Massachusetts Slip Opinions - Massachusetts Appellate Cases - Division of Property Cases in MA

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Massachusetts Divorce Cases / Division of property

On this page we are compiling links to the full text of important Massachusetts Appellate Cases on Family Law and Divorce decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

These cases are for educational purpose only and should not be used for any official or legal purpose. Please consult official reports. Below you will be able to search for Massachusetts Appeals Court Slip Opinions and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Slip Opinions relating to Division of Property.

 

Division of Property Cases in Massachusetts

 

Abegglen v. Abegglen, 64 Mass. App .Ct. 590 (2005): The parties' separation agreement provided that the husband establish an estate plan to leave one-third of his estate in trust to the wife. The wife was afraid that one-third of his estate would not be available to her and she filed a civil action against her husband for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and later filed a motion to add a breach of fiduciary duty. The court found that the husband was not in breach of contract because anticipatory breach is not recognized in Massachusetts, and there were no facts to support the wife's claim for the breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The wife's motion was denied because a fiduciary relationship did not exist between the parties.

Adlakha v. Adlakha, 65 Mass. App. Ct. 860 (2006): The parties were married in 1984, and the husband was employed as a nuclear engineer and the wife was a physician. For the majority of the marriage, the parties lived separately. Although the parties had some joint investment assets their finances were kept separate. In 1995, the husband voluntarily stopped working as a nuclear engineer and opened a jewelry kiosk. Since that time, the husband was underemployed, which the court later found. During this time, the wife's medical practice prospered. The court split the parties' assets in proportion to their contributions to the marriage. The proportional split of the marital estate was based on the factors set forth in G.L. c. 208, section 34, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion on the issue of property division.

Akinci-Unal v. Unal, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 212 (2005): The Wife filed a complaint for equitable distribution of assets and for alimony. The trial court dismissed the complaint because the doctrine of comity required the foreign divorce judgment were not recognized. The appeals court held the trial court erred because it did have personal jurisdiction over the husband for the via long-arm statute for the purposes of the wife’s complaint. Also, the wife’s complaint was not barred by claim preclusion or the doctrine of comity.

Arlington v. Mangiacotti, 406 Mass. 184 (1989): A public employee is permitted by General laws to assign a portion of his pension interest pursuant to a marital separation agreement which was supported by a parallel court order for the division of marital assets.

Baccanti v. Morton, 434 Mass. 787 (2001): The Husband’s issued, but unvested stock options were assets that could be included in the marital estate.

Bacon v. Bacon, 26 Mass. App. Ct. 117 (1988):   Judge is not required to divide the marital assets 50/50 equally between the two parties, but rather in a manner that is equitable based on the facts of the case and the factors of M.G.L. c. 208 s. 34.

Belsky v. Belsky, 9 Mass. App. Ct. 852 (1980): Future inheritance can be taken into account when dividing assets in divorce.

Bianco v. Bianco, 371 Mass. 420 (1976): Under M.G.L. c. 208 s. 34, the probate and superior courts have the power to dispose of the property of parties to a divorce in any manner that is deemed equitable. While the court has broad discretion with distribution of property, it is critical that the judge clearly indicate that he has weighed all statutory considerations of M.G.L. c. 208 s. 34.

Caffyn v. Caffyn, 70 Mass. App. Ct. 37 (2007): For the purposes of determining property division, the court shall use the first date of the divorce trial for the date of valuation of marital assets. The court also held that the wife was not entitled to a restraining order against the husband, preventing him from certain parts of the parties business assets because the wife’s potential monetary loss was not sufficient to establish irreparable harm.

Carpenter v. Carpenter, 73 Mass. App. Ct. 732 (2007):   Wife filed a complaint after her divorce for equitable division of her former husband’s pension. The trial judge assigned 40% to the wife and the husband appealed. On appeal, the Appeals court held that the doctrine of claim preclusion applied and therefore the pension was not divisible.

Casey v. Casey, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 623 (2011): Husband’s military pension as a stream of income instead of an asset for property division was found to be inequitable unless the wife is compensated for removing that asset out of the marital division by either giving her additional alimony or giving her additional assets.

Cesar v. Sundelin, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 721 (2012): In a divorce case, the husband was awarded their family business of a feed and grain store. The husband requested that the judge issue an order preventing the wife from opening up a store of her own that would compete with the husband's. The probate court stated that it did not have the authority to issue such an order, and the husband appealed. The appeals court emphasized that good will in a business is property and subject to equitable division, and that the probate court is empowered to determine whether a noncompetition order for the wife would be appropriate in these given circumstances.

