robyn137a_Frame100Robyn_BusinesscardContact Me_small
Massachusetts Stock Options Valuation,Treatment, and Division in a Divorce FAQs

Thank you for taking the time to visit our website to learn more about stock option valuation, treatment, and division in a Massachusetts divorce. My team has compiled a list of FAQs along with answers to help our guests, prospects and clients better understand the treatment of stock options in a MA divorce.

We encourage all of our website guests for their own protection to never act on information obtained from any website without first discussing the specifics of your case with a licensed Massachusetts attorney in good standing practicing in the areas of Divorce and Family Law.

Important Note: The general answers we provide in the areas of Family and Divorce Law are for educational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice for any specific situation.

  • Under what condition or situation can my spouse, wife (or husband) exclude his or her unvested stock options from being included in the marital estate?
    Answer: If it can be shown that the stock options were given for future services to be performed after the divorce and you can establish that the non-employee spouse (husband or wife) did not contribute to the employee's ability to acquire the options at issue, the court may exclude the options from being considered as part of the marital estate.
  • Can or will my spouses (husband's or wife's) vested and unvested company stock options be treated as a marital asset and property in Massachusetts?
    Answer: . Although Massachusetts General Laws ch. 208, § 34 does not expressly mention stock options, both case law and the language in the statute, clearly indicate that both vested and unvested stock options may be treated as marital property subject to an equitable division.
  • How are my spouse's (husband's or wife's) stock options treated or handled in a massachusetts divorce?
    Answer: . Many courts in Massachusetts will treat both vested and unvested stock options as marital property and subject to a fair and equitable division upon divorce. Fair and equitable doesn't necessarily mean a 50/50 division between husband and wife. If it can be shown that the stock options are for future services and that your spouse had no supportive role in allowing you to acquire these options during the marriage, you may have an argument for excluding those stock options from division in the divorce. The burden of proof will be on the employee that is challenging the inclusion of unvested stock options. You will likely need an expert to testify about your stock options, details of the company plan, or possibly a company representative such as a chief financial officer to testify on your behalf.
  • If it can be shown or proven during trial that the unvested stock options should not be included (excluded) as part of the marital estate and the judge determines that the equity requires that the option must be apportioned, how does the court divide the stock options in Massachusetts divorce?
    Answer: . A number of courts have used a modification of the "time rule", to calculate the number of shares that should be included in the marital estate. The formula is as follows: (number of unvested stock shares) x [(length of time that the employee owned the options prior to marriage and during marriage) / (time between the date the options were issued and the date in which they are scheduled to be vested)]. This is not the only method that judges have used to divide unvested stock options issued for future services. The trial judge has discretion as to how stock options are to be apportioned or divided in a divorce.

    Courts have normally included in the marital estate assets, property, and even stocks acquired after the termination of marriage, but as a reward acquired after the termination of marriage, but as a reward for or result of efforts expanded during the marriage.

  • Who has the burden of proof in Massachusetts as to whether the stock options should be included in the marital estate?
    Answer:The spouse (husband or wife) that was granted the stock option has the burden of proof to exclude the stock options as part of the marital estate.
  • What evidence or proof do I need to provide to the court in order for my stock options to not be included (excluded) in the marital estate in Massachusetts?
    Answer: . You will need to show that the stock options were given for future services. You must also be prepared to provide the court with the company stock option plan, as well as testimony from the employer or its representative, or testimony from an expert witness.
  • Am I entitled to my spouse's (husband's or wife's) unvested stock options if his or her company issued the options for future services rendered beyond the time of marriage?
    Answer: : In Massachusetts, many courts have ruled that stock options given for future services beyond the time of marriage should not be considered as part of the marital estate. However, there are situations in which a judge can deviate from this general view if it can be shown or proven that the non employee spouse contributed to the spouses ability to obtain these unvested stock options during the course of the marriage.
  • Is my spouses (husband's or wife's) unvested stock options considered marital property in Massachusetts if they were issued during the marriage?
    Answer: . Unvested stock options are recognized by many Massachusetts courts as part of a marital estate only to the extent that they reflect efforts expended during marriage. If it can be shown or proven that the unvested stock options were granted for future services and your spouse did not contribute in any way to your ability to acquire these unvested stock options during the course of marriage, you may have a good case to exclude them from the marital assets.

  • When can I cash out my share of my spouse's (husband's or wife's) vested stock options as part of a divorce settlement?
    Answer: . It depends on the company policy regarding their stock option plan and the type of options granted to your spouse (husband or wife). Some companies will segregate the stock options to both the employee and the spouse according to the percentage spelled out on the qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). You are generally allowed to cash out your portion of the vested stock options on the exercise date, assuming the stock option exercise price is greater than the grant price.
  • What is the value of my spouse's, husband's, or wife's company vested stock options in a marital estate in Massachusetts?
    Answer: The value of a vested stock option is the difference between the exercise price and grant price. This number must be greater than zero for it to have any value and for you to be allowed to exercise the option on the exercise date.
  • How do I determine the value of my spouse's (husband or wife) unvested stock options if the Massachusetts court includes it in the marital estate?
    Answer: . The unvested stock options have no value until they become vested and exercised on the exercise date. If the exercise price is greater than the grant price, the vested stock options will have value. If not, the stock options will have no value.
  • How are a spouse's (husband or wife) vested or unvested employee stock options divided in a divorce in Massachusetts?
    Answer: Many judges will not assign any specific value to unvested stock options as the price may fluctuate or the option may have no value at some time in the future when the option is vested. To protect against fluctuations in price, many judges will divide the vested shares at the time of dissolution and order any proceeds from the exercise of the stock options to be divided according to the original court order.


  • If my spouse's (wife or husband) stock options are not vested during the marriage, can they still be counted as marital property in Massachusetts?
    Answer: . Whether the stock options are vested or not, the court may treat them as marital property subject to equitable division.
  • If stock options were given to my spouse (husband or wife) for past services performed prior to marriage, can it be included in Massachusetts as marital property subject to equitable distribution at divorce?
    Answer: The court must treat stock options vested or unvested the same as marital property subject to division in Massachusetts even if the options were given for services performed prior to marriage.
  • Are company stock options vested after divorce considered marital property in a Massachusetts divorce?
    Answer: Most courts will consider and treat unvested and vested stock options acquired during the marriage as marital property and subject to a fair and equitable division upon divorce.
  • Is my spouses (husband or wife) company vested and unvested stock options treated as marital property in a Massachusetts divorce? Can unvested Stock Options that are worthless today be kept out of property division in Massachusetts divorce?
    Answer: Massachusetts courts will generally treat both unvested and vested stock options as marital property subject to a fair and equitable division upon divorce.
  • Can unvested stock options that are worthless today be kept out of property division in a Ma divorce?
    Answer: Massachusetts courts will generally treat both unvested and vested stock options as marital property subject to a fair and equitable division upon divorce.
  • Can stock options be kept out of marital property division in a Massachusetts divorce?
    Answer:. The court will treat both vested and unvested stock options as marital property and subject to an equitable and fair division upon divorce. If you can show that your unvested stock options are for future services and your wife played no role in allowing you to acquire those options from your company, you may have a case to exclude those options from the marital property.
  • Is my spouse's, husband's, (or wife's) unvested stock options considered marital property in Massachusetts?
    Answer: In Massachusetts, the court may count your spouses unvested stock options as part of your marital property and estate thus subjecting it to equitable division in the event of a divorce.