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How spousal support, property division are determined in divorce

In what is considered a "traditional" marriage in Massachusetts, typically one spouse works while the other stays home to take care of the house and children, or perhaps one partner works full time and the other part time. What happens, then, when the couple -- in which each individual has a markedly different income level -- decides to divorce? How will property division and spousal support be determined?

While the calculations can be complicated, the law attempts to take a fair approach to these issues. When it comes to the division of property and assets, Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, meaning that everything that came into the marriage, beginning from the wedding date, is marital property. As such, it will be split fairly -- though not necessarily equally -- during the divorce, with only a few exceptions, such as cases involving an inheritance or a prenuptial agreement.

Spousal support, also referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance, can be even more complicated. Often, the amount is calculated by taking a certain percentage of the higher-earning spouse's income and subtracting that amount from a certain percent of the lower-earning spouse's income. Other things are taken into consideration as well, though, such as the length of the marriage and certain extenuating circumstances such as unemployment, disability, age and other factors.

Frequently, determining these amounts is a complicated process requiring the professional aid of legal and financial experts. Divorce tends to be an emotionally stressful time, and it can be difficult to quickly come to a satisfactory resolution unless all parties involved attempt to remain as calm and level-headed as possible. Ultimately, the guidance and counsel of an experienced family law attorney can prove key to a satisfactory outcome when Massachusetts couples decide to go their separate ways.

Source:, "Here's how "imputation of income" works in divorce", Rohn K. Robbins, July 5, 2017

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