Champion v. Champion, 54 Mass. App. Ct. 215 (2002): Valuing the husband’s sole proprietorship by the Cash method was not “clearly erroneous.” The court also divided the marital estate in such a way that the husband would retain full ownership of his business. The business was divided between the parties and the husband was required to buy out his wife’s interest by giving her a secured four year note.

Child v. Child, 58 Mass. App. Ct. 76 (2003): A judge is allowed to accept or reject any or all parts of an expert opinion on the valuation of a property. Unless the determination by the judge is clearly erroneous, it will stand.

Collins v. Guggenheim, 417 Mass. 615 (1994): A man cohabited with a woman for six years on a farm she owned and made financial contributions to the household and the farm's operations, but the parties never married, he was not entitled to receive an equitable interest in the farm or an accounting of monies received by the farm since the parties' mutual separation in 1986; nor was he entitled to a declaration that the farm was held in constructive trust for his benefit and an order compelling the woman to convey title to them both as tenants in common, where there was no basis for a finding of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty or other misconduct.

Comins v. Comins, 33 Mass. App. Ct. 28 (1992): In making a division of marital property, the judge in a divorce proceeding appropriately considered his findings, which were not plainly wrong, concerning the wife's allegations of abusive conduct by the husband. In the circumstances of a divorce proceeding, it was appropriate for the judge to allocate the wife's interest in the marital home to the husband.

Contributory Retirement Board of Arlington v. Mangiacotti, 406 Mass. 184 (1989): Statute can authorize the assignment of a public pension to satisfy the support obligations which stem from a marital separation agreement.

Crete v. Crete, 29 Mass. App. Ct. 531 (1990):

Dalessio v. Dalessio, 409 Mass. 821 (1991): A disability annuity that was purchased through proceeds from a personal injury lawsuit was part of the marital estate and can be divided equitably.

Davidson v. Davidson, 19 Mass. App. Ct. 364 (1985): The Husband’s unvested interest in his father’s testamentary trust was a sufficient property interest to make it part of his estate for the purposes of equitable division of property in his divorce proceeding. Valuation of such interest can be made on the basis of distribution from the trust which the Husband received at the time of trial.

deCastro v. deCastro, 415 Mass. 787 (1993): It was held to be within the trial court judg’es discretion to award the wife fifty per cent of the husband's interest in a successful publicly traded corporation of which he was a founder.

Denninger v. Denninger, 34 Mass. App. Ct. 429 (1993): Case concerning a trial judge's obligations in determining a fair division of marital assets, and an appellate court's duty on review of a judgment pursuant to that statute. On appeal from a judgment of divorce awarding the husband fifteen percent of the marital assets of the parties, this court concluded that, in the circumstances, the judge gave excessive weight to the original source of the assets of the parties' twenty-seven year long marriage and failed to allocate assets in such fashion as would enable each party to sustain an approximation of the living standard each enjoyed while married to the other.

Dewan v. Dewan, 17 Mass. App. Ct. 97 (1983): Court cannot use actuarial values as present value of a pension for the purposes of division of property in divorce proceeding. Rather the judge must evaluate the non-vested pension rights and the uncertainty that may come with those rights.

Dewan v. Dewan, 399 Mass. 754 (1987): In making an equitable division of marital property, it is within the judge's discretion to assign presently, as a property asset, a percentage of the present value of a party's future pension benefits or, alternatively, to allocate a percentage of the pension benefits attributable to the period of the marriage if and when they are received; however, this court expressed a preference for the former method as providing an immediate settlement and avoiding uncertainty.

Dewan v. Dewan, 30 Mass. App. Ct. 133 (1991): In a divorce action in which the present value of the husband's pension was allocated between the parties, the judge correctly declined to calculate the value on the assumption the wife would receive a survivor annuity; he appropriately considered the contemporaneous value of the other major marital asset, the marital residence; and he properly determined that each party pay his or her own counsel fees.

D.L. v. G.L., 61 Mass. App. Ct. 488 (2004): The Husband’s interests in certain trusts were property excluded from the marital estate subject to property division pursuant to G.L.c. 208, § 34, and the Husband’s income from the trusts were treated as streams of income to establish alimony and child support orders.

