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What areas have the highest divorce rates in Massachusetts?

Overall, Massachusetts has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. Only seven states rank lower than we do. Almost 10 percent of all adults in Massachusetts are divorced, according to the Census Bureau, and another 2 percent are separated. However, the city and possibly even the zip code where you live just might have something to do with your chances of getting divorced. Some areas of Massachusetts have considerably higher divorce rates than the state average. Following are the 10 with the highest percentages of divorced adults: — One part of Fall River (the 02723 zip code) comes in first at 17.7 percent. — Hyannis is second at 15.8 percent. — N. Adams is close behind at 15.6 percent. — The 01604 zip code of Worcester is fourth at 14.4 percent. — Just behind it is Newburyport at 14.2. — Pittsfield ranks sixth at 13.7 percent — Gardner and Taunton are tied for seventh at 13.5 percent — Another section of Fall River (02720) is eighth at 13.4 percent — Amesbury and Athol are tied for ninth at 13.3 percent — The 01605 zip code of Worcester ranks tenth at 13 percent. Divorce rates can vary even within one city, as we see with Fall River and Worcester, let alone within a state. Even if you feel like no one else is in your shoes, you can be assured that many people are. Often having a therapist or even a support group to turn to during a divorce

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Securing your place as your child’s legal parent

Children come into the lives of same-sex couples in a variety of ways. Sometimes they adopt them together. In some cases, one spouse is artificially inseminated and gives birth. In other cases, particularly for male couples, a surrogate is hired to carried the baby. As with heterosexual couples, sometimes a child is already in the picture when they get married. Perhaps one person adopted a child on his/her own while still single. Whatever the case, it’s essential for anyone who is not the biological or adoptive parent to understand that under the law, they aren’t the child’s parent. That means that if the couple gets divorced or the biological or adoptive parent dies, the other parent may have no rights to custody, visitation or decisions regarding that child. Those things will be decided by a court if the parent pursues those rights. While Massachusetts courts have a history of being friendly to same-sex couples and parents, if you and/or your partner move to another state, you can’t necessarily count on the same level of recognition that gay parents have the same bonds with their kids as straight ones. In the current political climate, it’s possible that states could be given more latitude to make laws discriminating against gay couples. That’s why it’s wise to secure your status as your child’s legal parent. That involves either a formal adoption or a court order that is valid in all states that designates your parentage of the child. Many people think that the

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Why do you need a cohabitation agreement?

Many couples end up living together at some point to save money on rent and simply for convenience because they’re together all of the time anyway. After awhile, they may end up buying furniture together and splitting the cost of utilities and other household expenses. Too few consider drawing up a cohabitation agreement. However, if a couple has lived together and merged their finances for a period of time, a cohabitation agreement can protect them financially if they split up or if one of them passes away. Many people balk at the idea of a cohabitation agreement for the same reason the couples hesitate to get a prenuptial agreement. They don’t want to contemplate the possibility of a break-up, and assume that if they do go their separate ways, they can resolve property and other financial issues amicably. However, things can get ugly in a break-up and people’s decisions can be driven by emotion. That’s why it’s essential to have legal protections in place so that you don’t suffer financially. Remember that a break-up isn’t the only thing that can put you at risk. What if your partner is suddenly killed in a car accident? What evidence do you have that you paid for at least half of everything the two of you own and that you’re entitled to keep it? If you and your partner have decided to live together in anticipation of one day getting married or perhaps instead of getting married at all, you should consider drawing

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It’s essential to protect your credit during divorce

After a divorce, your credit will be more important than ever. Most people need to either rent an apartment or buy a new house. They often need to get some type of loan, such as for a new car. They may need to look for a job. That’s why it’s essential to take steps to protect your individual credit, which has likely become entwined with your spouse’s during the marriage, before, during and after the divorce. It’s essential to be cautious about what your spouse is doing with any joint credit cards and bank accounts. Consult with your attorney about the steps you need to take to start separating your accounts. In the meantime, keep an eye out for large unnecessary withdrawals by your spouse from your bank accounts as well as significant charges to your credit cards. Angry, vindictive spouses have been known to drain bank accounts and leave their husband or wife holding the bag for significant credit card debt. If you believe that your spouse is taking such actions, tell your attorney immediately so that he or she can work to put a stop to it. Another problem that can negatively impact your credit is if you and/or your spouse don’t make timely payments on your joint financial obligations. This includes not just mortgages, car loans and other joint debt, but things like utility bills. It’s essential that spouses determine who will continue to make these payments during the divorce process. Even if your spouse has agreed

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Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Provides Framework & Guidance for Applying Presumptive Alimony Durational Limits and Deviation Standards.

The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 establishes presumptive time limitation schedules for the payment of alimony based upon the time period in which the parties were married for marriages up to twenty years. The presumptive durational limits in the Alimony Reform Act apply retroactively to alimony awards that pre-date the Act. Divorced spouses who pay alimony may now file a complaint for modification with the appropriate probate and family court, seeking to terminate general term alimony once the durational limits have been met. Given the presumptive time limits on general term alimony, existing alimony orders which exceed the time limitations set forth in the statute must be terminated without a showing of additional material change in circumstances by the moving party, unless the judge finds that a deviation is warranted in the interest of justice. Once the durational limits have been met, the recipient spouse bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a deviation beyond the presumptive termination date set by Alimony Reform Act is required in the interests of justice. In the recent case of George v. George, 476 Mass 65 (2016), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts took the opportunity to set forth guidelines as to how a probate court judge should apply the interest of justice standard set out in the Alimony Reform Act. The court opined that in order to deviate from the presumptive limits, the judge hearing the case must find that the deviation is necessary by applying the factors

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Are you the victim of a malicious co-parent?

