Be proactive to protect your wealth during a divorce

Natick residents who have gone through dissolution know that during the process of terminating a marriage, the end cannot possibly come soon enough. While courts rarely let couples “rush” the process of ending their unions, some individuals wind up glossing over divorce-related details in an effort to finalize their divorces sooner rather than later. When divorce details are not given sufficient attention, the parties of the divorce can find themselves paying the price literally and figuratively later on.

For example, while in many divorces the parties take painstaking efforts to ensure that their children’s custody and support needs are addressed, they sometimes generalize their plans regarding the division of their wealth. Even if a couple is not experiencing a high asset divorce, it is important that they take the time to do its property settlement right. Part of preparing a sound property settlement agreement involves knowing exactly what property is subject to division.

An alarming number of individuals do not know the extent of their marital wealth or their spouses’ financial holdings. Living in the dark about money matters can make it difficult for a newly divorced individual to find his or her own financial footing.

It can also be difficult for divorcees when they fail to stipulate money specifics in their property agreements. Couples who assume that they understand each other and fail to codify important elements of their wealth settlement plans can be caught off-guard when their exes do not honor understandings they thought they had.

Having all of a couple’s financial information out in the open can make creating a property settlement agreement easier on everyone. Although some couples struggle to work together to make cogent plans, using financial and legal professionals during the process can improve their chances of finding common ground on money-related issues.

Individuals who are going through divorces can work with attorneys who understand the importance of being proactive during property settlement negotiations to protect their financial health in their post-divorce lives.

Source: thefiscaltimes.com, “Divorce: 3 Mistakes That Will Crush Your Financial Future,” Kathryn Tuggle, May 28, 2015

Church’s rules on annulment will not impact Massachusetts law

A Massachusetts divorce ends the legal relationship between two married people. From a family court’s standpoint, those two newly single individuals can remarry whomever they choose as soon as their prior marriage’s divorce is finalized. However, individuals who practice certain religions can face some additional hurdles to remarrying in their chosen churches if they have prior divorces in their personal histories.

For this reason some people choose to pursue annulments instead of divorces. An annulment not only ends a legal relationship between two people but also effectively erases that marriage from existence. It is important to note, however, that a legal annulment is different than a religious annulment.

For example, the Roman Catholic Church requires that a previously married person secure a religious annulment before he or she may remarry in the church. In the past this was a rather long and arduous process that could take years to complete. The head of the church, Pope Francis, recently announced that soon Catholics who hope to remarry in the church can seek annulments in a more streamlined fashion.

Family law professionals who practice in Massachusetts have noted that the Pope’s newannulment process will have no bearing on Massachusetts’s laws for legal annulments. In Massachusetts, couples must prove that a marriage was flawed from its inception in order to secure an annulment instead of a divorce. Flaws that could support legal annulments include but are not limited to situations where one person was forced or coerced to marry the other or where one of the parties was underage at the time of the marriage.

When Massachusetts couples choose to end their marriages they have options for which legal processes they want to pursue. Divorce is a common way to end a marriage, but annulment is also possible. Individuals who pursue annulment should recognize that legal and religious annulments are different and serve different purposes for those who desire to remarry.

Source: bostonherald.com, “Full Court Press: Legal annulment poses a challenge,” Bob McGovern, Sept. 9, 2015

Divorce can bring financial concerns to the newly single

Some Massachusetts couples share in the decision-making in all aspects of their relationships. They discuss what they will purchase, how they will invest their money, and if they will make expenditures that could deplete their savings. For other couples, however, financial decision-making power is placed on one partner. That partner handles all of the major buying and investing decisions for the couple, and the one defers his or her opinions to the choices of the other.

When couples that fall into the latter camp choose to divorce, though, partners who have not been privy to financial decision-making can find themselves at a disadvantage. They may be inexperienced with budgeting and other important financial planning skills. Once they are divorced and living on their own, they may be poorly equipped to deal with the money matters that their former spouses once handled for them.

A financial planner offered some advice for newly divorced individuals who are not confident in their financial management skills. He suggests that such individuals make priorities about what they want to achieve with their money and plans for how to achieve those goals. He further suggests that newly single individuals live within their means and take responsible risks with their money to help it safely grow.

The end of a marriage can bring many financial concerns to a person who has not been responsible for managing money during the tenure of his or her marital union. However, a divorcecan leave a person with the opportunity for a fresh financial start. Though financial planners can help newly divorced individuals set themselves up for success after their marriages end, divorce attorneys can also help their clients understand the property and financial settlements they will receive through their divorces and how those settlements may be used as the bases for their new single lives.

Source: Time, “10 Steps to Financial Recovery After a Divorce,” Joe O’Boyle, Oct. 14, 2015

Is shared parenting time good for kids affected by divorce?

In certain situations a Massachusetts family law court may rule that a child should be in the sole custody of only one of his parents. This may occur due to problems that child would face in the household of the other parent. If the noncustodial parent is incarcerated, has a drug or alcohol problem, or has exhibited abusive behavior toward the child or others the court may place the child outside of that parent’s control. Every child custody case is assessed on a case by case basis, and when two people go through a divorce the court will also consider the best interests of their kids when making a custody determination.

