Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Franklin Legal Blog

Separating property pursuant to a Massachusetts divorce

Life is more than the things that one accumulates over time, but the things that individuals choose to purchase, acquire, and keep can have significant financial and emotional value. Gifts from lost loved ones, residences full of memories, and lucrative investments may all help provide comfort and confidence to the lives of Massachusetts residents. When a couple decides to split and go through a divorce, deciding what to do with all of their property can be difficult.

During marriage dissolution, certain assets may be deemed separate in nature, meaning that only one party owns them. Other assets may be considered jointly owned by both parties to a marriage. While separate property generally goes with its individual owner, during divorce shared property must be valued and assigned to one of the individual's for their post-divorce life. When former spouses both want an item of shared property, their negotiations can become strained.

Abuse as a factor in a child custody case

Parents are charged with protecting their children from harm and providing them with the love and care that they need to grow. While most parents take these mandates seriously and sacrifice in order to give their children everything that they need, not all parents act with their kids' best interests in mind. An unfortunate number of Massachusetts parents commit abuse against their kids each year. Those parents may have their custodial rights threatened by the courts.

Parents who abuse or threaten their kids may have their custodial rights cut off. Courts may look for a pattern of abuse in a family law case before making changes to any existing child custody orders, but they may also rely on a single abusive event to justify a modification. Both a parent's physical and legal custody rights can be taken away if a court deems it warranted, which means that there's a lot at stake in these cases

Why do some choose mediation for their divorces?

A divorce is a legal process that ends a marriage. Because it requires the division of property, the assignment of parental rights and responsibilities, and the identification of financial duties, it can cause differences of preference and opinion between its participants to be highlighted. While individuals who want to get divorced in Massachusetts can go through the courts to end their marriages, they can also work with divorce mediators to find more peaceful resolutions to their divorce proceedings.

Some individuals choose mediation over litigation to dissolve their marriages because they have more control of their divorce outcomes through mediation. In mediation, the parties to a divorce work directly with a mediator who helps them find understanding in their differences. Rather than being told what will happen to them, their property, and their children, parties to mediated divorces make their own decisions about what will occur.

Is there more than one type of alimony?

Alimony is a form of support that a person pays to their former spouse. Massachusetts residents can request alimony when they end their marriages, and that support can take on different forms depending upon their circumstances. However, it is important that individuals remember that not every divorce will involve alimony. For some, self-sufficiency is possible and alimony may not be needed.

Alimony can take on a general form, in which it is paid from one person to the other for an indeterminate amount of time. This form of alimony is awarded when one party depends on the other for financial help. When a party only needs alimony so that they can get their single life started, they may be awarded a type of short-term alimony called transitional alimony.

The rare circumstances when you may need to seek sole custody

The family courts in Massachusetts want to do what is best for the children whose parents are going through a divorce. When they decide how to split up custody between the parents, the focus will always be on the best interests of the children, not on the wishes or rights of the parents.

In most cases, the best interests of the child involve retaining healthy relationships with both parents. Unfortunately, that isn't always an option for every family. There are certain circumstances in which it makes sense for you to seek sole custody of your children during a Massachusetts divorce.

The difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce

In Massachusetts, a person can pursue divorce based on fault grounds or on the no-fault basis of an irretrievably broken marriage. If they choose to use the no-fault basis for ending their marriage, their divorce may be uncontested or contested. A person whose spouse agrees that their marriage is broken and who also wishes to file for divorce may be able to use the uncontested no-fault path to divorce, but if their spouse disagrees with the divorce or the terms of the divorce, the divorce may need to be filed as a contested no-fault process.

Uncontested no-fault divorces require a fair amount of work on the part of the participants. That is because they must come up with their own agreements regarding the division of their property, the custody and support of their kids, the payment of alimony (if at all), and all other divorce-related subjects. In some cases individuals may choose to mediate their uncontested no-fault divorces to work out these important issues.

Making the most out of the marital property division process

Divorce is often hard on families, especially when Massachusetts' parents end their relationships with each other and search for ways to co-parent their kids. Although it is tough for children to watch their home lives change and their parents move on to lead separate lives, marriage dissolution can be challenging for everyone who must uproot their lives, figure out their finances, and establish themselves without their former familial identities.

Divorce divides people, but it also requires the division of property. In Massachusetts, marital property is divided based on the idea of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution does not require the equal division of shared, also known as marital property, but rather the fair division of property among divorcing parties.

Working together when children are sick

As readers of this Massachusetts family law blog may know, there are two distinct forms of child custody that parents may or may not share when they go through divorces. The first form of custody is physical custody. Parents with physical custody can have their kids live with them exclusively or may share their kids with their exes. The second form of custody is legal custody, and, like physical custody, it may be given exclusively to one parent or be shared between them.

A parent with legal custody has the right to make important decisions about how their child is cared for. Legal custodians can decide or be involved in deciding what medical care their kids receive and how that treatment will be received. When major health crises arise in the lives of children, their legal custodians can and should work together to help them get the medical support they need.

A discussion about court-ordered conciliation

Often when Massachusetts couples consider using mediation for the resolution of their divorces, they think about the process as a voluntary undertaking. What readers of this family law and mediation blog may not know is that courts can order couples to use mediation when they are working to end their marriages. Sometimes called court-ordered conciliation, this form of mediation may be ordered for a number of reasons.

One reason that a judge may order divorcing parties to mediate some of their unresolved issues is to require them to speak to each other on important issues that may affect them after their divorces. When couples share children, for example, it is important that they are on the same page when it comes to custody, support, and other important topics. Court-ordered mediation can help parents prepare to co-parent even while they are working to break their marital relationships.

Child custody: Always do what's best for your kids

Your divorce is a traumatic time for you, but it is also going to be a time of big changes for your children. This can be hard to deal with because you want your children to have a happy life that is filled with security and love. During the divorce, you are going to have to make a concerted effort to make this happen.

Keeping your children protected might be easier if you and your ex can get along and agree on what's best for the kids. If there is a time when you can't work with the other parent, you might find that things become more challenging, but the same principles can help.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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