Be proactive to protect your wealth during a divorce

Natick residents who have gone through dissolution know that during the process of terminating a marriage, the end cannot possibly come soon enough. While courts rarely let couples “rush” the process of ending their unions, some individuals wind up glossing over divorce-related details in an effort to finalize their divorces sooner rather than later. When divorce details are not given sufficient attention, the parties of the divorce can find themselves paying the price literally and figuratively later on.

For example, while in many divorces the parties take painstaking efforts to ensure that their children’s custody and support needs are addressed, they sometimes generalize their plans regarding the division of their wealth. Even if a couple is not experiencing a high asset divorce, it is important that they take the time to do its property settlement right. Part of preparing a sound property settlement agreement involves knowing exactly what property is subject to division.

An alarming number of individuals do not know the extent of their marital wealth or their spouses’ financial holdings. Living in the dark about money matters can make it difficult for a newly divorced individual to find his or her own financial footing.

It can also be difficult for divorcees when they fail to stipulate money specifics in their property agreements. Couples who assume that they understand each other and fail to codify important elements of their wealth settlement plans can be caught off-guard when their exes do not honor understandings they thought they had.

Having all of a couple’s financial information out in the open can make creating a property settlement agreement easier on everyone. Although some couples struggle to work together to make cogent plans, using financial and legal professionals during the process can improve their chances of finding common ground on money-related issues.

Individuals who are going through divorces can work with attorneys who understand the importance of being proactive during property settlement negotiations to protect their financial health in their post-divorce lives.

Source:, “Divorce: 3 Mistakes That Will Crush Your Financial Future,” Kathryn Tuggle, May 28, 2015

Church’s rules on annulment will not impact Massachusetts law

A Massachusetts divorce ends the legal relationship between two married people. From a family court’s standpoint, those two newly single individuals can remarry whomever they choose as soon as their prior marriage’s divorce is finalized. However, individuals who practice certain religions can face some additional hurdles to remarrying in their chosen churches if they have prior divorces in their personal histories.

For this reason some people choose to pursue annulments instead of divorces. An annulment not only ends a legal relationship between two people but also effectively erases that marriage from existence. It is important to note, however, that a legal annulment is different than a religious annulment.

For example, the Roman Catholic Church requires that a previously married person secure a religious annulment before he or she may remarry in the church. In the past this was a rather long and arduous process that could take years to complete. The head of the church, Pope Francis, recently announced that soon Catholics who hope to remarry in the church can seek annulments in a more streamlined fashion.

Family law professionals who practice in Massachusetts have noted that the Pope’s newannulment process will have no bearing on Massachusetts’s laws for legal annulments. In Massachusetts, couples must prove that a marriage was flawed from its inception in order to secure an annulment instead of a divorce. Flaws that could support legal annulments include but are not limited to situations where one person was forced or coerced to marry the other or where one of the parties was underage at the time of the marriage.

When Massachusetts couples choose to end their marriages they have options for which legal processes they want to pursue. Divorce is a common way to end a marriage, but annulment is also possible. Individuals who pursue annulment should recognize that legal and religious annulments are different and serve different purposes for those who desire to remarry.

Source:, “Full Court Press: Legal annulment poses a challenge,” Bob McGovern, Sept. 9, 2015

Neutrality and the divorce mediation process

When a Massachusetts resident hires an attorney to manage his legal matters he is asking that professional to be his counselor and advocate. Many legal matters can and often migrate toward litigation when they cannot otherwise be resolved; for this reason individuals utilize the services of legal professionals to give them assistance in clearing up their disputes. Family law is one area of the law where disputes often arise and when a divorce goes to court each party generally has his or her own legal representative.

As previously discussed on this blog, divorce mediation does not involve a litigious environment in which opposing parties spar off with their own counselors. Mediation is done in an environment ofneutrality and with a mediator who does not take the side of either party. During a divorce or family law negotiation a mediator hears what the parties have to offer and provides information to them regarding the laws relevant to their particular cases.

Another duty that a divorce mediator will often adopt is to give parties options for how they may find resolutions to their pending or disputed issues. A mediator will not make the decision for divorcing individuals on how to settle their quarrels. Instead, the mediator will offer the parties different ways of reconciling their differences in order to bring about closure to their marriages.

A goal of mediation is to avoid the contentiousness that can occur during a litigated divorce. However, mediation and collaborative divorces are not always the right choices for all couples. Attorneys who work in the divorce and mediation fields can provide their clients with more information on whether mediation may be right for their marital dissolutions.

How does a parenting plan work in terms of child custody?

When Massachusetts parents decide to end their marriages they often must make difficult decisions about what to do with their children. Family law courts throughout the state will guide or even dictate to parents, depending upon their situations, the child custody arrangements that they must follow. Child custody plans can result in one parent having sole custody over his children or with the parents sharing custody in joint arrangements.

