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Common scenarios addressed by prenuptial agreements

Although Massachusetts couples who are planning to walk down the aisle are likely focused on love and companionship, the act of getting married ultimately creates a financial union as well. When divorces happen, they must disconnect the partners' financial ties. Prenuptial agreements could support this process by preventing costly delays and disputes. Financial issues commonly addressed by these contracts often include student debt, business assets and income disparity between the prospective spouses.

A couple might specify how marital money will be directed toward the payment of one party's student loan. In the event of a divorce, the money spent by one spouse toward the other's loan might be returned in whole or part through by the divorce settlement as directed by the prenuptial agreement.

What happens to your business in a divorce

Divorce heralds a number of changes for Massachusetts couples. If you own a business, figuring out its fate in the property division process will likely be a top priority for you.

If your business counts as a separate asset, you may have a better chance of keeping it out of division, although this is not guaranteed. This is more likely if you established the business before marriage, your spouse did not contribute to it and all relevant accounts remained separate from marital property. However, the income the business generated during the marriage and any assets purchased with it may still count as marital property and need to be divided.

Researchers say divorce risk higher for cohabiting couples

Living together before marriage could raise a Massachusetts couple's divorce risk over the long term, according to a study that was published in the September edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family. Researchers used data from the National Surveys of Family Growth on women younger than 45 who were in first marriages between 1970 and 2015.

Earlier studies found that couples who lived together before they got married had a lower divorce risk than partners who did not. However, the new study contradicted those findings. It found that while the divorce risk was higher in the first year of marriage for people who had not cohabited before marriage, after that first year, the risk reversed.

Personality traits that could undermine a marriage

Certain personality traits could eventually erode happiness between spouses in Massachusetts and result in divorce. This is especially likely when a spouse fails to address their bad habits or recognize the needs of their partner. According to psychologists, some of the most damaging personality traits include materialism, fragile egos, narcissism and selfishness.

Research indicates that people with an excessive focus on material possessions have a harder time maintaining marriages. Their tendency to judge everything in financial and material terms reduces their ability for emotional connection. For people with fragile egos, their deep insecurities demand emotional support from their partners. If a spouse reduces the attention given to a person with a fragile ego, that person might look to other people to satisfy cravings for attention.

How jobs can cause divorce

A Massachusetts couple considering divorce might also reflect on the various causes of the situation. In some cases, employment might play a part in the issues that develop. A study from two Stockholm University researchers reveals that jobs in certain industries can be factors in the demise of a marriage.

The study, which focused on Denmark residents who had married someone from the opposite sex between 1982 and 2002 and held a job part of that time, focused on 102,453 men and 113,252 women who got divorced. After controlling for some social factors, the researchers found that men who worked in fields with a majority of same-sex co-workers tended to have lower divorce rates. The fields where more men and women reported divorces were the hotel and restaurant fields, which demanded a lot of socializing.

Determining child support in a joint custody case

In many child custody cases in Massachusetts, parents end up with shared physical and legal custody. For joint custody cases, the parents share all of the responsibilities of raising their children. This often includes sharing the financial obligations associated with the costs of raising a child.

Because both parents are providing the financial funds to raise the child, courts often handle joint custody child support cases differently than sole custody cases. For sole custody, courts use the Child Support Standards Act Statute to determine how much in financial support the non-custodial ex will be required to pay. In Massachusetts, one parent may still have to make child support payments to the other parent even if there is a shared or joint custody agreement. In general, it is the non-residential parent who pays child support to the residential parent.

3 of the most common divorce myths

Divorce can be a complicated, stressful and overwhelming process for some people. Nobody gets married and anticipates they will later be separating from their spouse and negotiating property division. With divorce rates hovering around 50 percent, this is the reality many couples face. It is important to confront the situation with composure and calm. An important part of this is being fully informed of what to expect.

Unfortunately, there are many myths floating around that can color your expectations about divorce. You should take the initiative to educate yourself and dispel the misinformation that can misguide your decisions. The following are three of the most common myths about divorce. 

Relevance of domestic violence in child custody cases

During child custody cases, family courts in Massachusetts take allegations of domestic violence very seriously. They do not want to put a child in a dangerous situation. Courts will consider several factors when there are allegations of domestic violence, including the frequency and severity of the acts of violence, whether the accused person currently poses a danger to the other parent or child and whether there are criminal charges pending against the accused.

The court will consider whether the alleged violence was directed at the child and the extent to which it had an effect on him or her. It will also generally consider police reports and other evidence of abuse, including photographs. The court's custody decisions will ultimately be based on what's best for the child. Evidence of domestic violence is often considered in child custody cases. If the court determines that it is dangerous for an individual to be around his or her child or the other parent, he or she may be denied custody.

Influence of divorce on college planning and financial aid

People ending their marriages in Massachusetts have many financial matters to consider before reaching a final agreement. For parents, their divorce settlements should address college expenses for the children. Even if children are young and college is years away, a divorce agreement that addresses the topic could create an obligation to assist with expenses. This provides greater security than broaching the subject of paying for college with an ex-spouse years later.

Parents might not be able to commit to firm numbers within a divorce agreement due to future financial uncertainty. An agreement, however, could cover the matter in general terms about what the parents intend to do. The parents could establish terms about acceptable expenses such as tuition, room and board or books. Allowances should also be made for the possibility that a child might not go to college, choose to take a gap year or study overseas.

Asset division challenges for older couples

Older couples in Massachusetts face unique challenges when they go through the divorce process. These so-called "gray divorces," which involve spouses over the age of 50, are more likely to involve issues with asset division and retirement savings plans.

Even if there is a willingness to be generous with asset division during divorce proceedings, there are certain rules that determine how 401(k)s and IRAs are divided. With annuity contracts, assets may need to be traded off to avoid affecting value. One of the biggest surprises for some divorcing older couples is having to split retirement plan assets. This may be necessary if both partners contributed to an account. There could be additional issues if multiple accounts are involved.

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

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