What Does Equitable Distribution Mean?

One of the most challenging parts of a divorce is the stress each spouse feels regarding their financial situation. When spouses divorce, they very often worry about what will happen with all their hard-earned assets. It is not uncommon for spouses to disagree on the terms of their divorce, though when this happens, both of their assets will become subject to the equitable distribution process. Unfortunately for some spouses, “equitable” does not mean “equal.” Instead, equitable simply means a fair and just division of assets, in the court’s eyes. Rather understandably, one or both spouses will feel as though the court did not make the correct determination, which is why it is so crucial to retain experienced legal assistance when entering the equitable distribution process. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some of the questions you may have:

Marital property vs. separate property. What is the difference?

When a couple gets divorced, a court will determine which assets are marital property or separate property. Essentially, assets that were acquired during your marriage, such as your house, will usually be considered marital property. However, property obtained before or outside of your marriage, such as an inheritance or a gift, is generally considered separate property. Usually, separate property is exempt from equitable distribution.

What will courts consider during the equitable distribution process?

The courts will consider several different factors when dividing your assets. For example, the courts will address each party’s health, earning potential, education, debts and liabilities, tax consequences, age, and more. By hiring an experienced attorney, you help ensure you have a knowledgeable party backing you up throughout the litigation process. Do not let the courts unfairly distribute your assets without a fight.

Is there a way to protect my assets from equitable distribution?

Fortunately, you may protect your assets by drafting a prenuptial agreement with your spouse. Essentially, a prenuptial agreement is a document in writing that clearly addresses what will happen regarding you and your spouse’s financial situation if you should get a divorce. If you and your spouse jointly own a business, you may draft a shareholder agreement, which will settle terms of your divorce regarding your business outside of the litigation process. However, if you are already married, you may no longer draft a prenuptial agreement. Fortunately, you can still draft a postnuptial agreement, which essentially functions exactly the same as a prenuptial agreement, only it is drafted after your marriage is official.

Contact our experienced Massachusetts firm

If you require compassionate and knowledgeable legal guidance for a matter of divorce, family or estate law, please contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Cynthia L. Hanley today. Our firm proudly serves clients in Mansfield, Massachusetts and throughout Bristol County.