Since divorce results in a single household becoming two separate locations, parents who live apart can no longer consult each other regarding all matters concerning their kids. From big decisions about schooling to less monumental decisions about bedtimes and nap schedules, parents can find it difficult to get on the same page as their ex-spouses once they no longer live together. A parenting plan can help exes establish common ground regarding decisions relevant to their shared kids.

The Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts have published an informal document regarding how to create an effective parenting plan. The suggestions contained therein guide parents through the developmental stages of their kids’ lives and provide direction toward what types of matters parents should discuss. For example, parents of 6-year-olds to 9-year-olds should find ways to communicate about changes in their kids’ peers, behaviors and extracurricular interests to ensure that they do not miss warning signs of problems afflicting their offspring.

A parenting plan is simply a way for parents to effectively communicate about their children after their marriages have ended. They can be important tools for keeping the peace after acrimonious divorces and can help children adjust to living in split households and as dictated by their child custody determinations. While the information contained in this post should not be read as specific legal advice it may introduce Massachusetts parents to a tool available for addressing post-divorce parenting quarrels.

Choose mediation to alleviate the strains of divorce

The nature of divorce is contentious. Any Suffolk County resident who has gone through a marital dissolution knows that conflict is often the reason for the divorce and that divergence often perpetuates through the legal termination of the marriage. Constant quarrels between separating spouses can leave divorcing parties exhausted, depleted of money and worn out by the process.

However, individuals in the area who choose to divorce have other options. Mediation is a way for parties interested in ending their marriages to work together to find agreeable solutions to their divorce matters. Professionals trained in divorce and family law mediation can help such parties talk through issues related to their divorces and find ways around conflict by offering neutral, unbiased guidance to those spouses who can responsibly work together.

Divorce mediation is not for all couples and some people do prefer having judicial settings for managing the details of their separations. When partners to a marriage cannot put their feelings toward each other aside they may not be able to find success through a participant-driven mediated divorce. For those that are able to work together, however, mediation can save them time, money and emotional resources often overspent in courtroom divorce hearings.

It is important that divorcing parties find mediators who they can work with and who understand the important steps couples must take to legally end their relationships through such a process. The Walters Law Office provides complete divorce mediation services to partners looking for just such opportunities. To learn more about the firm’s practice in this area, please visit its website on divorce and family law mediation.

Why should I try to avoid trial in a Massachusetts divorce?

Celebrity divorces make it seem like battling it out in court is the norm, that it is the most effective way to get what you want. As with any other aspect of celebrity life, we have to remember that they aren’t always like us — despite what PEOPLE Magazine says.

Did you know that approximately 90 percent of divorce cases reach settlement before ever going to trial? It is a statistic reported by Forbes based on expert estimates. The truth is that there are very real benefits to avoiding court by settling, either through mediation, negotiation or collaborative divorce. One of the largest benefits? The amount of control that each spouse has over the outcome of the divorce.

Judges in Massachusetts make decisions about property division, spousal support and child custody based on specific state law. Although there are definite laws, it doesn’t mean that these are always clear. A judge has a lot of discretion in making decision, and there is no way to guarantee that the judge will make them in your favor.

When you and your spouse agree to a settlement out of court, you make the decisions. Yes, you are probably going to have to make some concessions, but you have a lot of control over which ones you are willing to make. You can spend time focusing on creating an agreement that is truly tailored to you and your family.

In addition, the cost of cooperation is more often than not much lower than litigation. The details of the settlement can be kept confidential. A final bonus? It can help you address the emotional aspects of divorce that often motivate decisions or requests. It can be cathartic or just less stressful.

Source: Forbes, “When Divorcing, Why Is War Often The Preferred Option?” Russ Alan Prince, Oct. 22, 2014

Can I get more alimony from my ex?

Last week this Massachusetts family law blog discussed some of the ways that newly single individuals may face financial challenges after their divorces. In some cases, a person may be financially burdened when he or she is required to pay his or her ex-spouse alimony. An alimony-receiving spouse may feel financial stresses if the sum of money that is received each month is insufficient to cover his or her needs.

Courts generally scrutinize the financial situation of a couple to determine if alimony, or spousal support, is even warranted. Not every person who asks a court for alimony gets it; an order of alimony can depend on a number of factors. Those factors can include but are not limited to the couple’s standard of living during their marriage, the ability of the alimony-seeking spouse to support himself or herself and the length of the couple’s marriage.

If alimony is ordered, a court will often stipulate its duration at the time it is mandated. Spousal support may be short term or long term based on the needs of the couple. If a party feels that his or her alimony award is insufficient, he may be able to seek an alimony modification.

