property division

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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Complex asset distribution in a divorce

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

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Financial planning during separation is essential

While finances are an integral part of most divorce settlements, the process of divorce can take some time. Meanwhile, if you and your spouse are living apart, your finances are in limbo. This includes everything from joint bank accounts to mortgage payments and other household expenses to your kids’ needs. Even if you and your estranged spouse are getting along well enough to work out these things between yourselves, it’s a good idea to have your Massachusetts family law attorney help you work out a formal agreement — particularly if only one person is the wage earner or has a significantly higher income than the other. That way you have some assurance that necessary expenses will be covered even if the divorce turns rancorous. This agreement can also help as you determine what type of settlement to seek in the divorce. This involves some budget planning. If you’re going to be living separately during the divorce proceedings, as most people do, you each need to create separate budgets to cover your housing, food and utilities. Unfortunately, some couples need to stay together under one roof for a while because they simply can’t afford two households. However, if that situation is untenable, it’s best to work out a way to manage two homes, even if it means cutting back on other spending. It’s best to start separating your bank accounts as well as your credit cards and other debt. As long as your name is on a credit card, he or

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Stock options, though easily overlooked, could be valuable

People who get divorced often think about their rights regarding company-controlled assets. This doesn’t just mean a regular paycheck, but could also mean benefits or a pension plan. One thing they may often overlook, though, is the value of stock options. Stock options typically can be used in the first decade that the employee is with the company. Essentially, they mean that the employee can purchase stock in the company at the date of his or her choosing, buying the stock for the price it is at when the options are offered. This can be very valuable, and this asset may need to be split during a divorce just like anything else. For example, the shares may be worth $10 each when the option is offered. Ten years later, if the company is doing well, the shares may be worth $20 each. The employee can then buy these $20 shares for $10 each, instantly doubling his or her money. This eliminates the risk to the employee, as he or she can stand to see the stock lose significant value and still come out ahead overall. The employee also has 10 years of data to predict what the stock will do. If you’re heading toward divorce in Massachusetts, do not forget to consider stock options. Find out if your spouse has any and what value they may hold. Find out if stock has already been bought or if the right to buy simply exists. Above all else, make sure you know

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