Drapek v. Drapek, 399 Mass. 240 (1987): A spouse’s professional degree is not considered a marital asset subject to property division under G.L. c. 208, § 34. However, the spouse’s earning potential is considered when ordering alimony and property division.

Duckett v. Duckett, 27 Mass. App. Ct. 1164 (1989):

Durkee v. Durkee-Mower, Inc. 384 Mass. 628 (1981):

Early v. Early, 413 Mass. 720 (1992):  The judge properly included the present value of the husband's public employee pension rights in the marital estate subject to division. He awarded marital assets and alimony to the wife that were neither plainly wrong nor excessive.

Early v. State Board of Retirement, 420 Mass. 836 (1995): Wife filed contempt against the executive director of the state Board of Retirement to comply with the qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). The court held that the qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) was not enforceable because the Board, a statutory entity, could not compile with the order because the wife was a nonmember and not an employee, the Board could not create a new interest for her under the statute. MGL c. 32 § 1, 19.

Fechtor v. Fechtor, 26 Mass. App. Ct. 859 (1989):  The judge supported his conclusion to make an approximately equal apportionment of the martial assets. There was no error in the judge's findings on the value of the parties' closely held securities business, and the improper exclusion of the husband's opinion of value was not reversible error. The party who offered no evidence on the tax impact of the apportionment of marital assets raised no issue on that point for decision on appeal; however, any undue adverse tax consequences might be alleviated by a motion to amend the judgment or to alter the judgment. No error appeared in a judge's award of rehabilitative alimony to the wife in a divorce action.

Gaw v. Sappett, 62 Mass. App. Ct. 405 (2004):

Gleason v. Galvin, 374 Mass. 574 (1978):

Gleed v. Noon, 415 Mass. 498 (1993): A probate order, preventing either party from conveying, transferring or disposing of marital assets while the divorce was pending did not prevent the husband from changing the beneficiary on his life insurance policy and retirement plans.

Gonzalez v. Pierce-Williams, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 785 (2007): Wife was entitled to keep property where husband failed to pay her for her portion of the property interest pursuant to a Louisiana divorce judgment.

Gustin v. Gustin, 420 Mass. 854 (1995): The parties were married in 1961, and separated in October 1992. A judgment of divorce was issued on October 26, 1993. The trial judge entered a judgment of divorce nisi and divided the marital property after consideration of the § 34 factors. The trial judge also ordered the parties to divide the personal property among them, and if the parties could not come to an agreement then they must submit to binding arbitration to remedy the dispute. G.L. c. 208, s. 34, confers on a judge the broad discretion in dividing the assets after consideration of the § 34 factors. However, the trial judge is not permitted to order the parties in a property dispute to submit to binding arbitration unless agreed upon by the parties. A trial judge may require the parties to submit their property dispute to a court appointed intermediary for recommendation purposes. However, only the trial judge has the authority to make a fair and equitable division of property, and must promulgate a final and binding disposition of property consistent with G.L. c. 208, § 34. Thus, a trial judge cannot delegate this responsibility by ordering the parties to binding arbitration. The Appeals Court vacated the order of the parties' submission to binding arbitration and the matter was remanded for further proceedings.

Harris v. Sannella, 400 Mass. 392 (1987):

Hay v. Cloutier, 389 Mass. 248 (1983)

Johnson v. Johnson, 22 Mass. App. Ct. 955  (1986): Husband was not entitled to any money in stocks, mutual funds, and bank accounts were in the wife’s name only and were given to the wife by her mother and held in a separate account throughout the marriage.

Johnson v. Johnson, 425 Mass. 693  (1997): A judge’s power to assign property in a divorce proceeding is a purely statutory power. It does not include the ability to assign marital property to the children of the parties to a divorce proceeding or to any nonparty third person.

Johnson v. Johnson, 53 Mass. App. Ct. 416  (2001): In determining the assignment of post-divorce property appreciation or depreciation, the court may consider the contributions of the parties. If only one spouse works to increase the value of a marital asset post divorce, the court can assign that entire increase in value to the contributing spouse.

Kane v. Kane, 13 Mass. App. Ct. 557 (1982):  Husband’s actions of destroying all personal and joint checking account records following the parties’ separation can be considered by the court as conduct of an admission on the issue of the husband’s unreported income. The court found that the husband had unrecorded income and that income was attributed to his income for determining division and support.

