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.
Massachusetts General Law (MGL) 208 covers divorce. This chapter of the laws of the Commonwealth describe everything from the definition of divorce to alimony, child support, and custody issues. Section 31A pertains to visitation and custody in the best interest of a child and covers abuse of parent or child. The best interest of the child is the primary determining factor in awarding custody. An abusive parent may not be awarded sole custody, shared legal custody, or shared physical custody. Custody arrangements must be in the best interest of the child. If one of the parents in a divorce or custody dispute has a history of being an abusive parent, then the court may deny custody or visitation or place restrictions. The court may order supervised visitation for the abusive parent. The abusive parent may be ordered to attend a certified batterer’s treatment program. They are often ordered to refrain from alcohol and other controlled substance during and up to 24 hours before a scheduled visitation. They may also be restricted from overnight visitation. The court may impose any other condition to provide for the safety of the child. Restraining orders are often issued when there is a request for protection and there is concern for the safety of one parent and/or a child. The mere existence of a restraining order (209a) does not serve as proof of abuse or define a parent as abusive. Evidence must be presented that shows a pattern or serious incident of abuse has actually
This is often a question that clients ask us. The simple answer is no, we advise against it. But you may be wondering why? We advise bringing a significant other or your children to your court hearing for a multitude of reasons. For one, children are often the subject of the hearing and it would be inappropriate and unfair to the child to be witness to the hearing. If the child is not subject to the hearing, we still advise against having them accompany you because you need to give your full attention to your attorney’s and the hearing. We further suggest that that boyfriends and girlfriends are left at home. Again, in contentious cases there are often accusations thrown about regarding your significant other, to have said person present would potentially lead to more conflict and distraction. So remember, as much as we want our clients to have support, it is better for your case if the crowd of supporters is restricted.
When a Massachusetts couple is engaged, the last thing on their minds may be 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 of divorce. Unfortunately, statistics show that over 50% of marriages will not survive. Couples walking down the aisle for a second or third time, should be aware that this number swells to 67%. 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 slowing 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 a person’s life when retirement is on the horizon. Spouses may also be experiencing age related increased costs associated with health care. The best
Although statistics suggest that the rate of divorce may be stabilizing across the US, one demographic is experiencing in increase in divorce rates. Americans aged 50 and older in Massachusetts and elsewhere are turning to divorce now, more than ever before. A professor at a leading university asserts that in 1990, less than one out of every ten people who filed for divorce were age 50 or older; today, that number has skyrocketed to one in four. Although the reasons for filing for divorce at a later age may differ for each individual, older adults who are ending their marriages share some commonalities. One is a more complex division of marital property, as each spouse may have accumulated a diverse set of assets over the course of their lives. Sociologists suggest that there are many factors that lead older Americans to seek divorce. Many have stayed in lackluster marriages as their children have grown to adulthood, believing that prolonging the split would be easier on their children. Another approach on aging suggests that 50 may be the new 30. Unhappy spouses recognize that they have the potential for longevity, recognizing that there may be a long road ahead plagued by unhappiness in their existing marriage. Additionally, more women are now engaged within the workforce, and are no longer financially dependent upon their husbands for financial stability. The American Association of Retired Persons supports this theory, pointing out that women over age 50 initiate divorce more often than men. It was
Massachusetts law provides some specific guidelines for the court’s consideration regarding property division in a divorce proceeding. Since Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, the court is charged with facilitating a settlement that is deemed fair to both parties. This approach differs from a community property division in that “fair” may not necessarily mean “equal.” When a mutually satisfactory division of assets cannot be reached in a divorce proceeding, the court first must determine what assets and debts are to be considered marital property. It must then proceed with an appropriate valuation of that property. Once the property is valued, the court then issues a ruling setting forth a division of property deemed to be equitable. Several factors must be considered by the court in its decision. These factors are defined by Massachusetts statutes, including the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station and occupation of the parties, the amounts and sources of income, vocational skills and future earning capacities, employability, estate, the liabilities and needs of each party and the amount and duration of any alimony awarded. Additionally, the present and future needs of dependent children must be considered. The court may also consider each party’s contributions with regard to the respective estates, the contributions of each party as homemaker and other specific considerations such as health coverage. The stress of a divorce proceeding can be considerable. Seeking the advice of family law attorney, David M. Gabriel and Associates may
Social media, Facebook in particular, has become an integrated part of the lives of many Massachusetts residents. Some of us have become so accustomed to sharing our lives online that we update and post almost automatically, with very little thought given to what could happen to that information once it is out of our hands. However, when it comes to issues surrounding one’s divorce, posting is not the best policy, and can actually have serious ramifications for issues such as child support and alimony. Even if you think that your former partner does not or cannot see your Facebook activity, this is not the place to air your grievances about the marriage or divorce. If you make comments online that can be proven false, such as claiming that your ex is not meeting his or her child support obligations, the other party can sue you for libel. Also consider the long-term ramifications; if you post negative things about the other spouse and he or she loses a job because of it, their ability to pay child support or alimony could be severely limited, and they could approach the court to ask for a reduced amount. Another thing to remember is that Facebook is forever. What you write, can almost always be recovered and brought to the attention of a court, even if you have erased it from your news feed. That heightens the risk that a child may one day read the negative things you said about the other parent.
