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Worcester MA Family Law Blog

What are my options for filing for divorce?

When a Massachusetts couple decides to divorce, they may not have given much thought to what type of divorce is most appropriate for them. It is even possible that they may be unaware that there are multiple categories of divorce that can affect how the process is handled. The two types of divorce available to most couples are either a no-fault or fault divorce.

A fault divorce simply means that one of the parties is considered to be responsible for the divorce. Massachusetts has seven grounds for fault divorce, including issues such as adultery, non-support or jail time of at least 5 years. For a fault divorce, the individual must be able to prove that the grounds they are pursuing a divorce on are entirely valid and true. Compared to a no-fault divorce, this process can take longer and be much more costly.

Custody issues may arise for pet owners in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts and across the United States, pets seem to be taking on more and more of a family role than they have had historically. With many couples treating their dogs and cats like children, custody issues can arise during a divorce. This can be further complicated as pets are still largely treated as personal property by the courts, rather than the family members than couples view them to be.

Typically, personal property is not co-owned by a couple following their divorce. This means that a pet normally ends up being awarded to only one individual and not the other. Despite this, since many people do view their pet as a child, it is possible to work out custody or visitation with the pet between the two parties.

Financial cheating can play role in divorce in Massachusetts

Most people in Massachusetts are probably familiar with the notion of cheating -- either physically or emotionally -- on a spouse. However, financial infidelity can be considered another form of cheating to some. In some instances, cheating on a spouse financially can ultimately end in divorce, which may leave some wondering what can constitute financial infidelity.

Perhaps the most prevalent form of financial infidelity, hiding money from a spouse, can cross the line for some relationships. It generally involves more than spare change, and the money may even be stashed away in a bank account. Even for spouses who otherwise choose to maintain separate bank accounts for various discretionary spending or bills, money purposely hidden is usually a different story.

Recent data debunks a divorce myth

The reasons for divorce in Massachusetts can vary as greatly and as widely as individuals in a marriage. In 2003, one economist discovered a surprising correlation between marriages that produced first-born daughters and marriages that later ended in divorce. However, recent data has demonstrated that this old notion might not be so true after all.

Married couples who have children, and have a daughter first rather than a son, have a 5 percent increased risk of divorcing. Various theories have attempted to explain this pattern. One such theory states that fathers might just instinctively prefer a son. This instinct could possibly encourage a husband to be more committed to making a marriage work. Another idea theorizes that mothers may feel more capable of being a single-mother with a daughter and may feel more confident in seeking a divorce.

Bill attempted to end disability discrimination in child custody

Disabilities, whether mental or physical, are an everyday part of life for some individuals. For some the signs of a disability may require the use of special equipment, such as a wheelchair, while for others the disability may be inwards and treated with a pill. Either way, plenty of parents in Massachusetts continue on with their daily lives and parenting responsibilities without much difficulty. However, when it comes to divorce, these normal aspects of certain individual’s lives can have a serious impact on child custody.

Sadly, when it comes to child custody arrangements, discrimination against disabled parents is not entirely uncommon. Bill H1379 was recently proposed to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary to prohibit the practice of discriminating against disabled parents during family law court proceedings. A total of 15 legislators co-sponsored the bill, which was inspired by a report by the National Council on Disability.

Cohabiting prior to marriage may affect divorce rates

Cohabiting, which is living together as a couple before tying the knot, appears to be growing in popularity in America. Roughly 70 percent of unmarried couples in Massachusetts and across the country may be living together, and one researcher claims that, in some instances, this may lead to divorce. In fact, the professor that conducted the study asserts that individuals often consider both cohabiting and divorce simultaneously.

For those couples who do choose to cohabit, the living situation lasts for about 22 months. However, including those that do last longer, 40 percent of those couples were married within the first three years of living together. However, more than one study has demonstrated that couples who cohabited before marriage are at a slightly increased risk of divorcing.

After divorce, individuals can get ex's Social Security benefits

Whether a couple divorces after two years or 20, determining what assets either party will be privy to years down the road may appear overwhelming at first. For instance, who gets what retirement benefits, and how much? Even Social Security benefits can be up in the air following a Massachusetts divorce.

It is possible to receive certain benefits that an ex-spouse earned during the course of the marriage. However, stipulations apply to some of those benefits, such as Social Security. In order to even claim Social Security benefits from an ex, the couple had to be married for 10 years before divorcing. Otherwise, an individual might have no claim whatsoever.

Thinking of taxes during divorce can help some save in the future

Tax season has already come and gone for 2014, but that doesn't mean that next year’s taxes should be ignored until the calendar rolls over. The status of a person’s marital status is based upon the previous year. If a Massachusetts couple was married on the last day of the year, then they file as married. If the divorce was finalized before then, each party will file as single. There are tax implications that may warrant careful attention to certain aspects of the divorce settlement.

For a divorcing couple that has children, they will undoubtedly have some sort of provision for child custody and support in their settlement. However, decisions concerning such shouldn't be made based on what an individual may believe will affect their taxes. In fact, neither the payment nor receipt of child support will affect a tax filing, as paying it can’t act as a deduction and receiving it isn't taxed.

The reasons and whys of seeking a modification of child support

Many parents may believe that, once an order for the financial well-being of minor children has been determined, the matter has been settled once and for all. However, it is possible to request a modification of child support if circumstances warrant. Parents in Massachusetts who are struggling to make their support payments or who believe that the ordered amount is not adequate may be interested in learning more.

Either parent can ask a judge to review the child support order as long as the petitioning parent can show proof of just cause for a re-consideration. If a parent can show that he or she has experienced a permanent change in financial circumstances, a judge may order a review of the situation. The burden of proof, though, is on the parent asking for the modification. For instance, if the parent who is making the payments has suffered a job change or loss and is now making substantially less per year, as long as the individual can show through documentation that the standing order is now a hardship, a judge may be inclined to review the proof.

Jennifer Lopez divorce finalized after several years

Massachusetts readers have likely heard about the divorce between the famous singers Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. However, many people do not realize that the actual divorce process has taken several years and has only recently been finalized. Why do some divorces stretch out over several months and years? Many times, it is related to agreeing on details pertaining to money and child custody.

In this particular divorce, the two parties both have a large amount of money and have two children. Massachusetts parents of all income levels know how difficult it can be to make custody and visitation arrangements for something as important as the children. Through negotiations and working with their respective legal teams, both Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez have agreed to a custody arrangement. Neither parent will receive financial support.

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Robert A. Antonioni, Esq.
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Leominster, MA 01453
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