Karellas v. Karellas, 54 Mass. App. Ct. 469 (2002): A judgment of divorce nisi, involving a sum of money to be paid to the wife, constituted a "judgment for the payment of money" and under the plain terms of the statute, the monetary award automatically bore interest from the date of the entry of the judgment. The wife, upon the husband's failure to comply with the judgment, was not required to enforce payment of the award and interest by means of a complaint for contempt.

Karp v. Amendola, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 929 (1990):

Ketterle v. Ketterle, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 758 (2004): In a dispute about the division of marital assets, the judge accorded greater weight to a statutory factor - the ability to acquire future income and assets - where the husband won a Nobel Prize; likewise, the judge's crediting of the husband with $83,000 in Nobel Prize proceeds which he had promised to his mentor was not clearly erroneous. Although a judge's order that the father pay the college expenses of his three children was premature as to the two youngest children, the judge's reasoning was sound in assigning to the father the responsibility for college expenses of the oldest child, who was a junior in high school at the time of trial.

Kittredge v. Kittredge, 441 Mass. 28 (2004): The court found that the husband had amassed approximately $400,000 in gambling debt over the parties’ ten year marriage. The court assigned the bulk of the debt to the marital estate but directly attributed $40,000 to the husband as dissipation of the marital estate. Further the trial court did not abuse its discretion by awarding the wife 64% of the marital estate as this division was required to maintain the wife’s style of living.

Kuban v. Kuban, 48 Mass. App. Ct. 387 (1999): The wife was not entitled to contributions made to the husband's retirement annuities, which were made by the husband's employer after the effective date of the dissolutions of the parties' marriage.

Lauricella v. Lauricella, 409 Mass. 211 (1991): Court held that beneficial interest in real estate held in a trust was part of the marital estate for the purposes of property division.

Levine v. Levine, 394 Mass. 749 (1985): Trial court judge does not have the authority to award one-third of the proceeds of the sale of the marital estate to the parties’ child.

Lyons v. Lyons, 403 Mass. 1003 (1988): The trial court may consider the financial contribution made by one spouse to the other spouse’s professional degree. Such consideration shall be made in determining division of property and alimony. Neither the degree itself nor the increased earning capacity will be considered an asset for division.

Loud v. Loud, 386 Mass. 473 (1982):

Mahoney v. Mahoney, 425 Mass. 441  (1997): Divorce proceeding where the judge properly considered the husband's anticipated Social Security benefits in making an equitable distribution of the distributable marital assets. The judge did not err in valuing the marital assets, with the exception of subtracting the full amount of an equity line of credit from the value of the vacation home rather than the amount actually borrowed, and the matter was remanded for recalculation of the marital assets and amendment of the judgment.

Mahoney v. Mahoney, 65 Mass. App. Ct. 537 (2006):  In a post divorce civil complaint, the husband alleged that the wife failed to buy out the husband's one-half share of the marital home by June 30, 2003. The wife filed a motion to dismiss stating that the husband did not have a claim under the law. The wife also attached a quitclaim deed dated March 21, 2002 and a canceled check for $16,000 from the wife to the husband dated April 13, 2002 to her motion. At a hearing the facts were heavily disputed; however, there was no evidentiary hearing because the trial judge took the case under advisement. The only evidence before the court were the attachments to the wife's motion. Consequently, the judge held the wife in contempt and denied her motion to dismiss. The wife appealed. The appellate court affirmed the denial of the wife's motion to dismiss because of the factual dispute but vacated the contempt judgment and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the case.

Mailer v. Mailer, 387 Mass. 401 (1982):

Maze v. Mihalovich, 7 Mass. App. Ct. 323 (1979): After a judgment of divorce has become absolute and property rights have not been previously adjudicated, the Probate Court may assign property pursuant to G. L. c. 208, Section 34.

Moriarty v. Stone: 41 Mass. App. Ct. 151 (1996): The parties co-habited for ten (10) years prior to their marriage, and it was no error by the judge to consider their pre-marital contributions when determining an equitable division under G.L.c. 208, § 34.

Nixon v. Levinson, 20 Mass. App. Ct. 904 (1985):

Pare v. Pare, 409 Mass. 292 (1991): Property assignment by trial court judge was in error where judge attributed the full post divorce increase in property value to the spouse who paid more towards the house when the increase in value was only attributable to an increase in the market and not to the conduct of either party.

Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl, Docket: SJC-12031 (2016):

Platts v. Wronski, 15 Mass. App. Ct. 30 (1982):

Putnam v. Putnam, 5 Mass. App. Ct. 10 (1977): Division of assets may not be justified purely by bad conduct by one of the parties. All factors under 208 Section 34 must be considered.

Rice v. Rice, 372 Mass. 398 (1977): A party’s estate is defined as “all property to which he holds title, however, acquired.” This allows a judge to assign “to one spouse property of the other whenever and however acquired.”

Robbins v. Robbins, 16 Mass. App. Ct. 576 (1983): Trial court judge did not abuse its discretion in denying the wife’s motion for relief due to newly discovered evidence that the husband’s closely held corporation was worth significantly more than originally thought at the time of property division.

Ross v. Ross, 385 Mass. 30 (1982): To determine the value of a publicly traded company, a court will look at the amount at which the stock is trading on a particular date, multiplied by the amount of shares owned by the spouse.

Salten v. Ackerman, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 868 (2005): The court awarded the wife the assets valued at almost two million while awarding the husband assets amounting to only $250,000 because of the husband's reckless dissipation of the marital estate without her knowledge.

Savides v. Savides, 400 Mass. 250 (1987): After a lengthy separation, it was appropriate for the Court to value the marital assets at the date of separation because the spouse made no further financial contributions to the marriage.

S.L. v. R.L, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 774 (2002): Court found 1 of the wife’s trust to be a mere expectancy and as such excluded it from the marital estate. The wife’s four other trusts were included in the marital estate. The court applied an “if and when received” method of distributing the trust assets.

Stylianopoulos v. Stylianopoulos, 17 Mass. App. Ct. 64 (1983):

Tanner v. Tanner, 14 Mass. App. Ct. 922 (1982): Court held that evidence of outside contribution to one or both of the parties is relevant to the court’s determination of the estate of the parties. Even though the rationale was minimal as to why the trial court held that the wife’s interest in the marital home was $75,000 and while the husband’s was only $15,000, the ruling was upheld because the fact findings generally covered the statutory factors.

Taverna v. Pizzi, 430 Mass. 882 (2000): It is proper to order a party to a divorce to establish a college fund for the child, but it is improper to order the party to pay a specific amount to the child for college expenses.

Vangel v. Martins, 45 Mass. App. Ct. 76 (1998): Default judgment against wife in post divorce division of marital assets was inappropriate because the wife’s answer did not narrow the issues for the trial and the judge had other sanctions open other than the default judgment.

Waxman v. Waxman - Docket No. 12-P-1021 (2013): Husband died during the divorce proceedings. The court affirmed the award of condominium proceeds and the value of an automobile to the wife, and affirmed the award of the husband’s individual retirement account to his adult children from a previous marriage. The court rejected the wife’s argument that husband violated the automatic restraining order when he removed her as the beneficiary of the retirement account. The court also affirmed the finding that the removal of the wife as the beneficiary did not amount to the dissipation of a marital asset.

Wheeler v. Wheeler, 41 Mass. App. Ct. 743 (1996): The wife’s care of the minor child and maintenance of the marital home for the child post parties separation but prior to the divorce was properly considered as a contribution to the marital partnership for the purposes of determining distribution of marital assets.

Wilcox v. Trautz, 427 Mass. 326 (1998): Unmarried co-habitants can lawfully contract concerning the division of property, financial and other matters related to their non-marital relationship. Such contracts only become invalid when made for the exchange of sexual services.

Williams v. Massa, 431 Mass. 619 (2000): Judge properly imputed an estimate capital gains tax to the determine a more accurate value for husband’s real estate interests. Also finding that it was equitable to award the husband 75% and the wife 25% of the marital estate upon a finding that the husband was the primary child care taker and the primary wage earner.

Yacobian v. Yacobian, 24 Mass. App. Ct. 946 (1987): Marriage alone does not make the spouse a creditor under the fraudulent conveyances statute and a divorce proceeding is not cause to evaluate all transfers made during a marriage under that statute.

Zeh v. Zeh, 35 Mass. App. Ct. 260 (1993): Inheritances may be considered part of the marital estate for the purposes of division of assets where the size of the inheritance is easily determined and there are no other claims to the inheritance. Expectances which are not included into the marital estate can be considered for the purpose of determining what disposition to make of property that is subject to division.

Zaleski v. Zaleski, Docket: SJC-11391 (2014):

 

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Massachusetts Slip Opinions - Massachusetts Appellate Cases - Division of Property Cases in MA