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Division of Assets

Division of Assets

Does Massachusetts divide property equally between the spouses during a divorce?

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.

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Using Marital Assets to Pay for your Divorce

Can I use money from my joint account to pay for my Divorce? Can I get my spouse to pay for my divorce? The financial part of divorce can be overwhelming to many clients. Many clients did not handle the finances in their marriage, did not work during their marriage, or are generally unaware of what they can and can’t do with joint funds during divorce proceedings. In Massachusetts, when a party files for divorce an automatic financial restraining order is used with the summons that is served on the other party. The automatic restraining order restricts either party from selling, transferring, encumbering, assigning, removing or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, belonging to or acquired by, either party. However, there are few notable exceptions to this rule, one being that either party can use funds for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in connection with the action. This means that any joint funds could be used within reason to pay for your divorce. That being said, we often suggest that if a client knows they are going to file for divorce, that they set aside some money into a personal account for fees and costs prior to filing for divorce. This method prevents a potentially contentious argument about using money directly for your joint accounts. Additionally, clients often ask if they can have their spouse pay for the divorce. If there is a large income disparity, the moving party can motion the court pursuant to M.G.L.C

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A prenup can simplify Massachusetts property division

When a couple is preparing to begin a life together as husband and wife, many consider drafting a prenuptial agreement. Once considered to be solely in the realm of the rich and famous, these contracts are becoming commonplace within many marriages, regardless of wealth. A prenuptial agreement can greatly simplify the property division portion of a Massachusetts divorce, in the event that a marriage does not work out. In order to create a prenup that will withstand any future legal challenge, there are a few necessary precautions that should be taken at the onset. A prenup should be clearly drafted and easy for all parties to understand. It should outline a fair distribution of assets in the event of a divorce, and not make any extreme or unbalanced demands. Finally, a prenuptial agreement should be just that: an agreement, not a condition of marriage. Should one party try to challenge a prenup, the matter will likely go before a judge. Judges will review the agreement to ensure that it was created as an outline of how assets are to be divided in the event of divorce. Stipulations or conditions that are unfair or heavily biased toward one party are likely to be thrown out. In the event that the entire document is found to be invalid, the property division process will revert back to the guidelines of the state. The best way to create a prenuptial agreement that is fair and enforceable is to work together to structure the Massachusetts

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Property division can lead to Massachusetts condo disputes

As some Massachusetts residents know, having a vacation condo is a luxury couples enjoy. However, when a couple decides to divorce, the shared condo can become a thorn in the property division process. If the condominium is not the primary residence, then charges and fees associated with the shared property can complicate property division. Condominiums are not often the main place of residence for many couples as they are more commonly used as vacation spaces or rental property. Nevertheless, fees must be paid to building owners to maintain the space. When a couple is divorcing, building owners can often be burdened with a lack of fee payment. If the issue of who will be sole owner of a condo is unclear, one party may not wish to continue to pay maintenance fees on a place they do not live and may not own after the divorce. Building owners may face their own legal issues if a divorcing couple cannot come to an agreement about a shared condo. Owners may need legal paperwork should one individual wish to keep the other title holder out of the shared space. Additionally, if the parties cannot come to terms with fee payments, building owners may have to take action for nonpayment, which could include eviction or suing for compensation. Property division can become exceedingly complicated when third parties are involved. Making the divorce and division process as painless as possible is usually the route most parties would like to take. Understanding the rights and

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Investing the proceeds from property division

Once the dust settles and the papers are all signed, many newly divorced individuals find that they have a new set of decisions to make. Among these is what to do with the proceeds gained from the property division process. For Massachusetts resident who are emerging from divorce, it may be tempting to put off making additional decision, especially if the divorce was contentious or lengthy. However, letting one’s divorce proceeds simply sit in the bank is never the most financially savvy option. The money that comes as a result of divorce is best put to use in building financial security for one’s future. Whether that means establishing emergency savings, investing in a retirement plan or purchasing a mix of stocks and other investment vehicles, the choices made at this stage can greatly affect one’s finances in the years to come. In addition, there is a great deal of benefit gained from taking a proactive stance toward one’s finances, especially for parties who were not involved in the financial management aspects of the former marriage. Retirement planning should play a role in how divorce proceeds are allocated. In some cases, divorced spouses who were married for at least 10 years can claim benefits from the Social Security record of their former spouse. This is not, however, a comprehensive retirement plan, and should be considered as a means of supplemental retirement income only. The best method of determining how to invest for retirement is to asses existing finances and then estimate

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Puppy love complicates property division in Massachusetts

Massachusetts couples who are beginning the divorce process are often caught off guard with the sheer volume of details that need to be ironed out. Issues of property division and child custody usually top the list of priorities, but there are many smaller details that must be dealt with as well. Splitting one household into two, and working out which party will retain which assets, can be a very complicated procedure. Many spouses make assumptions about where the family pets will reside following a split. They are often surprised, however, when they learn that the other spouse holds opposing opinions on the matter. When couples cannot agree about where the pets will live, they often ask a judge to decide. Many states treat pets as marital property, and some judges will refuse to become involved in decisions over where they will live following the divorce. Others may address the issue, working out a detailed ‘custody’ arrangement that splits time with the pets between the two spouses. However, it is important to understand that no judge can make a truly comprehensive determination about what is in the best interests of a pet, simply because the judge is not familiar with the animal or its relationship with the parties. As with most property division issues surrounding a Massachusetts divorce, the best resolution is one in which the parties work together to find a solution that works best for them. It is important to try and keep the pet’s best interests at the