According to some studies, however, parents and kids generally do better after divorce when the parents share time with their kids. Two different concepts of shared parenting should be differentiated: Shared parenting implies the children spend time with both parents in potentially unequal distributions while equal parenting implies that two parents each get the same amount of time with their kids.

Separation from one parent through either sole custody or shared custody but with an unequal distribution of time can cause anxiety, stress and other negative feelings in a child. Additionally, some parents who hold all or most custodial responsibilities feel overwhelmed by their duties when they cannot share them proportionally with their children’s other parent. As it stands, many parents and kids function the best after a divorce when they work out equal parenting time arrangements for their child custody plans.

No two divorces are alike and for this reason divorcing couples should not assume that they will be granted equal parenting and custody time of their kids during their divorce proceedings. Many factors, including the best interests of the children, will be considered by the family law courts hearing their matters. However, with the help of their legal representatives some parents may choose to advocate for equal parenting time with their soon-to-be exes in order to serve their children’s and their interests.

Money is often an issue that leads couples to divorce

Financial instability can be incredibly stressful on a family. All across Massachusetts there are individuals struggling to keep their heads above the threatening waters of insolvency, foreclosure and even bankruptcy. Some couples are able to weather financial challenges together and emerge stronger than before they faced their money problems. Others find that economic hardships exacerbate their problems and push them closer toward divorce.

Interestingly enough, the reverse financial situation can also lead some to pursue the ends of their marriages. In some cases, couples may wait until later in their marriages to start divorce proceedings because it gives them time to get their financial affairs in order. With no kids in their households to care for and sufficient savings and investments to provide for them into their later lives, divorce is sometimes pursued by those who have attained solid financial stability.

Also known as gray divorce, later-in-life divorces are on the rise. Married people can find themselves facing the final decades of their lives and recognizing that they did not accomplish all of the goals they had set out for themselves. They may perceive their spouses and the future care that they may have to provide to those spouses as hurdles to overcome in attaining happiness toward the ends of their lives.

Having enough money in one’s personal coffers can provide the incentive a person needs to finally end a marriage. Conversely, battling with a spouse about financial struggles can also lead individuals to consider divorce. Money plays a big role in the end of a marriage and how a couple structures its wealth can influence matters such as property division settlements and alimony. Attorneys who practice family law can provide their clients with information on preparing for divorce, regardless of the financial circumstances of those they represent.

Source: philly.com, “Financial security pushes couples to divorce court,” Erin E. Arvedlund, Aug. 9, 2015

Divorce must be filed in a particular family court

Massachusetts has a number of probate and family law courts scattered throughout its borders. This is because its residents live in large and small communities all throughout the state. In fact, each county in the state has its own probate and family court. Having multiple courts allows individuals to have their legal matters heard in a timely matter, though it can also create confusion for some who may not know where to have their legal matters heard.

When it comes to divorce, there are a few rules that a person must follow with regard to where he may file his paperwork. Most simply, if a person and his or her spouse live in the same county, then that person can just file the paperwork in that court. If they do not live in the same county, then the individual has a choice.

When spouses no longer live in the same Massachusetts county the individual filing the divorce paperwork may choose to file in his or her county of residence. The individual may also choose to file in his or her spouse’s county of residence; deciding where to file divorce paperwork may be a challenge for some and those who have questions about how to handle this step in procuring a divorce may choose to consult with their personal legal counsel.

Knowing where to file one’s paperwork for divorce is just one of the legal hurdles a person may face on the road to the end of a marriage. Many other divorce legal issues can complicate the process of terminating the legal relationship between a husband and a wife. People with questions about this and the other technical requirements of divorce may find answers from trusted legal sources.

Do you know what is at stake in your divorce?

Marriages are partnerships, and like other forms of partnerships, the partners to a marriage often divide between themselves the responsibilities that need to be completed. In some Massachusetts marriages, one of the partners handles household tasks while the other handles financial obligations. While these divisions can provide some balance to the load of work forced upon many couples, they also often leave some spouses in the dark when it comes to the money matters of their marriages.

For example, when one spouse handles all of the bills, budgets and investments for the pair, the other may be unaware of how their money is being spent and where it is being held. If a divorce were to occur, the money-controlling spouse could be at an advantage to better understand the financial picture of the couple’s life. This advantage could unfairly benefit that spouse during the property division process at the end of the couple’s relationship.

While litigated divorces are designed to give individuals opportunities to secure records and information through the discovery process, uncooperative spouses are sometimes motivated to hold back on sharing all of the financial data they have in order to enrich themselves in the divorce process.

A spouse could sometimes find themselves in less than stable financial positions when their partner fails to disclose or under-disclose all of the couple’s assets. When a person is unsure of where marital money is located and how it is controlled, he or she can find himself lost during the couple’s asset division negotiations.

