Massachusetts Agencies

Judgment Effectuating a Conveyance

Deeds and Conveyances

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, Section 34A provides:

Whenever a judgment for alimony shall be made . . . directing that a deed . . . of any real estate . . . [be given] . . . the judgment itself [after being recorded] shall operate to vest title to the real estate . . . in the party entitled thereto . . . as fully and completely as if such deed . . . had been duly executed by the party directed to make it. (Emphasis added).

The statute assumes that the judgment is for alimony. It is true that the decree in this case refers to the statute, but the decree does not state (nor is it clear to me from the other documents) that the judgment was for alimony. (The reference to the statute does not in my mind result in the conclusion that the judgment in fact was for alimony. The argument, in such case, becomes circuitous).

There are other statutes that also address the question of a judgment passing the title to property:

G.L.c. 183, §43. Whenever a final decree in equity shall be made by the supreme judicial, superior, probate or land court directing that a deed, conveyance or release of any real estate or interest therein shall be made, and the party directed to make such deed, conveyance or release does not duly execute it within the time specified in the decree, the decree itself shall operate to vest title to the real estate or interest in the party entitled thereto by the decree as fully and completely as if such deed, conveyance or release had duly been executed by the party directed to make it.

G.L.c. 183, §44. The recording or registration of a duly certified copy of such decree, attested by the clerk, assistant clerk, register or assistant register, recorder or deputy recorder, as the case may be, of the court where made, in the registry of deeds of the district where said real estate is situated, shall have the same force and effect as if a duly executed deed, conveyance or release had so been recorded or registered.

Courts have the authority under Rule 70 of the Rules of Civil Procedure to direct parties to sell, as noted in the statute, or actually make the conveyance on its own and thereby "vest" title in another.

Note, however, that the case of Dee v. Dee 1 Mass.App.Ct. 320, 96 N.E.2d 521 (1973) distinguishes the application of separate support statutes from divorce statutes where the issue is one relating to the forced sale of property.

Under these statutes the conveyance is not complete until the decree is actually recorded. In True v. Wisniowski, 13 Mass.App.Ct. 501, the probate court ordered the husband to convey to the wife. A creditor attached the property in the name of the husband before the decree was recorded. The court noted that the attaching creditor "did not have actual knowledge of the terms of the plaintiff's divorce decree at the time of the attachment," and held that the equitable rights created under the statute (G.L.c. 208, §34A) are expressly made subject to the provisions for recording of notice.