Because couples in Massachusetts are not immune to potentially going through divorce, it is important to understand what separation could mean if such a decision is made. Financial needs will differ after a couple separates, and there will be many agreements that will need to be made in terms of alimony and other aspects. As a result, it is important for parties to understand their financial situation before divorce takes place. Bank accounts are one area that should be noted before separation. This examination will allow a party to understand how much money is in those accounts and what division of those funds could mean for their situation. If divorce has been decided upon, opening a bank account that is not shared with the other party is a wise step. Examining the debt that could be taken on after divorce is also an action that an individual may wish to carry out. Attempting to diffuse any accumulated debt before the separation would be ideal. However, many individuals know that it is not always easy to repay balances quickly, and therefore, preparing a payment plan for after divorce could be beneficial. Financial needs are important to assess at any time, but it can make a considerable difference when divorce is on the horizon. Understanding the current state of finances will help prepare for the future and how those funds will be impacted by alimony, child support and property division. Having the right information on such issues can play a role in
If you have brought considerable assets into your marriage, or your marriage has lasted long enough for you to accumulate substantial wealth and material possessions, the ending of the marriage by divorce can be an even more stress-filled endeavor than it is ordinarily. It is not just accurately assessing the dollar value that can be problematic; you can also have a contentious experience with your soon-to-be ex-spouse as to who is entitled to what. You may have a nice home, considerable liquid assets in a variety of accounts, a substantial investment portfolio, real estate holdings other than your home, pensions and other retirement accounts, and so on. If you have worked closely with an accountant to protect your assets, you might also have structured your holdings to minimize your tax consequences, but in an asset division this can add to your potential headaches. Helping our clients to understand equitable distribution in Massachusetts, particularly with high-value assets on the line, is something that we at David M. Gabriel & Associates have extensive experience with. We can help you to carefully assess each asset’s actual value, and to navigate specific circumstances like assets connected to a business or properly determining whether an asset is a marital or a separate one. Your divorce may be amicable, but complex asset division can still become a source of friction when it comes to reaching a fair settlement. You will want a law firm to represent you that diligently represents your interests. To learn more about
Deciding to file for a divorce is a major decision for most couples. With many online solutions available, it is not uncommon for Massachusetts couples to think that they can handle their own divorce. However, they are often unprepared for the many stumbling blocks they may face without the guidance and support of an experienced divorce attorney. When minor children are involved, child custody and parenting plan agreements must be reached and submitted for court approval. Another area of a divorce that may prove to be more challenging than initially thought is property division. Under Massachusetts laws of equitable distribution, couples may decide on how to divide their assets, as long as it is done in a fair manner and carries the approval of the court. This is where unexpected contention often arises. After navigating these aspects, spousal support and child support will have to be determined. In Massachusetts, regardless of whether a divorce attorney is retained or a couple decides to handle their divorce themselves, there are specific waiting periods. The waiting periods between filing the divorce complain and the court hearing are dependent on the type of divorce filing (contested or uncontested). After the final hearing, another waiting period must be observed before a final divorce decree is issued. Considering the complexity of all the issues, many Massachusetts couples choose to utilize the services of an experienced divorce attorney to avoid stumbling blocks. David M. Gabriel and Associates can guide each client to reach a divorce agreement that