A zealous advocate can be an asset to someone who does not have all of the information that he needs to bring about the end of a marriage. Attorney Kevin Walters of the Walters Law Offices supports his clients through the entirety of their divorces and has worked hard to obtain the financial materials required for past clients to obtain a fair property division determination. To learn more, check out our divorce website. Although no property settlement or resolution can ever be promised, strong advocacy and the careful collection of information can help a person prepare to get a fair financial outcome during dissolution.

After a divorce, should I get a prenup for my second marriage?

It is a tragic situation when a married person suffers the death of a spouse due to illness or accident. However, it is also a common scenario for Massachusetts residents that divorce separates two people who legally bound themselves together. Whether a marriage ends from death or divorce, a previously married individual may find herself later considering marriage for a second time.

Even though a divorce or death terminates a prior marriage, there can be many factors from that first marriage that carry over into a second marriage. Primarily, any children born of a first marriage may have inheritance rights from their parents. A second marriage may pre-empt children from inheriting from a parent if a second spouse gets ahead of them in the line of succession prior to the death of the parent.

Additionally, a person contemplating a second marriage – or their soon-to-be spouse – may carry a significant amount of debt. Just as some property is considered marital property, so too can some debt be considered marital debt. The debts and liabilities of one person’s former relationship can affect the financial health of a person when he enters into a second marriage.

Because these financial matters are so important, some people who choose to marry for a second time decide to execute prenuptial agreements. Even if they did not have prenups for their first marriages, they elect to use them the second time around in order to protect their interests, their children’s interests, and their wealth accrued from prior relationships. A prenuptial agreement, through its contractual formatting, allows a couple to make important decisions about their finances before they are married in order to preserve their rights after their unions are confirmed.

The end of a marriage can be a tragic time, but many people whose marriages end endeavor to start over in new marital relationships. The death or divorce legal issues that follow a person into his new life can be addressed through prenuptial agreements. Individuals with lingering questions about second marriage prenups may choose to speak with their legal representatives about the utility of such agreements for their lives.

Celebrity chef and actress head for divorce

The programs on the Food Network have inspired many a Massachusetts home chef to attempt to make interesting dishes and meals for his or her family’s enjoyment. Part of the appeal of the channel’s shows is the cast of personable hosts who provide insightful tips on how to perform better in the kitchen. One popular Food Network chef is Bobby Flay, who recently has been in the news for matters other than his impressive cooking.

Flay married actress Stephanie March about a decade ago and, just recently, the two announced that they would be divorcing. However, it appears that the couple executed a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle. Per the agreement, Flay promised to pay March $5,000 per month in support should their marriage end.

March and her representatives have claimed that Flay sent her $5,000 after their separation, but that such payments based on their prenuptial agreement are no longer valid. The payment was reportedly returned to Flay and the couple will likely have to address the enforceability of their prenup as they sort out their high asset divorce.

Prenuptial agreements can be invalidated or ruled unenforceable for a variety of reasons. March and her team may have to convince a court that the terms of the agreement are insufficient to meet her needs or that she is entitled to more support based on the couple’s finances. Other rationales can be offered as to why a prenup may not be enforceable.

Natick couples going through divorce may relate to Flay and March’s situation. Whether they have prenuptial agreements or not, support may be a contested issue in the dissolution of their marriages. In addition to dividing property and establishing child custody, spousal support is an important divorce issue for both the paying and the receiving spouse.

Source: Fox News, “Bobby Flay, Stephanie March divorce reportedly getting messy,” April 13, 2015

Understanding the timeline for divorce finalization

Previous posts on this Massachusetts family law blog have discussed the different grounds on which an in-state divorce may be based. In many instances, a divorce is based on fault, generally assigning blame for the end of the marriage to one of the parties to the marital dissolution. A divorce may also be without fault and relatively amicable for the parties.

Regardless of whether fault is involved in a divorce, the involved parties can be anxious to know when their marriage is truly over. The finalization of a divorce depends upon how it was categorized. The Massachusetts Court System has different timelines for when divorces are truly completed.

If a divorce is classified as 1A, or generally when the divorce and its applicable negotiations are uncontested by the parties, then the divorce will end 120 days after the entry of the divorce judgment. If a divorce is classified as 1B, meaning generally that the parties do not contest the divorce but that they do disagree about divorce-related matters such as custody, property division, and support, then the end of the marriage does not occur until 90 days after the hearing if a judgment is entered in the matter. Fault-based contested divorces can follow different timelines.

The several months that a couple must wait before its divorce is finalized is called a divorce nisi. During that time, neither spouse may remarry as the marriage subject to the divorce is not technically dissolved. Once the divorce nisi ends, then the marriage is automatically terminated.

The divorce nisi phase gives couples a chance to continue their marriages if they have a change of heart. This does not happen in all cases, and for most the wait is simply the final step in getting to the end of a marriage. More specific questions about individual divorce timelines may be addressed by attorneys who work in the divorce and family law fields of practice.

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