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

A Review of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act

Earlier this summer, which feels like a lifetime ago in these COVID times, the Rhode Island Governor signed the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act into law.  The law, which had been considered in four previous legislative sessions, and takes effect January 1, 2021, repeals current laws regarding paternity and ensures equal access to the security of legal parentage.  Rhode Island was long overdue for this update as the paternity laws had not been updated in over forty years, and the laws as previously written did not recognize today’s broader definition of family.

Some of the highlights of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act include the following:

  1. The law allows for LGBTQ couples to establish parentage through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, negating the necessity of having to undertake a lengthy, and potentially expensive, co-parent adoption process to establish legal parentage.
  2. The law creates a path to parentage and provides protections for children born through surrogacy.
  3. The law expands the paths to legal parentage, including through adoption, acknowledgment, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage, and presumptions.
  4. The law also provides clear standards for establishing parentage in the family court.
  5. While Rhode Island case law has supported de facto
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Harassment Prevention Orders Under G.L. c. 258E

I have written in the past about 209A Abuse Prevention Orders – the mechanism by which victims of family or household violence can obtain court orders of protection.  Burns & Levinson partners Ronald Barriere and Cici Van Tine recently presented on the issue of divorcing an abusive spouse, which included discussion of the protections available. But what about someone who is being harassed or abused by someone who is not a spouse, family, or household member?

Under Chapter 258E of the Massachusetts General Laws, someone who is the victim of harassment can request an Order from the Superior Court, District Court, Boston Municipal Court, or Juvenile Court (for parties under age 17) to prevent harassment or abuse.  Unlike when seeking a Chapter 209A Abuse Prevention Order, a party seeking a Chapter 258E Order is not required to show that the parties are related or have a history of any type of marital or dating relationship.  Anyone can obtain a 258E Harassment Prevention Order upon a showing of harassment.

Harassment for purposes of obtaining a 258E Order is defined as (i) 3 or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent … Keep reading

Divorcing an Abusive Spouse: What Do You Need to Know?

In episode four of our divorce-focused webinar series, attorneys Ronald Barriere and Carolyn Childs Van Tine aim to demystify the process and help alleviate anxieties common in the dissolution of abusive relationships. For instance, how can the presence of abuse impact the process of selecting a divorce attorney? What are the co-parenting strategies, and what legal options are there when children are involved? Learn the practical considerations and legal procedures you will face and gain insight to help you navigate your divorce with confidence.

Please note, courtesy of the National Domestic Violence Hotline: “Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Users of web browser Microsoft Edge will be redirected to Google when clicking the ‘X’ or ‘Escape’ button.”

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

Protecting Marital Assets During the Pendency of a Divorce

One of the biggest concerns parties have when going through a divorce is that their spouse will dissipate, hide, or move assets without their knowledge and consent. The fear is that once assets are gone, they can no longer be divided in the divorce.  While the dissipation, hiding, or moving of assets is unfortunately not uncommon during a divorce, there are three main protections available to protect assets during a divorce: (1) Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order; (2) Trustee Process; and (3) ultimate property division.  A summary of each of these protections is as follows:

  1. Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order

In addition to prohibiting a divorcing party from incurring debt which would burden the credit of the other party and from changing the beneficiary of any insurance policy or retirement plan, the Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 411: Automatic Restraining Order prevents both spouses from taking actions which would affect marital property without the other spouse’s consent.  It provides that neither party to a divorce “shall sell, transfer, encumber, conceal, assign, remove or in any way dispose of any property, real or personal, belonging to or acquired by, either party.”

The Rule 411 Automatic Restraining Order becomes effective … Keep reading

Divorce and the Engagement Ring

A diamond is forever. Unfortunately, sometimes marriage is not. So, what happens to the engagement ring?

An engagement ring is in the nature of a pledge, given on the implied condition that a marriage will take place. If the engagement is broken off before marriage, then the “contract to marry” is said to be terminated and the donor (the one who gave the ring) can recover the ring, provided the donor was without fault relative to the breakup. After marriage, however, things are different.

Under Massachusetts law, upon a divorce, marital property is divided equitably. A judge may divide all property to which a party holds title, “however, and whenever acquired.” This means that any property owned by either party at the time of the divorce is subject to being allocated between the parties – including the engagement ring. Further, “fault” in terms of the reason for divorce will not result in the exclusion of the ring from the divisible marital estate. A judge will consider what is equitable under the facts of each case and has the power to order the ring to be retained by either party or sold. While an engagement ring is most often retained … Keep reading

Webinar: Keeping the Focus on Your Children During the Divorce Process

In the third episode of our divorce-focused webinar series, Dr. Sharon Gordetsky joins attorneys Tiffany Bentley and Francine Gardikas to explore how divorce affects children and how to navigate the process for their benefit. They discuss children’s developmental stages and needs, the decisions that will impact your family, the various professionals potentially involved in the process, and finally, the big one: how to tell the children.

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

The Pros and Cons of Mediating a Divorce Matter via Videoconference

As I mentioned in my last blog post outlining a few tips for videoconferencing, a discussion of the decision-making process as to whether to participate in mediation or conciliation via videoconference could be its own blog post.  So, here it is!

On July 13, 2020, Massachusetts state courthouses physically reopened to the public for limited purposes, including some in-person proceedings.  However, most hearings continue to be conducted by telephone or videoconference, often scheduled half an hour apart from other cases.  The result of the Court’s closure in mid-March due to COVID-19 and only gradual reopening since then is that the Court system is struggling to play catch up on matters that were not able to be heard during the Court closure, plus keep up with the continual new filings.  Parties are facing significant delays in getting their “day in court,” which is requiring parties and their counsel to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions to address the ongoing needs of divorcing parties and their families.  One of these solutions may be to participate in mediation or conciliation via video conference.  While there is a difference between these two forms of alternative dispute resolution, for … Keep reading

Demystifying Myths About Dividing Assets in Divorce: Part 2 – The Treatment of “Personal” Assets

“What’s mine is . . . yours?” 

Welcome back to the long-awaited second part of my series on demystifying myths about asset division in divorce.  I started this incredible year by addressing the most common of misconceptions about the divorce process – the impact of an extramarital affair in asset division.  Since then, the world has seemingly turned upside-down.  So for those of you yearning for simpler times, go back and check out the first part of this series before diving into Part 2.

In this second part of the series, we consider another of the common misconceptions about dividing assets in the divorce process, what happens to “personal” assets?  By “personal” assets, I am generally referring to those premarital assets (including real estate) titled in one spouse’s name, inherited assets received by one spouse prior to or during the marriage, personal business interests, and those investment and retirement accounts that you worked so hard to grow over time.  Basically, anything you would think of as “mine” instead of “ours.”  As you can imagine, the divorce process heightens this sense of personal ownership of these assets, which makes what I am about to say next all the more painful … Keep reading