Co-Parenting During the Holidays

Carolyn Childs Van Tine and Andrea Dunbar discuss the do’s and don’ts of co-parenting during the happiest – and possibly most stressful – time of the year. Learn about “holiday parenting time,” how to negotiate for an agreement that favors the holidays most important to you, and what steps you can take in conflict situations – with or without a plan. Despite the challenges, you can set your family up for a joyful season filled with new memory-making traditions.

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

Recent Appeals Court Decisions Clarifying Durational Limits for Alimony: Part 2

In my last blog post, I discussed the Clement v. Owens case, one of two recent decisions from the Appeals Court which further defined and clarified the durational limits of alimony in Massachusetts under the 2012 Alimony Reform Act. In this blog post, I will discuss the second case, Clemence v. Sklenak, which addressed the question of whether the Alimony Reform Act’s durational limits, set forth in G. L. c. 208, § 49(b), began to run on the date of the judgment of divorce (wherein the husband waived past, present and future alimony except in limited circumstances) or when alimony was awarded under a modification judgment. The Appeals Court found that because the divorce judgment provided for an initial “zero alimony award,” the durational limits commenced at the time of the entry of the divorce judgment.

In the Clemence case, the parties were married for approximately thirteen (13) years.  A judgment of divorce nisi, incorporating the parties’ Separation Agreement, was entered in January 2017. Pursuant to the terms of the parties’ Separation Agreement, the husband waived past, present, and future alimony. The Agreement further provided that the husband’s waiver of alimony was based upon his receipt of … Keep reading

A House Divided – The Intersection of Divorce and Politics

Another uneventful election year is in the books. Well, almost uneventful . . . In reality, it was (is?) as contentious a political battle as we have seen in a very long time. In many ways, the nation’s political divide is analogous to a common divorce theme – each party has completely disparate views and priorities on a variety of issues which can lead to some (ahem) “irreconcilable differences.” Perhaps for some of you out there, opposing political views within your household may even be a cause that leads to a divorce. Regardless of the reason for the divide within the household (remember, Massachusetts is a “no-fault” divorce state after all), it is important to follow what happens next in the political process, as divorce and politics are always going to be intertwined, and no time is that principle more apparent than after an election year.

Without getting too deep into a fifth grade civics lesson, the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary) on both the state and federal levels create, implement, interpret, and contextualize the laws and policies which have a direct and indirect impact on the divorce process. Divorce is fundamentally governed by each state’s … Keep reading

Rule 401: The Financial Statement

In every Massachusetts divorce matter, parties are required to file financial statements with the Court within 45 days of service of the summons and to update and file new financial statements for each court appearance at which financial relief is sought, as well as at the time of pre-trial and trial. A party who earns less than $75,000 per year will complete the short form financial statement. A party who earns more than $75,000 per year will complete the long-form financial statement. While only the long-form financial statement requires notarization of the party’s signature, both the short form and the long-form are signed under the penalties of perjury. A party signing a financial statement must certify that the information contained therein is true, accurate, and complete. A willful misrepresentation on a financial statement subjects the party to sanctions, including criminal penalties. While I have yet to see anyone criminally punished for information contained in or missing from a financial statement, I have seen litigants suffer the consequences of their failure to take the necessary time to accurately complete the financial statement – namely, losing credibility in front of the trial judge. If a trial judge determines a … Keep reading

Recent Appeals Court Decisions Clarifying Durational Limits for Alimony: Part 1

On Friday, October 16, 2020, the Appeals Court released two unpublished decisions further defining and clarifying the durational limits of alimony in Massachusetts under the 2012 Alimony Reform Act: Clement v. Owens-Clement and Clemence v. Sklenak.  In this blog post, I will discuss the first – Clement v. Owens-Clement – which addressed the question of whether a Court has statutory authority to grant a deviation from the durational limits on a complaint for modification filed after the presumptive durational limits had already expired.

