More and more couples, facing divorce or legal separation, are already turning away from contentious court proceedings and long-lived litigation to legal mediation. Yet, there is a third option, separate from litigation and mediation: the collaborative divorce process. This method is only a few decades old, but it already boasts a worldwide network of legal practitioners. Mediation involves a couple meeting with a trained and licensed mediator to work out the terms of their divorce, consulting separately with their respective attorneys and financial professionals as needed. On the other hand, collaborative family law involves the two partners’ attorneys meeting directly and separately from their clients. This approach can be beneficial when clients do not trust themselves to talk directly with each other, or where there is a concern about spousal abuse. The “collaborative” in the collaborative divorce process refers to attorneys working together to create an agreement in the best interest of both their clients. Collaborative family law has a scope beyond that of divorce cases. It can also help cohabiting couples separate, or with post-divorce financial issues that arise such as college tuition or support for adult children. Though it is not widely known in public consciousness, collaborative family law practice is not fringe, nor is it risky. Thousands of families worldwide have benefited from the collaborative divorce process in a way they would not have if they had undergone mediation or litigation. The collaborative divorce process originated in the Midwest United States in the early 1990s. Over the
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the grounds for divorce depends on whether you decide on a no-fault or fault divorce. A no-fault divorce does not require parties to prove blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Either or both parties can file to begin the process for a no-fault divorce merely pleading that the marriage is beyond repair, and it is time to move on. The ground for this action is “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. A fault divorce is more involved. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you have the option of filing for divorce and claiming one person is to blame for the failure of the marriage. Common grounds for a fault divorce include cruelty and abuse, desertion for one year or more, adultery, impotence, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, failure to provide support or maintenance, and sentences of five years or more in a penal institution. Proving a fault divorce can be difficult. It is recommended the accusing party have solid proof of any fault grounds. Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any divorce action to understand your options. Contact our office to have your questions answered today.
Divorce is as much a financial blow as it is an emotional one. Alimony and child support may take a large, even unreasonable amount out of your monthly paycheck. Conversely, if your income is much smaller than your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s, or if you stayed at home to look after the family, you might find yourself in dire financial straits if you are not awarded a just settlement. You deserve a divorce settlement that takes into account your circumstances and your contributions to the marriage— and financial, logistical, or emotional. In this article, you will find three steps to follow to protect your assets in divorce and reach the settlement that is best for you. I. Be Open and Honest—and Savvy On your end, it is important not to hide any of your assets. Hiding your assets, or even appearing to hide your assets, may be used against you in court by your spouse and his or her counsel. In fact, most people’s attempts to hide their assets—by spending large amounts of cash—fail to improve their divorce outcomes. This is for two reasons. First, because Massachusetts family courts take into account income (earnings) rather than expenditure (spending). Second, because assets are defined as more than cash, excessive spending fails to protect non-liquid holdings like stocks, bonds, and even intellectual property. To understand the full scope of your assets, it is worth investing in professional help to you value and locate them. This way you can have the knowledge you need to II.
I was married and last lived in Massachusetts with my spouse but do not live in Massachusetts now, can I get divorced in Massachusetts?
While marriage laws are based on where the parties are at the time of marriage, divorce is based on where the parties live at the time of divorce. The answer to this question depends on how long you’ve resided outside of Massachusetts. While most states require you to be a resident before you may file divorce papers, the required length of residency varies per state. In most cases, it’s at least a minimum of six months. To file for divorce in the state of Massachusetts, one of the following must apply: You, or your estranged spouse, have lived in the state for a year, OR You lived with your spouse as a married couple in Massachusetts when your “grounds” for divorce happened. You should be aware that whatever court handles the initial divorce settlement has jurisdiction over all other residual issues such as child custody, child support, and any amendments to these arrangements. Because divorce laws can vary dramatically between the states, it is important to understand how residing in different locations may impact your right to marital property, child custody, alimony payments, and child support payments. Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any action to avoid any filing issues. Contact our office to have your questions answered today.
I’ve been estranged from my husband and want to remarry. Will Massachusetts grant me a Bifurcated divorce?
Bifurcation of divorce allows spouses to become legally divorced before the divorce details have been finalized. The option to remarry is the most common use of bifurcation; however, some couples seek a bifurcation to distinguish between marriage or pre-marriage property. In states that permit bifurcation, the court will handle the end of the marriage separately from the other divorce matters to permit the parties to remarry while providing additional time to resolve the remaining issues. This means all other resolutions such as child custody, visitation, support, distribution of property, and attorney fees are determined at a later date. Individual states such as Texas, New York, Michigan, and Arizona do not allow bifurcation in divorce cases. Even if you are living in Massachusetts, if you were married in a state that does not allow bifurcation, it will not be granted, and all issues of the divorce must be resolved before the divorce is finalized and the couple can claim legal single status. The process of bifurcation generally requires the filing of legal documents; however, both parties must agree to a bifurcated divorce before a court will grant one. There is an exception to this if the requesting party shows good legal cause for bifurcation and the court agrees that the action would not jeopardize the interests of the other party. You should consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any action, as there are certain restrictions in place that can affect the process in various ways.
