Claiming Your Share of Marital Property in a Divorce


Not only are you experiencing a myriad of emotions during your divorce, but you must also negotiate issues involving child custody, alimony and property division. Separating all the marital property acquired during the marriage can be difficult, especially if you have become attached to certain items.

Massachusetts, like many other states in the nation, is an equitable distribution state. So, the court divides all marital property between spouses in a fair and equitable manner as decided by the judge presiding over the case. You and your spouse can also decide who should keep what through mediation.

Throughout the process, it is important to know what marital property includes so you can be sure to get everything you should in the divorce settlement. You may think of marital property as being the family vehicles, home, furniture and bank account contents. There may be some other marital property items, however, that you could overlook when making these decisions. These include the following:

  • 401(k) plans, stock options, retirement accounts and term life insurance policies
  • Expensive collections, such as antiques, books, cars, coins and art
  • Exclusive golf course or country club memberships
  • Lottery ticket winnings or income tax refunds
  • Intellectual property, such as trademarks, patents or copyrights
  • Photographs, pets and keepsakes

Any gifts given between you and your spouse are marital property, and you must divide them in the divorce settlement. Furthermore, if either of you made a loan to a third party during the marriage, the law entitles you to half of that amount when the borrower repays it, even if the repayment occurs after the judge finalizes the divorce.

It is also important to keep in mind that not all property is subject to division in a divorce. Separate property will stay exclusively with the original owner unless it becomes mixed with marital property.