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Worcester Family Law Blog

What to know about divorce and retirement

The good news for Massachusetts residents is that the overall divorce rate has dropped in recent decades. However, for those over the age of 50, it is actually increasing. This can be a particularly troubling time to get a divorce because these individuals may be thinking about retirement. It may also be their peak earning years, which means a divorce could pose a threat to financial security.

Those who are thinking about getting a divorce may benefit from reviewing their expenses as well as how they may change once they are single again. For instance, car insurance may be higher for single individuals compared to those who are married. A financial review may also be helpful because many people don't have an accurate measure of how much they actually spend. As income may go down after a divorce, it may also make sense to downsize.

Making preparations for a divorce

People in Massachusetts who are considering divorce might want to consider when they begin the separation process. January, March and September tend to be months when divorce filings go up because they occur just after holidays or vacations when individuals may have made final attempts at reconciliation. However, filing for divorce in these circumstances often means that the decision is an emotional one. A better approach might be to file for divorce after some initial preparation.

The first step is to get financial paperwork together. Individuals might want to store such documents somewhere safe such as with a friend or in a safety deposit box. Next, individuals should set up their own bank accounts and work toward establishing their own credit. If possible, an individual should save up some money to help pay for the divorce.

The benefits of shared parenting after a divorce

In the past, Massachusetts courts often determined that the children were best off living with their mother after the divorce was finalized. However, many experts now say that children thrive best when they have the opportunity to maintain strong and healthy relationships with both parents unless there are mitigating factors.

While this is supported by numerous studies, it also generally makes sense. When children get to spend equal time living with both parents under shared parenting plans, they continue to get the best of both worlds. For example, fathers tend to be more likely to engage their children in physical activities, such as playing football or other sports. Mothers, on the other hand, are more likely to assist kids with their socialization skills. Even if the parents do not follow traditional gender roles, the children still usually learn different skills sets.

Domestic violence, divorce and child custody

Massachusetts parents divorce for a variety of reasons. In some cases, a marriage ends because one spouse was physically abusive to the other one. When parents divorce because of domestic violence, child custody issues can be complicated, and it is not always easy to predict which parent will get primary physical custody.

Domestic violence can be very traumatizing for the parent who is abused and the children who witness the behavior. Children who have seen one of their parents being physically abused in their home may grow up with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. At the same time, a parent who has been a victim of domestic violence could have PTSD and other mental health issues directly related to the abuse.

Reasons to have a prenuptial agreement

A prenuptial agreement may protect many Massachusetts residents when they get married. These types of agreements are not just for the very wealthy. People of many different income levels may have accumulated possessions that they wish to hang onto in the event of a divorce rather than dividing them with a spouse.

This can be a particular issue for couples in which there are disparities in income and professional status. For example, one person might end up paying alimony to the other after the divorce. Furthermore, estate planning changes after marriage as well, and disinheriting a spouse can be difficult.

Considerations for divorcing baby boomers

Baby boomers in Massachusetts are more likely to get a divorce than their counterparts from 25 years ago, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research. For many of these older couples going through divorce, allocation of retirement savings will be a major concern. Generally, retirement accounts are considered marital property. This means that even if one spouse was diligently putting away money and the other was not, the accounts are likely to be split between the two.

When splitting the assets, couples should consider what type of retirement account they have. For example, if the account is a 401k, tax will be taken out at distribution. If the couple has a Roth IRA, tax will be taken out at contribution. Couples need to be sure that they calculate tax when they consider the value of a retirement account. Furthermore, they should also keep in mind their own income tax brackets. If their individual incomes put them in different tax brackets, then one might ultimately receive less than the other from the retirement account unless this difference is taken into consideration.

The best business valuation method during a divorce

A common issue in divorce cases is how to determine the value of a business that is owned by one or both spouses. For property division purposes, it could be necessary to consult an experienced valuation analyst and to decide whether to appraise the business through a full valuation or a calculation of value. Massachusetts residents who own a business and are considering a divorce may benefit from learning about the options available to them.

A full valuation may be the preferred method if an arbitrator or judge requires the information to make a decision. The results of a full valuation are considered more reliable and have a greater degree of accuracy than a calculation of value. It is the optimal method for businesses with a complicated organization and assets.

Helping children adjust to divorce

For Massachusetts parents who are ending their marriage, guiding their children through the divorce process may be difficult. However, there are steps they can take to help their children better adjust to the situation.

If possible, parents should try to cooperate with one another and minimize disagreements. This might mean that it is necessary to put aside some differences and forgive one another for the sake of the children. If parents do have a disagreement, they should try to avoid arguing in front of their offspring.

Medical coverage and child support

Massachusetts parents who have been ordered to make child support payments are usually expected to provide health care coverage for their children as well. A judge may order the paying parent to include the child on a group plan that is available through the parent's employer. If the parent can get health care coverage another way, a judge may order the parent to add thechild to that plan.

A judge can only order a parent to provide health care coverage for their child if the coverage is reasonably affordable for the parent. Health care coverage that is available through a parent's employer is always considered reasonably affordable in the eyes of the court. If paying for a child's health care coverage causes a parent to experience a serious financial hardship, a judge may rule that the expense is unreasonable.

How to approach property division in divorce

One of the first things a Massachusetts resident may hear from a spouse who wants a divorce is that they also want what may seem to be an unreasonable share of the marital assets. This happened to one man whose wife of 21 years wanted to use the joint savings account to buy a house for herself. She said that she would assist her husband in continuing to pay down the mortgage on their existing home for its remaining nine years and would pay half of their son's college expenses for his remaining two years.

The man was concerned because he was just three years from retirement, his wife's salary was higher than his, and and he would struggle to cover household expenses on his own. However, what one spouse wants in property division is not necessarily what they will get, and one spouse cannot simply unilaterally claim 100 percent of a shared marital asset.

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