In some cases, however, an alimony-paying spouse may also seek a modification to his or her financial obligation if the financial circumstances of the receiving spouse improve. In many cases, alimony is not intended to serve as a permanent means of income for a receiving spouse, but rather to help that individual get on his or her feet after the end of a marriage.

Spousal maintenance or alimony is a variable factor in a couple’s divorce. It may not be ordered for all who seek it, and depending on the facts of a particular case, it may be modified after it is ordered. Legal professionals can provide interested readers with more information on this complex family law topic.

Divorce can bring financial concerns to the newly single

Some Massachusetts couples share in the decision-making in all aspects of their relationships. They discuss what they will purchase, how they will invest their money, and if they will make expenditures that could deplete their savings. For other couples, however, financial decision-making power is placed on one partner. That partner handles all of the major buying and investing decisions for the couple, and the one defers his or her opinions to the choices of the other.

When couples that fall into the latter camp choose to divorce, though, partners who have not been privy to financial decision-making can find themselves at a disadvantage. They may be inexperienced with budgeting and other important financial planning skills. Once they are divorced and living on their own, they may be poorly equipped to deal with the money matters that their former spouses once handled for them.

A financial planner offered some advice for newly divorced individuals who are not confident in their financial management skills. He suggests that such individuals make priorities about what they want to achieve with their money and plans for how to achieve those goals. He further suggests that newly single individuals live within their means and take responsible risks with their money to help it safely grow.

The end of a marriage can bring many financial concerns to a person who has not been responsible for managing money during the tenure of his or her marital union. However, a divorcecan leave a person with the opportunity for a fresh financial start. Though financial planners can help newly divorced individuals set themselves up for success after their marriages end, divorce attorneys can also help their clients understand the property and financial settlements they will receive through their divorces and how those settlements may be used as the bases for their new single lives.

Source: Time, “10 Steps to Financial Recovery After a Divorce,” Joe O’Boyle, Oct. 14, 2015

Your child’s financial needs can help be met by child support

When parents separate and end their marriages in divorce, children can often be caught in the middle of their parents’ battles. Since their security is paramount in family law cases, judges in Massachusetts evaluate the best interests of the child when they make divorce-related child custody and child support mandates. To ensure that children’s physical and financial needs are met even after the kids’ parents end their relationships, judges carefully assess what sums of money would provide children with enough support on which to live.

Since most parents generally want to do what is best for their kids, complying with support-related orders is generally not a struggle. However, from time to time parents find themselves unable to make full payments of child support for their children. Despite their understanding that child support is an obligation to their children and a legal mandate from their family law courts, some parents cannot keep up with their support orders when lost jobs and financial hardships get in their way.

The Walters Law Offices work with clients who are facing sanctions for their failure to pay child support. In many cases parents who are unable to meet their support obligations are able to modify their child support orders to lower payment amounts. Lowering a monthly child support payment may make all of the difference to a parent who wants to help his children but who is financially unable to meet the demands of his support order.

If you are struggling to keep up with your child support payments, please consider contacting the Walters Law Offices. Our legal team practices family law, including the pursuit of lowering child support orders. Though modification is not available in all child support cases it is a possibility in the courts of Massachusetts and can benefit parents who want to do what is best for their kids.

Is shared parenting time good for kids affected by divorce?

In certain situations a Massachusetts family law court may rule that a child should be in the sole custody of only one of his parents. This may occur due to problems that child would face in the household of the other parent. If the noncustodial parent is incarcerated, has a drug or alcohol problem, or has exhibited abusive behavior toward the child or others the court may place the child outside of that parent’s control. Every child custody case is assessed on a case by case basis, and when two people go through a divorce the court will also consider the best interests of their kids when making a custody determination.

According to some studies, however, parents and kids generally do better after divorce when the parents share time with their kids. Two different concepts of shared parenting should be differentiated: Shared parenting implies the children spend time with both parents in potentially unequal distributions while equal parenting implies that two parents each get the same amount of time with their kids.

Separation from one parent through either sole custody or shared custody but with an unequal distribution of time can cause anxiety, stress and other negative feelings in a child. Additionally, some parents who hold all or most custodial responsibilities feel overwhelmed by their duties when they cannot share them proportionally with their children’s other parent. As it stands, many parents and kids function the best after a divorce when they work out equal parenting time arrangements for their child custody plans.

No two divorces are alike and for this reason divorcing couples should not assume that they will be granted equal parenting and custody time of their kids during their divorce proceedings. Many factors, including the best interests of the children, will be considered by the family law courts hearing their matters. However, with the help of their legal representatives some parents may choose to advocate for equal parenting time with their soon-to-be exes in order to serve their children’s and their interests.

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