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How is debt divided in a Massachusetts divorce?

Property division is considered by many to be the most complex -- and perhaps the most contentious -- part of the divorce process. That's because most people work hard for their money -- both before and during a marriage -- which oftentimes makes it more difficult for people to watch it go to their ex-spouse during a divorce.

Here in Massachusetts, just as is the case in many other states, property is divided according to equitable distribution, which separates property into two categories: marital and separate property. The distinction between the two is that whatever property and/or assets that are acquired during the marriage are typically considered marital property while anything acquired before the union is considered separate property. Marital property is what ends up being distributed during property division.

But just as there is a division of assets during a divorce, there is also a division of debt as well. So how is debt divided in a Massachusetts divorce you may ask? Well, just as property and assets are divided into marital and separate property categories, so too is debt. Only debt that is considered marital property will be subjected to equitable distribution, which means it will be up to the court to decide the best and fairest way to distribute the debt to each spouse.

Although the courts do have a checklist of factors that they take into consideration when determining the distribution of debt, the process can be incredibly complicated, especially when debts change over the course of a marriage. Debts from one spouse can become comingled with the debt of another spouse making it difficult to separate and distribute accordingly. The more complex the debt situation is, the longer a judge may take to make their final decision.

Getting stuck with your spouse's debt can be frustrating and difficult to remedy after the fact, which puts even more emphasis on getting it right the first time around. To make sure that you are getting the fairest distribution of both assets and debts, you may want to seek the help of an experienced lawyer before starting the property division step of your divorce.

Source: FindLaw, "Massachusetts Marital Property Laws," Accessed Jan. 6, 2015

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