How is a Divorce Settlement Calculated?
You may have many questions as you begin what likely seems like an overwhelming and complicated divorce process. Since understanding what your post-divorce financial situation will be is an important part of this transition to allow you to begin planning your future, many people wonder how their divorce settlement is calculated. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, the attorneys at O’Connor Family Law can help you work toward a fair divorce settlement and handle any legal obstacles that may arise during your case.
Identifying Key Issues during a Divorce Settlement Calculation
When negotiating a divorce settlement, the following topics are generally considered:
- Division of property, including retirement or pension accounts
- Allocation of debt
- Transfer or sale of the family home
- Child Support, if you have unemancipated children
- Life Insurance
Each of these areas must be fully addressed in any divorce settlement calculation so that you and your spouse have a clear understanding of what each of you will receive and pay once your marriage is dissolved. An attorney can assess your divorce case and determine which issues may play a major role in your settlement.
Division of Property and Debt
In Massachusetts, any assets that either spouse owns separately or together must be dealt with during a divorce. The only exception to this rule is if the spouses have an existing prenuptial agreement that specifies whether certain assets are to be excluded from being considered marital property, although your divorce agreement should still mention these assets for clarity.
As such, state law follows the theory of equitable division, which means that the property and debt only have to be divided in a manner that is considered fair. Although fair is often thought of as splitting everything “equally,” that’s not always necessarily the case. What is ‘fair’ is open to interpretation and judicial discretion, but Massachusetts General Law Chapter 203 §34 does list the factors to consider. Some of these include:
- The length of the marriage
- Both parties’ conduct during the marriage, allowing a court to sometimes consider marital ‘fault’
- Both parties’ health, age, employment, and income
- Assets, liabilities, and needs of either party
- Both parties’ respective contributions to acquiring property during the marriage
- Both parties’ contribution to the family unit
- And many other factors.
As the court calculates a divorce settlement, it is important to keep these factors in mind and work toward an agreement that is ‘fair’ to both parties, even if it is not exactly a 50/50 split. Although there are some cases that require a trial because one side is not being transparent or reasonable, in the majority of cases it is going to be better to come to a settlement so that you keep your financial future in your own control. An experienced attorney can conduct a cost-benefit analysis of what you’re paying out to get what you’re seeking and can advise you when it’s a good idea to settle versus to continue fighting.
Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 §48, there are four possible alimony awards: general term, rehabilitative, reimbursement, or transitional. The amount and duration of alimony depend largely on you and your spouse’s respective incomes and the length of your marriage. A divorce lawyer can discuss whether alimony is a consideration in your case and, if so, how it should be calculated into your settlement.
Achieving an Equitable Divorce Settlement
When negotiating a divorce settlement, the court should consider the parties’ respective incomes and other financial obligations. For example, if you and your spouse earn similar incomes, it may be reasonable to split the assets more or less equally and for each of you to assume half of the marital debt. However, if you earn significantly less than your spouse, they could end up being responsible for paying more of the debt, or your spouse may be ordered to pay alimony to help you meet your needs after the divorce.
No matter how the court ultimately decides to divide your marital and financial obligations, the settlement should be calculated in a way that enables you and your spouse to live similar lifestyles after your divorce, although there is an overall recognition that both spouses’ lifestyles may change slightly because of the fact one household is being split into two with the same incomes.
Consult an Experienced Attorney about Calculating Your Divorce Settlement
One of the most significant benefits of settling a case is that the parties can negotiate with each other to reach terms they know they can both live with and then seek court approval. However, calculating how much you are entitled to can be challenging without the right attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer from O’Connor Family Law can explain the various financial considerations that go into how a divorce settlement is calculated and help you achieve a fair outcome in your case. To get started, call today.