Dividing assets can be one of the most complicated logistical matters that divorcing couples have to sort out. There are several gray areas in the law about dividing assets when you dissolve a marriage in Massachusetts, and courts do not always split everything right down the middle.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that only marital property is subject to division. In general, each spouse can keep property that he or she owns separately. Determining whether property is marital or separate is the first step in dividing property in Massachusetts divorce proceedings.
Gifts from a spouse
A gift that one spouse gives to another does not usually count as marital property. A court may find an exception if the gift was something that both spouses used such as a car or a vacation home.
Gifts from a third party
Any type of gift that a spouse receives from someone other than his or her spouse is probably no marital property. Nevertheless, commingling a monetary gift in a shared bank account could convert that gift into monetary property.
For the most part, inheritances are a type of gift. Courts will treat inheritances like other gifts in deciding whether or not it is marital property.
Ultimately, property that people acquired before a marriage and own separately remains their own. Ambiguities arise when spouses treat separately owned property as though it belongs to both of them. The longer a marriage, the greater the likelihood that spouses will combine what they own individually and thereby turn it into marital property.