Is Massachusetts a Separate Property State?

Massachusetts employs an equitable distribution system for property division in divorce. This means that marital assets are divided fairly based on various factors, not necessarily equally. Separate property, acquired before the marriage or received specifically by one person during the marriage, for example through inheritance, is generally not divided in a divorce, but it can be.


Divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process, and one of the most critical aspects to consider is the division of property. When you’re going through a divorce in Massachusetts, you might wonder whether it follows a separate property system or not. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of property division in Massachusetts divorces, aiming to clarify the confusion and provide you with the essential information you need as a new client seeking affordable legal help.

Understanding Property Division in Divorce

In the world of divorce, property division can be categorized into two main systems: Community Property and Separate Property. It’s essential to understand that Massachusetts follows neither of these systems. Instead, it employs an equitable distribution approach.

Massachusetts Equitable Distribution System

Definition of Equitable Distribution

Equitable distribution means that in Massachusetts, marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. The court strives to ensure that the division is just and reasonable based on various factors, rather than a strict 50-50 split. Separate property is also divisible by the court.

How the Court Determines What is Equitable

The court considers multiple factors when determining what constitutes an equitable division of property. These factors include:

  • the length of the marriage,
  • each spouse’s contribution to the marriage,
  • the conduct of each party during the marriage,
  • the age, health, station, occupation, and employability of each party, and more.

This comprehensive assessment helps ensure a fair outcome.

Separate Property in Massachusetts

Definition of Separate Property

Separate property in Massachusetts refers to items that belong to one spouse individually and are considered separate from the marital estate. Although they are considered separate, a judge can still divide that property between the spouses.

What Qualifies as Separate Property

  1. Property Acquired Before the Marriage: Any assets acquired by either spouse before the marriage are generally considered separate property.
  2. Gifts and Inheritances: Assets received by one spouse as a gift or inheritance during the marriage are typically considered separate property.
  3. Property Covered by a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement: If you and your spouse have a legally valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that outlines the distribution of specific assets in the event of a divorce, those terms will generally be upheld.

Marital Property in Massachusetts

Definition of Marital Property

Marital property, on the other hand, consists of assets acquired during the course of the marriage. This includes:

  • income earned,
  • real estate purchased, and
  • other assets acquired jointly.

What Qualifies as Marital Property

  1. Property Acquired During the Marriage: Any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is typically considered marital property, regardless of whose name is on the title.
  2. Jointly Titled Property: If property is jointly titled, it is usually presumed to be marital property. This includes homes, bank accounts, and other assets held jointly by both spouses.

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In conclusion, Massachusetts is not a separate property state; it follows an equitable distribution system. Understanding the distinction between separate and marital property is crucial when going through a divorce in Massachusetts. Always keep in mind that even though there is a distinction between separate property and marital property, a judge can still divide both. With the guidance of an experienced and affordable attorney, you can navigate this process with confidence, ensuring that your rights and assets are protected.

Legal Disclaimer

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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