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Worcester Family Law Blog

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.

Misleading articles ablut celebrity divorces

Massachusetts residents sometimes glance at lurid tabloid headlines as they wait in line at supermarkets and convenience stores, and savvy publishers know that stories about divorcing celebrities can be particularly popular. The writers of these stories often call upon family law experts or the actual attorneys involved to provide perspective and help their readers to understand the legal strategies being pursued, but these articles may still be misleading or contain mistakes.

A great many of the celebrities featured in media stories about divorce live in California, and these break-ups are often highly contentious due to the state's community property laws. Most states, including Massachusetts, follow the doctrine of equitable distribution, which means that marital property must be divided fairly. Community property states like California require divorcing couples to divide their assets equally. This means that the strategies followed by family law attorneys in California may not always be appropriate in Massachusetts.

Tips on preparing for divorce litigation

Even if they hope to avoid litigation, some couples in Massachusetts who are going through a divorce may end up in court. Being prepared may make that process go more smoothly.

Getting the right attorney is one step. This does not necessarily mean the most aggressive attorney. A needlessly combative attorney can anger a judge and be costly to a client. An attorney who can protect a client's interests without unnecessary aggression is a better choice. Even with an attorney, people may want to educate themselves about how Massachusetts divorce courts operate. It can be useful to understand procedural issues such as how a court date is set.

How to get a more equitable financial split in divorce

People in Massachusetts who are getting a divorce may worsen their financial situation if they do not have a thorough understanding of the family finances. This includes knowing what loans have been taken out as well as having a record of debts, assets and income.

Without this information, people may make poor choices regarding property division. For example, one woman did not know that her husband had borrowed against the equity in their marital home until after the property division. She got the house, but it ruined her credit because she was in twice as much debt as she had anticipated and she struggled to pay the mortgage.

Tax issues for divorcing couples with children

Massachusetts residents who are going through a divorce may need to consider a number of issues regarding taxes, and one thing spouses with children need to think about is child support. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, $32.9 billion was owed for child support around the country in 2013, but only around 70 percent of that was received.

Child support payments are not taxable to the recipient, and the parent making payments cannot deduct them from taxable income. Furthermore, only one parent can claim a child as a dependent. The parent who gets to use the child tax exemption is usually the custodial parent that the child spends the most time with and lives with, and this applies even if the noncustodial parent pays for the majority of a child's expenses.

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