An educational degree or professional license is not marital property in Massachusetts, even if it was earned during the marriage. There is no dollar amount assigned to it, which prevents a spouse from being compensated for the degree or license at divorce. However, the court does recognize disparities in earning potential and will consider it when dividing marital property.
Unlike a piece of real estate, there is no market value for a degree or license. To divide one, a specific dollar amount must be assigned. The court declines to engage in this type of analysis because the degree or license does not automatically create additional income. There are many factors that determine a person's earning capacity. It is too complicated to assess the difference between what a person will earn and what that same person would have earned if there was no advanced training.
Similarly, there is no specific reimbursement for money or time spent to obtain a degree or license. In Massachusetts, division of property depends on its value at the time of divorce, not what it cost to acquire. Even though there is a specific amount that was spent on tuition and other educational expenses, there is no dollar value for the actual degree or license. Neither is there repayment for money a spouse could have earned if time was spent working instead of attending classes. This lost income is more readily classified as a joint endeavor that was made in contemplation of the joint benefit of improved quality of life.
While there is no specific value assigned, Massachusetts recognizes that there is a benefit to obtaining a degree or license. The court considers the possibility of increased earning potential when dividing property. Among other things, the court will compare current occupations, vocational skills, employability, and future opportunities to earn income and acquire property. Even though the degree or license itself is not divisible property, a professional practice, like other business interests may be divided at divorce.
Divorcing spouses typically disagree on how big an impact a degree or license should have on property division. It is only one of many factors to be considered, but how much weight is placed on its importance can change the way marital assets are divided.
Whether you litigate or mediate your divorce, the Law Offices of Renee Lazar will work to create a fair division of assets. Contact us either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation to discuss your needs.