In situations where a custodial parent wishes to relocate with a child, the court will determine whether child custody relocation is in the best interests of the child. While a parent is free to relocate out of state themselves without the child or with the permission of the other parent to take the child, the state of Massachusetts requires a judge ruling regarding relocation contested by a parent. Depending on the current custody agreement, the judge has two different processes for determining if relocation is in the child’s best interest. For joint or shared custody the judge will take into account the following: Whether or not the quality of the child’s life will be improved and if the child will endure similar benefits as the parent from the move. Adverse effects of altering visitation schedule and the extent to which the child’s relationship to the non-moving parent will be compromised. How the child’s emotional, physical, or developmental needs will be impacted by moving or not moving. If there is a way to create a new visitation order to allow the non-relocating parent to maintain a close and enduring bond with the child. In the event a parent with primary custody is requesting relocation, the judge will apply what is known as the “real advantage” standard as the child’s well-being is more closely intertwined with the parent’s welfare in these situations. In this case, the judge will examine evidence of economic benefits, availability of extended family, and the desire to relocate
Under Massachusetts’s law, marital property is divided equitably. Massachusetts defines “marital property” as any property—be it income, assets, real estate, or everyday items—that comes into possession of the couple or either of the spouses individually during the course of the marriage. This could include trade secrets, stock holdings, and artistic creations. For individuals of high net worth, or those who make their living by possessing valuable intellectual property, it is especially valuable to have a prenuptial agreement in place to keep this property separate from that held in common in the marriage. In deciding what is an “equitable” division of property, the court will consider a number of factors. These include if the divorce is no-fault or at-fault, the relative incomes of the parties involved, and the financial contributions made by each party during the marriage, including contributions made as a home maker and caregiver. If you are seeking to protect your hard-earned assets from someone who wants more than his or her fair share, or if the value of your contributions to the marriage and household are being downplayed, call our office today to discuss your case. We’ll help you find peace of mind.
If I make my living in the arts, does my spouse have a fifty percent share in rights to my artworks and the income they produce?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that artistic works, along with patents, trade secrets, and many other “intangible” properties, constitute intellectual property. And intellectual property, in Massachusetts, is marital property. No, in that Massachusetts does not assume “equal” (fifty-fifty) distribution of property between partners at the dissolution of a marriage, but rather “equitable.” Intellectual property falls under the requirement for equitable distribution. In dividing something intangible, such as the rights to artistic works, Massachusetts family judges will, as with other forms of property, assess the relative contribution of partners to the marriage financially, emotionally, and logistically. Intellectual property has two sorts of value to be divided. The first is the rights to income from future royalties on a work or idea. Second, the present monetary value of a work or idea. For creators or inventors, it may be wise to include provisions in a prenuptial agreement to protect your intellectual property. If you need help drawing up a prenuptial agreement, or if you are currently involved in a divorce without one, call our office today for expertise in handling intellectual property division.
When most of us think of divorce, we think of custody battles, endless legal filings, and costly court proceedings. The whole process of divorce can seem more daunting, and perhaps even more painful, than the emotional aspects of a marriage’s dissolution. But what if there was another way? Another, more humane, more gentle, less expensive way? There is: mediation. Not every divorce is contested. If both parties agree that the marriage should end, it is a much simpler process than when one seeks to prevent the divorce, or when it is necessary to assign fault to one partner or another. What remains for the spouses is to agree on the division of property, alimony allocation, and child custody arrangements. By meeting with a divorce mediator, such as one of our experienced family law attorneys, couples can work out the terms of their divorce face-to-face. The mediation process can save divorcing couples time, money, and heartache. Once an agreement is reached by both parties, an attorney can help with filing a petition for divorce with the courts. The court will then review the property distribution agreement signed by the divorcing parties. Once approved by the court, the divorce will be final. The whole process from petition to grant of divorce could be only a month, as opposed to a months-long legal battle. If you believe that divorce mediation is right for you, call our office today to arrange a consultation.
A ‘gray divorce’ refers to a split that happens between an older husband and wife, often after many years of marriage. The ‘gray’ in ‘gray divorce’ refers to the color of the divorcing couple’s hair. With more and more couples over fifty, or even over sixty-five, choosing to part ways, the phenomenon has also earned the names of ‘silver splitter’ and ‘diamond divorces.’ While it might be unsettling to think that forty years of marriage is no guarantee for many more, it is necessary to think about the particular issues that arise when senior citizens divorce. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, gray divorces do not typically come about as part of a man’s midlife crisis. Rather, they are an outgrowth of advancements in medicine and changes in society. With people living longer than ever before, it is getting harder to “grin and bear it” in a lackluster marriage, and people are less tied to ideas of how senior citizens “should” spend their retirement. With children grown and living on their own, gray divorces do not involve acrimonious custody disputes. However, for well-established couples, there will be extra concern for the division of property and alimony awards. With couples approaching retirement, or already retired, issues of income and savings are critical to both parties’ well-being. If you or someone you love are involved in a ‘gray divorce’ situation, call our office today to speak with skilled family law attorneys about the best course of action.