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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.

These stories may also include details that would have no legal merit in any state. Media reports about the 2013 divorce of Bethenny Frankel claimed that the "The Real Housewives of New York City" star would lose her rights to a Manhattan condo if she moved out. This may seem plausible to those familiar with the expression that possession is nine-tenths of the law, but property division in a divorce is based on when assets were acquired and not who is in possession of them.

Experienced family law attorneys may sometimes have to devote time in initial consultations to clear up misunderstandings about divorce law that their clients have picked up watching television or reading newspapers or websites. These stories sometimes give the impression that conflict and acrimony are inevitable in a divorce, but attorneys may point out that alternative approaches such as mediation may allow couples to resolve their differences amicable and privately.

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