Wife shares in husband’s future partnership profits

A husband’s interest in a business partnership that produced a consistent stream of profits “counted” as marital property, and his wife can receive a share of his interest at divorce, the highest court in Massachusetts recently ruled.

The husband was a partner in an investment advisory firm. Under the terms of the partnership, he received annual cash payments in the form of salary, incentives, return on capital and merit pay.

The wife claimed a share of the value of his partnership interest. The husband objected, arguing that his partnership interest wasn’t “property” since he had no right to the annual payments, which were merely an “expectancy” of future income. (State law says that a divorcing spouse has no right to share in a mere “expectancy” of a benefit.)

But the court ruled in the wife’s favor, saying the partnership interest had produced a steady stream of profits over a long enough period of time that a court could fairly determine how much it was worth at the time of the divorce.

In such a situation, the long and steady history of payments meant that future payments were more than a mere “expectancy,” the court said.