Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Franklin Legal Blog

How is property division determined in Massachusetts?

Property division can be a significant concern for divorcing couples which is why it can be helpful to understand how it is determined in Massachusetts. Divorcing couples might have many questions concerning property division so some answers regarding how to expect property will be divided can be helpful.

Property division in Massachusetts when couples divorce is referred to as equitable property division. Unlike some states that divide property in half upon divorce according to community property rules, Massachusetts divides property upon divorce according to equitable property rules which means that property will be divided fairly as possible but does not necessarily mean property will be divided in half.

The importance of negotiating a child custody agreement

Child custody may be one of the most significant, and understandable, concerns for divorcing parents. When a couple is considering a divorce, at the top of their list are likely considerations about where their children will reside, who will make important decisions for them, how they will co-parent and how the divorce may impact their children. It can be helpful for parents to know that the family law system provides resources to help them with each of these concerns.

In general, child custody determinations are based on what is in the best interests of the child. It is important to always maintain that as a focus of all child custody considerations during and following the divorce. Developing a child custody plan that is in the best interests of the child can be achieved through mediation or other resources available to divorcing parents through the family law system.

What are the benefits of divorce mediation?

Divorcing couples may have heard of divorce mediation and wondered what it is. The answer is that there are different options available to couples today seeking a divorce that may allow them to avoid the downsides sometimes associated with divorce litigation. Divorce mediation is a process for divorcing couples to consider that allows them to resolve divorce-related issues in a manner that may be better for their children and family.

When couples engage in mediation, a mediator can help facilitate communication and understanding; help the parties understand their own and the other's interests; and creatively problem-solve and reach agreement regarding divorce-related concerns such as property division, child custody, child support and alimony concerns. Divorce mediation can help couples reach a divorce settlement that also preserves the on-going relationship of the couple as parents.

Parenting time interference is a serious matter to the court

Nearly all parents who face the difficult task of sharing custody and parenting privileges find that it is difficult to follow their custody order or parenting plan to the letter all the time. If you and your child's other parent experience similar conflicts, rest assured that you are in the company of thousands or even millions of parents experiencing similar frustrations.

However, there is a difference between the occasional disruption and severe or ongoing behavior from one parent that obstructs the parental rights of the other. In some cases, the severity or repeated nature of the disruption warrants legal action.

Actor and musician end 20-year relationship

Perhaps best known for her role as Cher in the teen comedy "Clueless" from years ago, Alicia Silverstone has maintained a relatively low profile for someone engrained in the highly visible entertainment industry. In fact, she and her husband, musician Christopher Jarecki of the punk band S.T.U.N., have been together for 20 years and have been married for six of them. Just recently, the couple decided to end their union and separate their lives from each other.

Hollywood divorces are not unique. Massachusetts residents hear about them all the time. It seems as though a popular celebrity and their spouse end their relationship each week and details of their split spill out in the media over the weeks following their announcement. What makes Silverstone and Jarecki's split somewhat more unique is the fact that their relationship endured for so long and that they share a 6-year-old son.

Religion may be addressed in a child custody plan

Oftentimes, when two people of differing faiths join together in marriage, they discuss how they will either retain their separate religions or find ways to unify themselves under one particular religious system. It is not uncommon for married people to be divided not only into separate religious practices, but for some faithful individuals to marry people who have no religious beliefs at all. These relationships can and do work but often become complicated when the married parties have children.

The introduction of children into a multi-faith household can cause conflict when the parents cannot or do not agree on how the children will be exposed to religion. In fact, when individuals divorce, religion can be a major point of conflict between them when it comes to establishing how they will co-parent their kids. Especially if the parents share legal custody of their kids it may be hard to find common ground on how their children will, or will not, be brought up in a religion.

Know your rights when dividing your marital estate

It seems fair that a person should be entitled to keep that which they earn. That is to say, a Massachusetts resident may believe that they should get to take from their marriage the financial contributions that they make to it during the years they are bound to their spouse. This is not the case in many divorces, as courts must balance the equities of the partners and assess how each contributed to the success of the relationship over the course of its lifetime.

For example, when a spouse does not work outside of the home, this doesn't mean that the spouse did not work at all. In fact, that person may have spent much of their potential wage-earning life raising their children, maintaining the family home, managing the bills and accounts of the family and performing other necessary and important tasks that ensured the successful operation of the marriage.

Tax implications for alimony may impact divorces

The federal government recently passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a sweeping law that impacts many parts of the current tax code. While some Massachusetts residents may have concerns over what the law will do to their property taxes and how capital gains may be impacted, those contemplating divorce should be aware of one major change: alimony payments are no longer tax deductible.

Under the previous law, a person who paid alimony to their former spouse was able to write the payments off of their income tax assessment. On the flip side, the recipient spouse was required to declare the alimony payments as income and through this process the money paid was taxed once and the payer was able to reduce their income to prevent even bigger losses from their mandate to provide financial support to their ex-spouse.

3 ways to prepare for divorce mediation

Divorce is often a very complicated process that causes stress on the divorcing couple and their children. But, what if you and your future ex-spouse agree that you do not want to go through the litigation process? What if you are seeking ways to reduce the impact of your divorce on your children? You may already be considering alternatives to divorce litigation, such as mediation.

If you have already decided that mediation is the best option for you, you might be wondering what to expect or how to prepare. The following tips can help you get ready for your first mediation session.

Technology helps parents and kids stay connected after divorce

Parents in Massachusetts love to see their children achieve success at school, in their extracurricular pursuits and through their relationships with their friends and family members. Children who are happy tend to be children who thrive. Oftentimes, however, when children are forced to bear the painful experience of their parents' divorce, they can grow less inclined to engage as they did when both of their parents had a daily presence in their upbringing.

The separation of a parent from their child due to a post-divorce child custody plan can be hard to cope with. A child who was accustomed to getting a hug and kiss from both parents at bedtime, for example, may have to learn a new routine if one of those parents no longer serves a custodial role in the child's life. However, through the use of technology some parents and kids are able to stay connected even if divorce and parenting plans get in their way.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator


38 Pond Street Suite 301
Franklin, MA 02038

Phone: 508-507-8742
Fax: 508-528-5177

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