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Protecting independent assets in the event of divorce

Many Massachusetts couples likely maintain separate bank accounts with the assumption that in the event their marriage ends, each person can walk away with his or her own money. According to researchers, the percentage of married couples opting to keep their finances separate has more than doubled in recent years. However, experts warn that married people who assume that this practice will protect their assets in the event of divorce may encounter an unwelcome surprise if they actually find themselves in the position of dissolving their union.

States have different laws regarding distribution of assets. While some are community property states, most states (including Massachusetts) operate under equitable distribution laws. This means that, typically, any assets acquired during marriage are considered marital property and will be divided fairly, although not necessarily equally.

In any case, experts advise that married people who keep money in separate accounts will still realize some benefits in the event of divorce. For example, in the case of a less than amicable divorce, an individual with his or her own cash does not have to worry about a disgruntled spouse limiting access to a joint account. However, people entering marriage can employ other strategies that may more effectively protect individual assets if the union does not survive. For one, couples can prepare a prenup, which is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for millennials, and alternatively (or as well), each couple could save digital copies of all account statements for the month preceding the marriage. As well, if one spouse receives an inheritance during the marriage, he or she should keep it completely separate.

Every person entering marriage wants to believe his or her union will never end, but unfortunately, reality indicates that many couples do end up working through the divorce process. Prior to and during marriage, individuals can take steps to prevent or at least reduce financial difficulties that tend to arise following separation. Most Massachusetts couples for whom divorce does become a reality find the assistance of an experienced family law attorney a valued asset in navigating the process.


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