When you think about divorce, the typical assets that come to mind might be your home, vehicles, and personal savings. But what if you or your spouse has assets outside of Massachusetts – or even outside the United States? If you’re in this situation, understanding how international assets are approached in a Massachusetts divorce is crucial. First and foremost, Massachusetts follows the equitable distribution approach when dividing marital assets. This doesn’t necessarily mean an equal 50/50 split, but rather what’s considered “fair.” So, even if an asset is located internationally, if it’s deemed marital property, it’s up for consideration in the division. You might wonder, how does a Salem, Massachusetts court handle a property in, say, Paris or Tokyo? It’s intricate, but not impossible.
Challenges with Valuation and Jurisdiction
The trickiest part about international assets? Valuation and jurisdiction. The value of a foreign property or bank account might fluctuate based on currency rates, local economic conditions, and more. Additionally, another country’s legal system might have its own rules about property rights and division, which might conflict with Massachusetts law. This is where having a lawyer familiar with the intricacies of international assets can be invaluable.
Potential Tax Implications of Dividing International Assets
Another aspect to consider is the potential tax implications. When transferring or selling international assets during a divorce, there may be taxes or penalties, both in Massachusetts and the foreign country. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of these implications to ensure you’re making informed decisions.
Protecting Yourself with Proper Documentation
When it comes to divorce, especially involving international assets, having your ducks in a row is crucial. Here’s a closer look at why documentation matters and how it can make a difference in Massachusetts.
- The Value of Pre-Marriage Assets: If you entered the marriage with international assets, these might be considered separate assets, not subject to division. However, the burden of proof lies with you. Proper documentation—like property deeds or bank account statements from before the marriage—can affirm that these assets were indeed yours prior to tying the knot.
- Gifts and Inheritances: Similarly, if during the marriage you received international assets as gifts or inheritance, Massachusetts might not see them as marital property. But again, you’ll need to demonstrate their origin. Was it a gift from a relative for you alone? Was the inheritance specified in a will? Supporting documents, such as gift letters or inheritance paperwork, become crucial.
- Changes and Co-Mingling of Assets: Here’s where things get a bit tricky. Let’s say you had an international asset before marriage, but during the union, both you and your spouse invested money or effort into it, thereby increasing its value. Or perhaps you deposited an inheritance into a joint bank account. This co-mingling of assets might transform what was once a separate asset into a marital one. Having clear records of all transactions and changes can help clarify the extent of co-mingling and determine how the asset should be divided.
- Benefits of Being Proactive: While it might seem cumbersome to maintain records of all international assets, doing so can save you potential headaches in the event of a divorce. Being proactive ensures that you won’t be caught off guard. It also makes the process smoother, avoiding prolonged legal battles where both parties try to recall from memory or track down long-lost paperwork.
- A Note on Fairness in Massachusetts Courts: It’s worth noting that while Massachusetts courts are dedicated to ensuring fairness, their decisions are based on the evidence presented. It’s not just about what’s true; it’s about what you can prove. Solid documentation strengthens your case, ensuring that the court’s perspective aligns with reality.
To safeguard your international assets and ensure you’re treated fairly in a high-asset divorce in Massachusetts, stay organized, maintain thorough records, and when in doubt, seek guidance. Your future self will thank you.
Considering a Mediated Approach
In complex situations involving high assets and international properties, mediation can be a valuable tool. Instead of leaving decisions up to the court, you and your spouse can work together with a mediator to find a solution tailored to your unique situation. This approach might save both time and money while allowing for a more personalized outcome. At Koiles Pratt Family Law Group, we’re committed to helping women seek fair outcomes in their divorces. If international assets or high asset division concerns you, we’re here to guide you through every step. Contact us today at 978-744-7774 to schedule your consultation with our divorce attorney for women.