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Drawn-out, contentious high net-worth divorce finally settled

A high net-worth divorce case can be one of the most complicated cases for Massachusetts couples. In some cases, there are things which a partner is willing to part with easily. However, when the assets to be divided are substantial, as is the case for one couple, a high net-worth divorce case can quickly become more complicated and can take more time to determine the particulars. The couple was married for 15 years before deciding to split. After filing a divorce petition in October 2007, they began to confront the division of their assets they accrued over their marriage. In total, they had an estimated $71 million in assets. At first, it seemed as if separation, though not an easy task, would be relatively straight-forward. However, as the couple continued negotiating, they encountered certain problems. For instance, several allegations surfaced that the wife allegedly had an affair and purportedly was involved in illegal investigations. However, these and other issues were apparently resolved in a settlement, and it is said that the divorce will finally move forward. By April 2012, they had successfully split $46 million, or 70 percent of their assets and are currently discussing lingering money disputes. High net-worth divorce cases can be emotionally draining and understandably expensive for any couple, whether in Massachusetts or elsewhere. For those involved, an attempt to openly communicate with one another may pay dividends by reaching a reasonable settlement of all outstanding issues. In this way, even though the decision may be difficult

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Finding fault in divorce — go “where no one has gone before”

There is a reason why Americans choose to make the concept of a no-fault divorce part of their culture. While some might argue that no-fault divorces make it too easy to dissolve a marriage, it eliminates the process of assigning blame to one party which often results in long drawn-out proceedings with only bitter feelings tied in. For Salem residents, a high net-worth divorce can lead to a complex division of property. While the state of Massachusetts is no fault divorce state, it is also an equitable distribution state; meaning that a judge will decide what a fair distribution of property is — not necessarily a 50/50 split. Interestingly, the people of Great Britain are starting to see the benefits of no-fault divorces, as well. The Brits voted down the idea of a no-fault divorce back in 1996, but, over a decade later, many British residents are starting to rethink their stance on the issue. This likely is because of the petty arguments that have arisen during divorce proceedings, all in an effort to assign blame. Across the pond, in an effort to illustrate the extremes couples go to in order to put an end to their marriage, one woman complained that her husband requested that she dress up like a Klingon — a character depicted in the television show “Star Trek”. He also requested that she speak to him in the Klingon language. Yet another man argued that his wife purposely served him tuna casserole on a frequent basis

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Residency requirements open doors for same-sex divorces

A complex legal issue that is popping up in different states and continues to be addressed in the courts was discussed here previously on the blog. We have news about another new important case involving same-sex marriage and divorce laws. A Rhode Island man is in the midst of trying to divorce his husband after getting married in Massachusetts. Because of Rhode Island’s current laws pertaining to same-sex marriage and divorce, he was forced to move to another state to pursue a divorce. The man decided to move across the state line to Massachusetts and live there for a year before he would be able to file for divorce. However, there is new legislation pending in Rhode Island, according to a local media report that would simplify this matter for people with the same situation. If the new Rhode Island bill passes, any couple could file for a divorce in Rhode Island even if their marriage is not recognized as legal in the state. This would solve the problem faced by same-sex couples who jump state lines in order to establish residency so they can pursue a divorce and not be trapped in marital limbo. Although Rhode Island is not a gay marriage state, it did pass a civil union law in 2011. That piece of legislation provided a legal means for dissolution of a civil union. Whether a person is dissolving a civil union or seeking a divorce from a spouse, he or she will need to ensure that,

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Divorced man stuck with Madoff-scheme losses

Divorced couples in Massachusetts may believe their final court order settles everything. At the end of the dissolution process the court attempts to ensure that there has been an equitable distribution of assets. However, the court order is not always the end of the line for divorced spouses. A divorced spouse may hire an attorney and bring a matter before an appeals court when something changes in the case. An ex-spouse might believe there is a substantial change in information about assets that were divided and hire a lawyer to take a new action, such as seeking relief from an appeals court. Such was the case in a New York appeals court. A recent media report summarized how a panel of six judges for the New York Court of Appeals ruled in a divorced man’s high asset divorce case. He argued that he and his wife both made a mistake in believing their $5.4 million investment in a Bernard Madoff fund was valid. A panel of six judges discarded the man’s claim that his ex-wife should return $2.7 million she had gotten in “an equitable distribution of property” in their divorce. The man, an attorney, must now live with the financial losses that his Madoff investment incurred. The fund went bankrupt only two years after the couple’s divorce was finalized. The judges decided that the divorced man could have made the decision to cash in his investment in the Ponzi scheme before the financial troubles in 2008. Also, his ex-wife

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