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Court issues ruling for complex property division case

Fortunately, many Massachusetts couples are able to reach an agreement on their own as an alternative to prolonged litigation and court involvement. However, divorce can often produce such intense feelings of hurt and anger, which causes feuding during the litigation process. As one couple discovered, warring through litigation can be expensive, but it can also affect the amount awarded during property division.

Reportedly, the petition for divorce followed a domestic dispute that became physical, ending a 19-year marriage in 2007. The parties share two children, and the divorce has lasted nearly seven years. The case began gathering public attention from the start, taking on increasing interest when the wife accused her estranged husband of squandering large amounts of money on his girlfriend while allegedly neglecting the financial needs of his hearing-impaired daughter.

The negative exposure drastically affected the man's ability to attract clients and reduced the value of his interest in the law firm in which he was a partner. Though the woman had a right to complain about her husband's actions, the court ruled that, based on the level of negative attention surrounding the divorce -- largely caused by the wife, his ability to earn money was adversely affected. As a result, she was only awarded 17 percent of his interest in the law firm.

It is uncommon for courts to make such a seemingly inequitable award unless special circumstances are present. In this case, the wife's actions negatively affected her husband's livelihood; therefore, the court curtailed her right to share in her ex-husband's earnings. When feuding couples are unable to reach an agreement on their own, the court is responsible for final decisions involving property division. In Massachusetts, assets obtained during the course of the marriage are equitably distributed between the parties, depending on numerous factors.

Source: verdict.justia.com, "The High Price of Badmouthing One's Spouse During Divorce", Joanna L. Grossman, April 22, 2014

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