Every so often, I receive a call from someone saying that they’ve been separated for years from their spouse, but that neither party ever bothered to make the divorce official.
While typically, it’s no big deal if both spouses agree to just amicably make it official, both parties have put themselves at great risk for exposing themselves to paying alimony or losing a significant portion of their assets that have built up over the years since the parties separated.
Massachusetts marital property is defined as any asset or debt, regardless of how titled, that has accumulated during the marriage including inherited assets.
Even though the parties have gone their separate ways for years, the presumption and definition of marital property technically stands. It then is the burden of the spouse to ask the Massachusetts Family Court for an “equitable” division that takes into account the circumstances of the parties’ mutual separation.
Had one spouse simply proceeded to get a dissolution right away, there’s no claim the other spouse could make against an ex-spouse for accumulations of assets that occurred after a dissolution decree.
Massachusetts laws creates a rebuttable presumption of the applicability of alimony as to both amount and duration of maintenance based on the current incomes of the parties and the length of a marriage.
While a party can argue that the use of the formula is inequitable based on their circumstances, it is not a certainty that a Court would agree with that party and consider the entire length of the marriage and the circumstances of each spouse before and after a separation.
For example, if someone has been separated for years from their spouse, in the eyes of the law, it’s still a marriage. Even if both spouses separate on relatively equal footing, if one spouse’s career blossoms, income increases and accumulates assets while the other spouse falls on hard times or becomes disabled, a Court is fully empowered to award assets and support disregarding the fact of a long term separation.
How a Massachusetts Court would respond to the circumstance of a long term separation where one spouse has fared significantly better than the other since the separation is an open question. Why chance it? If you are separated, your marriage is irretrievably broken and you and your spouse have already started moving on, don’t put off making it official.
Should you be in the midst or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.