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property division

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property division

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.

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Gray divorces: Why they happen and how to avoid them

Somewhere around 2007, a new phrase entered the vocabulary of the divorce attorney: “gray divorce.” It was once virtually unheard of for couples who had been together for decades to divorce, no matter how decayed the bonds of their matrimony — now, it’s becoming much more commonplace. Some divorce attorneys think they know the reason for the trend — it’s really as simple as the fact that human longevity has increased. People are living longer and staying healthier well into their seventh and eighth decades. Only a few generations past, someone who was aged 60 or older might decide that the hassle of a divorce was pointless, given how much longer he or she expected to live an active lifestyle. Now, people approaching their 60s are seeing a future for themselves with another 20-25 healthy, active years and deciding that they don’t want to spend the last 20-25 years of their lives in a miserable marriage. Hopefully, you can avoid joining their ranks by following a few simple pieces of advice; — Don’t assume that just because you’re okay with the marriage that your spouse is also okay with the marriage. Talk about where you each are, emotionally, as you start to approach those “gray” years. — Take a frank assessment of your romantic life. Is it what you need it to be? Have all the other hassles of life gotten in the way and made you forget to pay attention to that part of your relationship? It’s time to

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Immigrants tying the knot after signing a prenup

Because the current political climate has taken a darker turn toward immigrants, a lot of foreign nationals are “tying the knot” with their American brides and grooms almost impulsively. Marrying a United States citizen is one of the quickest ways to achieve your lawful permanent resident status, or green card. However, an impulsive marriage could raise red flags with immigration officials, especially if it includes a prenuptial agreement. Immigration attorneys say that many of the international couples who are rushing their weddings are also getting prenups — just in case the marriages don’t work out — to protect their assets. Prenups aren’t unusual, especially for professional couples with considerable wealth. About 14 percent of couples have them. A prenup would seem like a reasonable thing to do, especially if a couple is marrying after a whirlwind romance or a long-distance love affair. However, most of those couples don’t have to worry about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent investigating whether or not the marriage is a fraud designed to get around restrictive immigration laws. If a marriage is deemed a sham, the consequences can be serious — it could include deportation, the inability to return to the United States or even incarceration. One of the many things that ICE agents look at when they determine if a marriage is real is whether or not the couple has jointly-held assets and mingled their funds. A prenup may make that difficult to do because it’s essentially designed to keep that from happening

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Large donation leads to accusations of property division fraud

Hidden assets are a major concern for divorce lawyers. Not only are they illegal, they can end up causing major headaches down the road. That’s exactly what lies behind the troubles facing the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. The Institute was gifted a total of $63 million over the years by it’s largest benefactor — which certainly has earned him some significant accolades that he must value far more than the money. Unfortunately, it seems like a portion of those funds were part of the marital assets that he actively hid from his wife at the time of their divorce. Now, she would like her portion paid back — which could put the Institute in a crunch if it has already spent or allocated the money to one of its programs. It will also likely tarnish the reputation of its benefactor permanently, despite the size of his donations. The Institute’s benefactor and his wife of 50 years divorced in 2010. During the process, the benefactor stated that he did not have any offshore accounts — conveniently forgetting about a tidy $4.5 million tucked away in a Swiss Account. That $4.5 million became part of a larger donation — $40 million — transferred to the Institute in 2014. The Institute’s benefactor may have thought that he was safe from his ex-wife’s scrutiny by then, or that the money would be able to transfer undetected, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Perhaps he thought that it was simply too late, now that

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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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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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Should you get a postnuptial agreement?

Most attorneys recommend that couples draw up a prenuptial agreement before they get married. Even if they don’t have significant resources or debts going into the marriage, a prenup can detail how marital assets will be divided in case of a break-up. If you don’t have a prenup, you can draw up a postnuptial agreement at any time after the marriage. Like a prenup, a postnup can designate how property and other assets will be divided in case of a divorce. Postnups are more likely to contain stipulations about spousal and child support than prenups. Some people also include language regarding what additional assets or support a spouse may have to part with if he or she is unfaithful during the marriage. Many couples decide to get a postnup if the fortunes of one spouse change significantly, making him or her by far the wealthier. Sometimes, one spouse seeks a postnup upon starting a business in order to protect it. If one spouse decides to take time out of the workforce to raise children, he or she may seek a postnup as financial protection if the marriage ends. In other cases, couples realize that they have very different attitudes toward money, and one spouse wants to protect his or her assets. Some couples draw up a postnup if their marriage is troubled. However, it’s best to draw up this agreement while your marriage is still healthy. It’s best that both spouses have their own attorneys when getting a postnup, just

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Intellectual property is becoming more common in prenups

Prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular among millennials who are entering into marriage. They’ve grown up in a generation where many of their parents have gotten divorced — sometimes after long, bitter battles over property. Therefore, it’s only natural that they’re aware of the possibility of their marriage ending, even though divorce rates in general are in decline. However, a primary incentive for a prenup for young couples may be something more than protecting traditional property, assets and inherited wealth. They’re more likely now to include intellectual property. The last couple of decades have seen the rise of tech entrepreneurs who became multi-millionaires or even billionaires because they had an idea for a software program, an app or a website that became wildly popular. Many people entering into marriage want to protect their right to the fruits of their ideas — even if they haven’t thought of them yet. Prenups can also include intellectual property such as music, screenplays, books and other works of art. They can include ideas for unique start-up businesses. As one divorce attorney notes, prenup stipulations can go “into the future for things that are not yet in existence.” Of course, placing a value on an idea that someone hasn’t even thought of yet can be tricky. However, an experienced Massachusetts family law attorney can help you incorporate language into your prenup that will help you ensure that, in the event of a divorce, you can keep the monetary benefits you’re entitled to for your ideas

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Divorcing at an older age

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

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What courts consider marital property

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

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