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Worcester Family Law Blog

Financial issues to be aware of during a divorce

When a Massachusetts couple goes through a divorce, one of the biggest changes they face will be the state of their finances. How each party fares after ending their marriage often depends on how they handle things during a divorce, and at the outset they need to be aware of their individual and joint assets and debts. It is also important for people to make choices based on logic instead of feelings during negotiations.

Since the asset division process will split up a couple's property and debts, it's essential for people to know what they have of each going into a divorce. Assets in particular are something that people may need to spend some time on since things like homes and real estate may require a professional to provide a valuation for them. If a person doesn't know what things are worth, it's hard to negotiate properly.

Fathers may apply for child support

Some Massachusetts fathers may have considered filing for child support. However, there might still be a perception in some circles that usually only mothers ask for child support. The biological father of Bristol Palin's second child was criticized for asking for child support even though he is not currently caring for the child.

However, in some cases, asking for child support might be necessary to access state services such as health insurance and food stamps. A father might also ask for child support because he has custody at least half of the time and makes less money than the mother.

Assets and divorce in Massachusetts

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, 3.2 out of every 1,000 Americans went through a divorce in 2014. January is generally considered to be a popular month for divorce because the beginning of a new year is considered a good time to get a fresh start. However, how a Massachusetts resident handles a divorce is more important than when it occurs.

For instance, those considering a divorce may want to talk to a financial adviser and accountant in addition to an attorney. This is because a professional may have a better understanding of the financial nuances surrounding the process. A professional can help an individual compile a list of current assets and account for any future appreciation of those assets. Individuals should also be aware of the tax issues that may relate to property division after a couple splits.

How divorce timing can impact Social Security benefits

Many retired Massachusetts residents rely on Social Security benefits to make ends meet. The amount of benefits people qualify for is determined by their earnings history, but the Social Security Administration has provisions in place to protect the interests of divorced spouses who have sacrificed careers in order to focus on parenting and other family matters. While divorced spouses may qualify for up to half of the benefits earned by their former husbands or wives, they must meet strict requirements in order to qualify.

The SSA only provides these benefits to divorced spouses who were married for at least 10 consecutive years, and couples who neglect to consider these benefits when they file for divorce are not able to subsequently qualify by remarrying in order to meet the 10-year requirement. While divorced spouse benefits become available when couples reach 62 years of age, they will be higher for those who put off making their claims until they reach the full retirement age.

Co-parenting after a divorce

Many parents who divorce in Massachusetts have trouble co-parenting. Although the divorce order may award joint custody to both parents, the parents could have difficulty arranging schedules and making parental decisions together. When parents cannot communicate effectively after a divorce, their disagreements could lead to more court proceedings.

Divorced parents may be able to avoid fights and litigation by making an effort to work together. For co-parenting to work out, parents may have to view each other in a different way than they did before. Instead of remembering all of the negative feelings from the divorce, a divorced parent may want to think of their ex-spouse as their child's schoolteacher. To keep conversations civil, discussions between divorced parents can be limited to issues that concern the child.

Holiday custody arrangements after a divorce

Massachusetts parents who are contemplating a divorce may want to take into account holiday arrangements and the various issues they present. Navigating the holidays after a divorce with children is difficult, especially when both parents want to spend the same holidays with the children. Family courts often become backed up during the holidays due to disputes between divorced parents who are unable to come to an agreement on who gets to have visitation with the children over the holidays. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the confusion and conflict surrounding this issue.

Written parenting time plans can help smooth out holiday arrangements and avoid circular arguments about oral agreements. It is important to plan ahead to come to an agreement about the best arrangement for both parents and the children. While courts can help iron out holiday custody agreements, those who have not yet filed for divorce can consult an attorney for assistance.

Alternative divorce options may be better for physicians, others

While physicians in Massachusetts and other states typically go through divorce at a lower rate than others in the medical field, the demands of a doctor's profession can lead to strain in a marriage. Dissolving a marriage can take time and be emotionally and financially draining when using the court system, but there are options for divorcing that physicians and others may want to consider.

Spouses who are able to work together may find the divorce process easier than those who must go to court to have a judge decide matters like property division and child custody. While it is tempting to argue and indulge hurt feelings throughout the divorce process, setting aside differences and using alternative divorce methods could help both parties reach a reasonable settlement agreement without wasting time or money. Before turning to litigation, a married couple might like to consider meditation, negotiation or a collaborative divorce.

Divorce and bankruptcy in Massachusetts

If someone is considering filing for both divorce and bankruptcy, it can be very important to determine the order of the filings. While bankruptcy can in some cases eliminate a large portion of a person's debt, it can also require the filer to give up assets to pay back creditors. Additionally, filing for bankruptcy may tie up marital assets, which can have an effect on proerty division.

One situation where an individual might want to file for bankruptcy before filing for divorce is when a couple agrees to file for bankruptcy to eliminate debt before going through the divorce. However, if both do not agree, it may be good to wait until the divorce is complete. Otherwise, someone may end up with their spouse's debt due as a result of asset division.

Post-nuptial agreements and divorce

Massachusetts couples who are facing the end of their marriage may have heard about the high-profile divorce between Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. The popular actors have finalized their divorce after nearly 20 years of marriage. According to the couple, the split was mutual and they remain on good terms. Banderas will be paying monthly spousal support of $65,000, which obligation will end if Griffith remarries.

Griffith was allowed to keep her clothing, jewelry and some of the couple's furniture in the divorce settlement. Banderas was allowed to keep his motorcycles, music equipment and some of his electronic equipment. The couple split their two Picasso paintings and Porsches. Griffith retained six vehicles, while Banderas only kept two, and the actress also retains the lease on the Bentley leased through a corporate agreement.

Why happy couples should plan for divorce

Many divorces in Massachusetts affect married partners who never expect this issue to arise. However, planning for divorce doesn't mean that it has to become a reality. Many of the financial issues that make divorces messy can be just as troublesome for a couple that continues to stay together until death. Good financial management can serve as insurance against divorce or in case the marriage ends.

One of the most common financial challenges for those who end up facing divorce litigation is not knowing the financial state of affairs. In many cases, one party will handle the bill paying and account management. However, divorce could leave an uninformed partner at a disadvantage during financial decisions. The couple that never divorces could equally be affected by one-sided knowledge, especially if the financially savvy party dies or becomes incapacitated. It is crucial that both partners take responsibility for understanding relevant money matters.

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