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Property division can be more complicated the second time around

When a Massachusetts couple is engaged, the last thing on their minds is how their property would be divided in the event of a divorce. No one want to start a marriage by planning for the details of property division in the event that the union does not last. However, statistics show that one out of every two first marriages will not last. For couples walking down the aisle a second or third time, that number swells to 67 percent. Making matters worse, spouses who face a second divorce are more likely to take a greater financial hit the second time around.

One reason that a second or later divorce is potentially more financially damaging is simple: there is often less to be divided. One or both spouses may still be paying alimony or child support from a previous marriage. In addition, many people see a decline in their financial stability when a prior divorce forces the sale of assets such as a home or investments. There could also be tax implications as a result of selling off assets to settle a divorce.

Factor in a lethargic economy, a slow job market and a persistent decline in home values, and it becomes easy to see how a second divorce can cause more financial damage than the first. The end of a second or third marriage may also come at a stage in life where retirement is on the horizon. Other spouses may be beginning to experience increased costs associated with health care.

As is so often the case, the best approach is prevention. Having a carefully constructed prenuptial agreement can make a second divorce less complicated, and can serve to protect assets that are brought into the marriage as well as outline issues of inheritance and division of marital assets.

Fortunately, Massachusetts spouses who did not execute a prenuptial agreement can still find mutually agreeable solutions to property division if both parties are committed to working together. The key is to maintain a business-like approach, even when emotions run high. The decisions that are made now will have lasting implications for the future stability of both spouses, and the future should be the focus, not the past.

Source: Reuters, "Second divorces multiply the cost and pain," Geoff Williams, July 12, 2012

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