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Worcester Family Law Blog

Crowdfunding site offers divorce registry option

Massachusetts residents may be familiar with crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow entrepreneurs and charities to raise much needed funds from the public. Sites such as these have been used to fund everything from college educations to foreign vacations, and divorcing couples can now take advantage of the crowdfunding phenomenon.

The costs can quickly mount during a divorce, and spouses with little in the way of savings sometimes find it difficult to cover their legal bills and other costs. A website that was set up to crowdfund honeymoons in 2006 added an option for divorcing couples in March 2016, and the site's operators say that more than 100 divorce registries were set up in the first two months that this option was available.

Financial priorities during a divorce

Massachusetts residents who are getting a divorce should plan ahead for the financial burden that will accompany it. In addition to legal fees and court costs, there are expenses such as moving into a new place and replacing all the things that were purchased during the marriage. In addition, a person may be required to pay child or spousal support.

One of the first things people who are facing the end of a marriage should do is take stock of their assets. This includes going over all financial accounts, getting passwords, photocopying documents and taking photos of possessions in the home. When considering attorneys, they should avoid someone who does not have family law experience even if the attorney is a friend or relative. They should also avoid an attorney who is overly aggressive or who tries to involve the children in the process.

Divorce rate increases among older couples

Massachusetts senior citizens may be interested to know that while the divorce rate is holding steady for most married couples, it is increasing in their age group. Married people at or over the age of 50 were twice as likely to get divorced in 2014 as they were in 1990.

One reason the divorce rate is holding for younger couples is, due to longer life expectancy, they're getting married later in life. They're not rushing into marriages, but taking their time to pick the right spouse. This longer life expectancy can work the exact opposite, however, as older people in an unhappy marriage may not want to continue living that way. On the other hand, they may not want to ditch a relationship they have invested so many years in.

How parents can facilitate custody decisions

The custodial rights of a divorcing Massachusetts parent will be decided by the court unless an agreement can otherwise be reached. The actions each party takes at the outset could have a significant impact on the decision-making process. The most important aspect of protecting the child's well-being is for both parties to remain as civil as possible and the children to be left out of disputes between parents. Factoring child welfare into every decision from the beginning is the key to making the divorce as stress-free as possible for the entire family.

One of the most common decisions that can negatively affect a parent's custodial rights is to move out of the home. Even if it is difficult to live with the other spouse, it is important to facilitate a time-sharing arrangement that allows both parents equal involvement in the child's life. A divorcing parent should also make sure that the other parent does not take the child out of state, which could complicate the divorce proceedings.

Staying together or seeking a divorce

Many myths about the divorce rate make Massachusetts couples who are having problems feel like it is easier to give up as so many unions seemingly fail. One may want to instead look at the specific reasons that the marriage is failing, as sometimes things can be worked out.

After a divorce, people may face unexpected challenges with finances or health issues. Their standard of living might change dramatically, as they can no longer benefit from two incomes while contentious divorces can be costly and deplete savings. Emotional burdens might also come with financial and other issues, and this could result in higher stress levels. If people cannot support themselves alone, staying in the marriage may be a better option.

Summer vacation plans and divorced parents

In the spring, divorced parents in Massachusetts should start thinking ahead to their summer plans. There may be a number of changes in children's schedules with more and different activities in comparison to the regular school year. Writing specific summer vacation plans into the parenting plan can help prevent conflict.

Making an effort to stick to agreed-upon visitation times is important for a child's well-being. If conflict does arise, parents should keep in mind that legally, child support cannot be withheld over visitation or custody issues. Mediation may be one way to come to an agreement. However, parents might have to go back to court, and if the situation becomes particularly difficult, it is possible to file a police report for visitation interference if necessary.

Custodial parents often call the shots

After a divorce, a non-custodial parent in Massachusetts can face some serious challenges related to participating in the parenting process. While joint legal custody is commonly awarded, the party who has primary physical custody may use that position to limit the ex-spouse's access to the children. Even when the law and the parenting agreement provide for both parties to participate equally in making important decisions, the non-custodial parent can have trouble in learning about certain activities involving their children.

Bias in the court system can be an issue, creating difficulties in terms of the perceptions of non-custodial parents. Even when the non-custodial party endeavors to communicate and cooperate with the ex-spouse, there can be challenges because of the custodial party's reading of the parenting plan. While the plan might not prevent extra time with one's youngsters, custodial parents might point at the fact that they are not required to provide extra time as a justification for denying such a request.

Prenuptial agreements to protect business owners

People in Massachusetts who are getting married may not want to think about the possibility of divorce, but for business owners, it may be a wise choice. The difficulty of a divorce can be exacerbated by the financial issues that arise for business owners. A prenuptial agreement is one way that a business owner may steer clear of those complications.

There are several points a business owner should keep in mind when putting together a prenuptial agreement. Even if the person owned the business prior to the marriage, the spouse can claim half of the appreciation that took place while the couple was married. A prenup can exempt this from the marital assets as well as the appreciation of any other assets. A prenup can also state that neither spouse will take on the debts of the other. Furthermore, the agreement can also detail how mutually acquired debt will be split in the event of divorce.

Separate or joint tax returns during divorce

Massachusetts couples who are considering divorce might wonder whether they should file taxes jointly or separately. There are pros and cons for each choice. They need to know, however, that their filing status is determined at the end of the taxable year, so even if they have filed for divorce, they are still considered married if the decree hasn't been entered by Dec. 31.

Filing taxes separately is part of the overall separation of finances, so couples who are certain they want to divorce but whose divorce is not yet final may want to take this route. However, there are some financial advantages to filing jointly. Filing jointly may allow more deductions. It increases the alternate minimum tax exemption and leaves Social Security benefits less vulnerable to taxation. Overall tax rates may be higher for couples filing separately instead of jointly, and a number of credits are unavailable to separate filers as well.

Custody battle in surrogate case

Massachusetts residents might have heard about a case in which a couple who hired a surrogate are now trying to get custody of the child she bore. The surrogate signed a contract and became pregnant with a child from her egg and the husband's sperm.

However, the couple says that the woman became less communicative as soon as she became pregnant. After three months, she stopped communicating with them completely. A lawyer advised the couple that they should continue to honor their portion of the contract to establish that they did not breach it.

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