As a Massachusetts divorce lawyer, I often grapple with property valuation issues. What date should assets be valued - the date of divorce or the date of division? A recent Appeals Court decision explored this tricky question.
The wife and husband divorced in 2013 after a 20-year marriage. The divorce judge divided their five real estate properties using values the parties agreed to in 2013.
On appeal, the property division got vacated. In 2020, a new trial judge redistributed the properties. But he still used the 2013 values, despite evidence showing the properties had appreciated significantly.
The wife appealed, arguing the judge should have used current 2020 values.
Key Legal Issues
What's the appropriate date to value assets - divorce or division?
Did the judge err by using outdated 2013 property values?
The Appeals Court agreed with the wife - the judge should have used 2020 values. The judges reasoned:
Generally, assets get valued as of the date they're divided, not the divorce date.
Here, the uncontested evidence showed the properties appreciated after the 2013 divorce, totaling over $1.5 million more.
The judge gave no rationale for rejecting this evidence and using old values.
This led to the wife getting much less than half the true 2020 value.
On remand, the judge must explain his valuation rationale and make findings on whether the appreciation was due to one spouse's efforts or passive market changes.
The date of valuation matters greatly in divorce property division. Using outdated numbers when assets have appreciated can shortchange one spouse.
Absent special circumstances, Massachusetts courts will look to current property values at the time of division, not historical divorce date valuations.
This case is a good reminder for divorce lawyers and clients to present solid evidence of asset appreciation before division. That evidence can make all the difference in achieving an equitable split.
Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.