In the Clement case, the parties were divorced after six years of marriage. In their Separation Agreement, both parties waived the right to past and present alimony but left open the option to seek alimony in the future. Approximately four and a half years after the divorce, and over a year after the presumptive durational limits of alimony under the Alimony Reform Act expired, the wife filed a complaint for modification seeking alimony from the husband on the basis of her complete disability and inability to support herself.  The wife underwent surgery for removal of a large brain tumor, continued to suffer from a seizure disorder, nerve damage to her face, and hearing loss, and … Keep reading

Prenuptial + Postnuptial Agreements: How Are They Different?

A prenuptial agreement, signed before the big day, allows a couple to determine how assets and income will be handled at the end of a marriage, whether by death or divorce. A postnuptial agreement, which serves a similar purpose, is signed during the marriage. While the two are alike, they have critical differences, including what is required to make these contracts enforceable.

In the sixth episode of our divorce-focused webinar series, Robin Lynch Nardone and Elizabeth Crowley cover essential questions: Is a prenup right for you and your relationship? Will a postnuptial agreement put you at ease and help bring back marital bliss? Register now to learn more about these two types of contracts and how they can benefit you (and your marriage).

View the full episode here.… Keep reading

Division of Retirement Benefits at Divorce

Retirement accounts and benefits can be among the most valuable assets owned by parties who are divorcing. While parties can agree within their Separation Agreement to divide retirement assets between themselves in a particular way, the Separation Agreement itself is not a directive to the plan administrator (the person or company responsible for managing a retirement fund or pension plan on behalf of the participants) and will not suffice on its own to accomplish a division of retirement assets. Another separate order signed by the judge and sent to the plan administrator is necessary to effectuate the division of certain retirement benefits.

ERISA qualified retirement plans

ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) is a federal law that sets standards and provides protection for people participating in retirement and health plans in private industry. ERISA covers both defined benefit plans (pensions) and defined contribution plans (401(k), certain deferred compensation plans, and profit-sharing plans) offered by private employers. When a private defined benefit plan or defined contribution plan is divided as part of a divorce, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or QDRO is needed.

A QDRO is a specialized court order that directs the plan administrator to allocate all … Keep reading

Demystifying Myths About Dividing Assets in Divorce: Part 3 – The Contribution Factor – Celebrity Edition

Perhaps growing up in Los Angeles took some of the fun out of celebrity gossip, but I never understood the fascination with stories about what is in the shopping cart of the (often shorter than advertised) celebrity standing in front of me at the grocery store.  One aspect of celebrity gossip that has piqued my interest in recent years has been celebrity divorces, or more specifically, the public’s reaction to celebrity divorces and how it mirrors a lot of the same misconceptions we hear as divorce practitioners.

The fairly recent divorce between Amazon founder (and the reason most celebrities no longer go to the grocery store), Jeff Bezos, and his now ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, comes to mind as a situation in which everyone seemed to have a “hot take” about the couples’ divorce financials.  Given the staggering wealth being divided in the divorce, one of the comments I regularly saw on social media was “what did she do to deserve that much of his money?”  Despite the misguided gender stereotypes being at an all-time high, the short response (as confirmed by Mr. Bezos, himself) was “a lot.”

In the third edition of this series about demystifying myths on dividing … Keep reading

What to do When a Spouse Ignores the Divorce Process

When a marriage becomes irretrievably broken, both spouses generally agree that a divorce is necessary.  However, some divorces are contested by one party, which may make the process more difficult and lead to prolonged negotiations and delay the ultimate resolution.  What can make things even more difficult is when one spouse refuses to even respond or engage in the divorce process.

When a spouse is dilatory or refuses to participate in the divorce process, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Service

The first hurdle in any divorce process is actually getting the process started.  Once a Complaint for Divorce is filed, the Summons and a copy of the Complaint for Divorce needs to be served upon the other party.  This is typically done by having a Constable or Sheriff deliver the Summons and Complaint for Divorce to the other spouse.  Once the Summons and Complaint for Divorce are served on the other spouse, the Original Summons, along with a Certificate of Service signed by the person who hand-delivered the Complaint, is returned to the Court for filing.  After the Summons is filed with the Court, the case is ready to proceed and the Court will likely issue a notice of … Keep reading