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Spousal Property Rights

When is comes to property division, Massachusetts follows the theory of equitable distribution, which allows courts to take into account numerous factors related to the financial situation of each spouse, rather than presuming a 50/50 split.

During the Marriage

Most jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, are “separate property” states where the spouse with the title to property is the legal owner. Neither spouse has a vested interest in property of which they do not have formal title. Transfers of real and personal property between spouses are generally valid. A spouse may transfer real or personal property that he or she owns separately to a third party.

Co-Ownership of Property

Often spouses choose to own property jointly to avoid potential difficulties upon the death of the parties. Some examples would be tenants in common, joint tenants, tenant by the entirety.

Non-Marital Property

Marital property generally does not include property that was owned prior to the marriage, was acquired by gift, inheritance, or excluded by valid agreement of the parties. However, appreciation of property is apportioned in the same manner as ownership if solely due to market forces, but if appreciation is due to spousal labor, the increase is marital property to that extent.

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