What Money Can’t Be Touched in a Divorce in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, assets considered separate property, such as inheritances, gifts, and personal injury settlements received by one spouse, are somewhat protected from division in a divorce. Additionally, any portion of retirement accounts funded before the marriage is usually considered separate property. However, the portion accrued during the marriage is marital property. Even though there is a difference between separate and marital property, both are divisible by the court. It’s crucial to keep these assets separate and properly documented to ensure their protection during divorce proceedings.

Understanding Marital Property vs.
Separate Property

In Massachusetts, assets are typically categorized as either marital property or separate property. Marital property includes assets acquired during the marriage, such as income earned and property purchased together. On the other hand, separate property consists of assets acquired before the marriage or obtained through gift or inheritance. There is a distinction between the two categories, but both are subject to division during divorce proceedings.

When it comes to separate property, assets like inheritances, gifts, and personal injury settlements are somewhat protected from division. However, there can be exceptions, such as if these assets have been commingled with marital property or used for the benefit of the marriage.

Assets Protected from Division

One significant category of assets that are somewhat protected from division in a Massachusetts divorce is retirement accounts. Generally, any portion of a retirement account funded before the marriage is considered separate property. However, the portion accrued during the marriage may be subject to division. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the contributions made to these accounts before and during the marriage to determine what portion may be at stake.

Additionally, inheritances and gifts received by one spouse are typically considered separate property but can still be subject to division. This includes assets like:

  • cash,
  • real estate,
  • investments inherited from a family member or
  • gifts given specifically to one spouse.

However, it’s essential to keep these assets separate from marital property to avoid any confusion during divorce proceedings.

Factors Affecting Asset Division

In Massachusetts, asset division during divorce follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means that assets are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The court considers various factors when determining how to divide property, including:

  • each spouse’s financial contributions to the marriage,
  • their future financial needs, and
  • any other relevant circumstances.

By understanding these factors, you can better prepare for negotiations and advocate for your fair share of assets.

Financial contributions made by each spouse during the marriage can play a significant role in asset division. This includes:

  • income earned,
  • property acquired, and
  • debts incurred during the marriage.

The court may also consider non-financial contributions, such as caregiving responsibilities or supporting a spouse’s education or career advancement.

Strategies for Protecting Assets

One effective strategy for protecting assets in a Massachusetts divorce is to create a prenuptial agreement before getting married. A prenup allows couples to outline how assets will be divided in the event of divorce, providing clarity and peace of mind for both parties. Additionally, trusts can be useful tools for protecting assets, particularly in cases where one spouse has significant wealth or assets that they want to safeguard.

In addition to legal tools like prenuptial agreements and trusts, strategic financial planning can also help protect assets during divorce proceedings. This may involve maintaining separate accounts, keeping clear records of assets acquired before and during the marriage, and avoiding commingling assets whenever possible. By taking proactive steps to protect your assets, you can limit the risk of disputes during divorce and secure your financial future.

Affordable Massachusetts Divorce Solutions

An affordable divorce is possible. At Afford Law, our fees are based on your income, so the less you earn, the less you pay. Our mission is to provide experienced legal help you can afford.

If you can’t afford our lower rates for a traditional attorney-client relationship, you have another option. Our legal coaching service can save you money and still give you access to a skilled attorney. In this arrangement, you represent yourself in court while we work with you behind the scenes to prepare you every step of the way. This service is available to you for one low monthly fee.


Navigating asset division during divorce can be challenging, but with the right guidance and understanding of Massachusetts law, you can protect your assets and secure your financial future.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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