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Is Massachusetts a community property state?

If you and your spouse contemplate ending your Massachusetts marriage, one of your main concerns likely is how you will divide the property the two of you have accumulated during your marriage. Massachusetts is not one of the community property states that consider all marital property to be owned by both spouses jointly in a 50-50 manner. Rather, Massachusetts requires you to divide your property in a fair and equitable manner, which may or may not entail a 50-50 split between you.

Massachusetts law also differentiates between separate property that belongs to you and you alone and marital property that belongs to both you and your spouse. Your separate property includes the following:

  • Anything you owned prior to your marriage
  • Any bequests, inheritances or gifts you received during your marriage
  • Any judgment you received during your marriage as the result of a lawsuit in which your spouse was not a party

Splitting custody and parenting time after a divorce

Following a divorce, getting back to a normal life can be difficult for everyone involved. While many parents in Massachusetts will have to learn to cope with limited custody time, the children may have a harder time adjusting to the fact that their one household suddenly became two. However, there are some ways that parents can help their kids adjust.

When parents are creating a custody schedule, they should keep the family in mind as the schedule could have a major impact on their kids' day-to-day lives. Traveling back and forth multiple times throughout the week can make it difficult for children to have social lives or be involved in extracurricular activities. On the other hand, the kids need the ability to spend enough time with the other parent. Therefore, seeing that parent once or twice a month may not be enough.

How divorce impacts retirement planning

Divorce in Massachusetts has the potential of creating financial implications that can last for years. A new report released from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College underscores the impact of divorce and explores the long-term financial challenges for retirement planning.

The National Retirement Risk Index was established in 2006. It serves the distinct purpose of measuring the percentage of working households and their capacity to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyle once they've exited the workforce. The index estimates that half of American households won't be able to maintain that same standard of living once they have retired. For divorced households, however, the risk is 7 percentage points greater.

Financial planning for the future during divorce

Divorce can be uniquely challenging for many couples in Massachusetts. The end of a marriage is often accompanied by a range of dramatic financial, practical and emotional changes. During this period, it's important to keep some key guidelines in mind in order to avoid making errors that could be costly in the future.

For example, it is not uncommon for exes to rush into a remarriage after their divorces. However, the divorce rate in second and third marriages is generally higher than that of first marriages. The later in life one chooses to divorce, the more significant the financial impact can be, especially if the marriage was long-term. Dividing assets such as retirement accounts can be easier to handle at a younger age as both parties have a greater chance to recover financially. When people remarry after divorce, prenuptial agreements can be considered to protect each party's assets that they brought into the marriage. These agreements can be especially helpful when both parties have children that they wish to protect.

Factors behind the divorce rate among baby boomers

Many Massachusetts residents may be aware that gray divorces (those that occur after the age 50) have increased over the past few decades. In fact, it is estimated that 25 percent of all divorces are gray divorces. There are a number of factors that may have caused this increase.

Part of the surge in gray divorce rates is due to the fact that the baby boomer population is aging. For example, there were only an estimated 63.5 million Americans who were age 50 or older in 1990. By 2010, there were an estimated 99 million Americans aged 50 or older. On top of this, both men and women have a longer average life expectancy in 2016 than they did in 1950. Not only are there more people in that age group, but people are also living longer.

Can divorcing spouses use the same attorney?

Many marriages come to an end in Massachusetts. When filing for divorce in the state, the spouses will first need to state what type of divorce they seek. From there, they will need to decide whether they want an uncontested or contested divorce.

Some divorces are more tumultuous than others, but there are a number of cases where the spouses still get along relatively well. They can act amicably toward each other, and both parties want to cut back the costs naturally associated with divorce. One way many people believe they can save money is if both spouses use the same lawyer. Before proceeding, you need to banish that thought from your mind, because both parties will need different lawyers. 

Divorcing couples work together to increase financial stability

In Massachusetts, couples who decide to get divorced may face financial instability after their divorces are over. Some couples are taking a new approach in their divorces to make certain that both spouses will be financially stable following their divorces by working through a collaborative process.

People who are getting divorced may work collaboratively with a team of professionals, including divorce lawyers, financial planners, licensed mediators and others. The professionals work together to look at the property divisions more carefully with the people. Instead of the people concentrating on who gets the vehicles or homes, the professionals help them to consider the financial impacts of medical and automotive insurance policies and who will be protected.

What happens when parents share legal custody

Legal custody may be granted to one or both parents after a divorce and refers to a parent's right to make decisions about major parts of a child's life including education, what religion the child will be raised in and health care. Legal custody is separate from physical custody, and a parent in Massachusetts who has visitation rights may share joint legal custody with the other parent.

Joint legal custody has both its advantages and disadvantages. A parent may welcome being able to confer with the other parent about these important issues as the child grows up. Parents must also work together to communicate effectively and make decisions, and it can be good for children to see this happening.

How to help children adjust to divorce

There are many ways that Massachusetts parents can help their children adjust to divorce, and there are also actions they can avoid that could make the situation worse. For example, parents should talk to their children and make sure they do not feel responsible for the breakup. They should also monitor their children for signs of depression and keep in mind that this may manifest as acting out.

It is important to encourage children to maintain a relationship with the other parent. Parents should keep their personal feelings about one another to themselves and not involve their children in their conflicts. They should not try to get the children to choose sides in the divorce or to be messengers between them and the other parent. They also should not question the children about the other parent's activities.

Abusive parents and child custody

Some parents in Massachusetts who may have been in abusive relationships might be worried about protecting their children from the other parent. Unfortunately, according to the American Psychological Association, courts may dismiss an abuse history when making a decision about custody. Furthermore, in 2012, a report from the American Judges Association said that in around 70 percent of challenged cases, abusive spouses convinced a court that other parent was either unfit or should not get sole custody.

One professor and expert in domestic violence says that abusive parents may try to get control by suing for custody. She refers to this "coercive control" as acts of emotional, financial, mental and other types of abuse. When abusers do get custodial rights, she says, they may use them to manipulate children by telling them they will harm the other parent. Furthermore, men who are abusive to their partners often have a negative effect on their children according to research, but she says this is often downplayed in court.

  • CA State Bar Association
  • MA Bar Association
  • Essex County Bar Association
  • Salem Bar Association
  • Women's Bar Association
  • Avvo

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