Massachusetts divorce lawyer James M. Lynch reviews how marital debts and liabilities are treated in a Massachusetts divorce.
In Massachusetts, debts are treated as “negative” assets and are divided as part of an equitable division of property in a divorce. This means that the court will consider the same factors in allocating debts as it does in allocating other assets. Any liability that is secured by an asset usually becomes the obligation of the person who receives the property. An example is that a mortgage is secured by real estate and usually becomes the obligation of the person who lives in the real estate. An auto loan usually becomes the obligation of the person who has use of the car. Credit card debt is usually unsecured debt and is part of the general division of assets.
All that said: even though Massachusetts judges purport to assign liabilities in the same manner as they do assets, many divorce attorneys believe that the allocation of liabilities can be less predictable – and subject to greater variation on a case-by-case basis – than the division of assets in a divorce. Among the challenges with debts is: who will pay the debt and how? If neither party has the ability to pay the debt in full, judges can find themselves in the awkward position of ordering parties to split minimum monthly payments. Practical complications such as these can make the division of debts a good deal more complex than the division of assets in a divorce.
About the Author: James M. Lynch is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.