Divorce and custody battles can get heated and bitter. However, some parents take extreme actions to get revenge on their spouse by turning their children against him or her and in some cases even physically harming the kids. This behavior is often called “Malicious Parent Syndrome,” and in some circles, Malicious Mother Syndrome even though both men and women can be guilty of it. It’s not considered to be a mental disorder, but rather a type of behavior displayed by parents who seek to punish their former spouse or partner at the expense of their children. Parents are determined to have Malicious Parent Syndrome when they display the following behavior in the absence of a mental disorder: — Lie to their children about the other parent. — Deny communication or visitation with the other parent — Seek to alienate their children from their other parent, sometimes using others or even the courts to help them. Malicious Parent Syndrome can include such things as failing to tell the other parent about a child’s game or performance and then telling the child that his or her parent wasn’t interested in attending. Often these parents engage in this kind of alienation on a regular basis. In some cases, the acts are more extreme and even against the law. Parents have been known to deny their children food and tell that their mom or dad was providing enough money to buy it. In a particularly heinous case in 1983, a divorced man set fire

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You could be stuck with your spouse’s debt after divorce

A little over a decade ago, the federal government acted to prohibit joint consolidation of loans. However, for couples who opted to consolidate their loans, often to get a better interest rate, prior to that, separating out who owes what in a divorce can be difficult and sometimes impossible. One spouse can get stuck paying far more than he or she owes individually, particularly if the other spouse declares bankruptcy or doesn’t have the means to contribute to the repayment. With student loans, that can run into the tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars. Paying off one’s own student debt can take decades. However, if your name is on a consolidated loan, you could end up paying your ex-spouse’s debt or risk harm to your credit score. Some people have urged federal legislation that would allow student loans consolidated before such consolidation was banned to be split. However, even though this could impact thousands of people, experts say that’s likely not enough for legislators to consider it worth the time and effort to address the problem. People with joint consolidation loans can apply for repayment plans based on each person’s income. However, that requires the cooperation of both spouses, who must provide financial information. Estranged spouses may not want to cooperate if it would mean more money out of their pockets. In relationships where there has been domestic violence, the victim may well not want to have any contact with his or her abuser. According to

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How long can someone receive alimony under state law?

The days of lifetime alimony are generally a thing of the past. Women – who have commonly been the recipients of spousal support – are now more likely to be just as well- if not better-educated, than their husbands. They’re also likely to have spent a number of years in the workplace, even if they took some time off to have and rear children. Therefore, when an alimony agreement can’t be reached between divorcing spouses and a Massachusetts court has to step in and make the decision, the length of alimony payments generally is based on how long the marriage lasted. State law, however, provides some guidelines: — For marriages of 20 years or more, a judge can order alimony for whatever period he or she believes is fair. — For marriages that lasted up to 20 years, alimony can’t be mandated for more than 80 percent of the total months of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 18 years, alimony cannot be ordered for more than about 14 years. — For marriages that lasted up to a decade, the maximum length of alimony payments is 60 percent. — For marriages that lasted no more than five years, the maximum length of alimony payments is half of the duration of the marriage. Judges can increase the duration of alimony beyond these limits under a number of circumstances, such as if a person has a “clear and convincing” reason under the law for an extension. This can

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Helping minimize the tax consequences of divorce

Too often, divorcing couples don’t consider the tax consequences of their decisions regarding division of property and assets, spousal and child support and other financial matters. That’s why at David M. Gabriel & Associates, we work with a certified public accountant to help our clients avoid unnecessary tax liability and ensure that their marital property is properly valued so that it can be divided fairly. At David M. Gabriel & Associates, we understand the potential tax consequences that may arise as the result of divorce. We assist our clients in protecting the value of their marital property. We help clients properly evaluate assets and debts while formulating a plan to divide their property while taking advantage of tax benefits. Dividing money in retirement accounts can be particularly tricky. If it’s not done correctly, you could find yourself paying substantial and unnecessary tax penalties. A qualified domestic relations order is often used to divide money in pension plans, retirement accounts and annuities. Our attorneys are experienced at drafting QDROs that help our clients protect their hard-earned retirement savings in a divorce. Selling the family home is another aspect of many divorces that can have serious financial consequences. We help clients deal with potential capital gains or losses from the sale so that they aren’t faced with an unexpected tax burden when they pay their taxes the next year. We help them deal with issues that affect their taxes such as claiming dependents, reporting the receipt or payment of alimony, 529 college

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The importance of second parent adoption for same-sex couples

Here in Massachusetts, same-sex couples can adopt children together. However, often when couples enter a relationship, one of them already has a child — either one they’ve adopted or a biological child. That person is the child’s legal parent, while his or her partner has no legal rights as a parent unless he or she formally adopts the child. That’s known as second parent adoption. Many gay couples opt for second parent adoption not just to formalize the family unit, but to ensure that they have full parental rights. Adoption allows the formerly “non-legal” parent to make important medical and other decisions for a child. It also prevents them from losing the child to another family member if the other parent should die. It can be particularly crucial if the couple divorces or breaks up. If there’s no adoption agreement in place, as we’ve seen in cases that have played out throughout the country, a person who’s parented a child for virtually that child’s entire life can be prevented from having any sort of custody or visitation rights by an ex without court intervention in the matter. There are some strategies for people who find themselves fighting for the right to continue to parent their child after a divorce or break-up with the child’s legal parent. They need to provide evidence that they are “de facto” parents. This means that even though they have no biological or legal relationship to the child, they have cared for him or her, participated

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