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How to approach property division in divorce

One of the first things a Massachusetts resident may hear from a spouse who wants a divorce is that they also want what may seem to be an unreasonable share of the marital assets. This happened to one man whose wife of 21 years wanted to use the joint savings account to buy a house for herself. She said that she would assist her husband in continuing to pay down the mortgage on their existing home for its remaining nine years and would pay half of their son's college expenses for his remaining two years.

The man was concerned because he was just three years from retirement, his wife's salary was higher than his, and and he would struggle to cover household expenses on his own. However, what one spouse wants in property division is not necessarily what they will get, and one spouse cannot simply unilaterally claim 100 percent of a shared marital asset.

In a divorce dispute like this, people should consider what they want before entering into negotiations. They should also know that if the home is sold, the proceeds will not necessarily be split 50/50. For example, if the man's spouse gets money from the marital assets to buy her own home, that may be deducted from her share of the sale.

As this case demonstrates, an important early step in preparing for divorce may be to consult an attorney. A thorough review of marital finances that includes looking at income, assets, and debts can help a person decide what they may ask for regarding property division and help an attorney begin to craft a strategy to get that. Negotiating rather than going straight to litigation might mean more creative solutions that satisfy both parties more than a judge's decision would.

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