children.  They then decide to divorce.  In that situation, it would be fair and reasonable to split their assets 50/50.

Now let’s take another example where a young couple in their 20’s gets married.  They started the marriage also with next to nothing and they’re married for 20 years and had 3 kids and the wife was a stay-at-home mom for 15 of those years.  In that situation, it would NOT be fair and reasonable to split their assets 50/50 because the wife sacrificed her professional advancement outside of the home to raise the couple’s kids which in turn enabled the husband to advance his career.  Now if she was to go back to the work force, she would be 15 years behind the curve professionally.  In this situation, a fair and reasonable (or equitable) distribution would be to give the wife more of the assets.

If you are considering divorce and have questions about property division call our experienced attorneys today for a free phone consultation. We are happy to help.

3 Comments on “Massachusetts is NOT a 50/50 State

  1. Pingback: Separation And Divorce – The easiest way to re-establish your way of life – managing the utility bills | Review Guide Live

  2. Actually, while the wife may indeed have “sacrificed her career,” she, in fact, ends up ahead of the man. How? Aside from the often stronger emotional bond with the children, since she was the “primary caregiver,” unless she really screws up or your state is one of the few in which joint custody is the presumptive resolution in divorce, she will most likely end up with full custody and the husband will be forced to pay ridiculously high child support for the next upteenth years. Moreover, everything the man has slaved for at work to provide, i.e. the family’s home, cars, and everyday bills like the food in their stomaches and clothes on the children’s backs, as well as things like their education, isn’t considered at all. However, in divorce, things like the “family home” is often taken away from the husband to be “fair,” (in spite of the husband often paying an inordinate amount of the funds for the down payment and maintenance of the home). So in the end the husband loses not only the kids but the house he worked so hard to build! Then on top of that he has to pay draconian child support till the children are 21! How in the world is that “fair and reasonable?” While the wife may indeed have “sacrificed,” so did the man. Therefore, splitting their assets to leave them in basically an “equal” financial situation is indeed more than “equitable” in my view!

  3. Sure, the husband and wife both sacrificed. But, at the end of the divorce, the husband (in this case) will still have a strong income stream going forward. Because the mother stayed at home, she will not be able to earn as much money after 15 years out of the work force. So, an “equitable” split must also include earnings lost, not just earnings gained! My question is what if in the first scenario, they were married with no kids, but the wife simply went to school to further her education and was not a homemaker, nor an income earner. Is 50/50 still “fair and reasonable”?