Is my jewelry marital property? Should I appraise my car? While the discovery process is a drawn-out and stressful period of the divorce process, it is also crucial to obtaining a fair and equitably division of assets. Thus, strategically planning what to appraise and what should be fought for is important so that liquid assets are not wasted.
While only property that a couple acquires during marriage is “marital property,” Massachusetts law allows a judge to divide all of a couple’s property in any manner that seems fair, regardless of when it was acquired or which spouse actually owns it. Thus, a judge can divide both marital and separate property. With the idea of marital property in mind, your spouse may not always be amendable to classifying an asset acquired before the marriage as marital.
Disagreement with what is marital property leads to dispute on value. Generally, your spouse will want to give a low value to something acquired before the marriage, so that their share of assets is not high. This leads to the need for an expert appraiser to assist with discovery. Appraisals are not inexpensive, and may not be necessary if you and your spouse can come to agreement for reasonable values of assets. Fighting over minimal difference in value of an asset is meaningless, as an appraisal to define the value will cost the amount in disagreement. It is important to be careful of spending unnecessary martial, liquid assets to define the price of property. Rationally discussing value should take priority over spiteful appraisals. However, if your value and that of your spouses for a specific asset is grossly disproportionate an appraisal is required.
Representing your property honestly and being conscious of wasteful spending during discovery is recommended. Before you decide to appraise your spouse’s car, stop and think what value is in disagreement, and proceed with what is reasonable.