Divorce and Bankruptcy

During divorce:

When a bankruptcy petition is filed, an “automatic stay” is put in place, which stops creditors from proceeding with collection actions, foreclosure, eviction, and the like. Assets are frozen so that the bankruptcy court has the opportunity to determine what assets are owned by the petitioner and what debts are owed. Suppose a spouse files a bankruptcy petition while a divorce is pending (or a divorce is filed while a bankruptcy petition is pending). In that case, the Probate and Family Court will be unable to proceed with the division of assets in a divorce due to the automatic stay, essentially halting the divorce process until the bankruptcy matter is concluded.

After divorce:

When a bankruptcy petition is filed by a party after a divorce and seeks to discharge financial obligations contained in a judgment of divorce, anything in the nature of a “domestic support obligation” cannot be discharged. Whether an obligation in a judgment of divorce is a “domestic support obligation” is determined by federal bankruptcy law and not by the Probate and Family Court. According to 11 U.S.C. § 101(14A), a domestic support obligation is a debt that (1) is owed to a … Keep reading

Divorce Litigation: Preparing for a Deposition or Trial Testimony

If your divorce goes to court, what you say will make a difference, and your opportunity to speak may include both deposition and trial testimony. What are these procedures, how do they differ, and how can you best prepare? Attorneys Tiffany Bentley and Ronald Barriere will demystify the process, covering what to do and what to avoid, and what to expect from in-person versus remote testimony via Zoom.

Click here to watch the full webinar.… Keep reading

The Divorce Holiday Card

This year has been filled with strange new and different ways of interacting (or rather not interacting) with family and friends. I was happy to see that one thing stayed the same – holiday photo cards. I have to admit that the new life December brings to my mailbox is something I look forward to every year. I genuinely enjoy the cards adorned with family photographs. Holiday cards that I have received over the years have included engagement photos, wedding pictures, birth announcements, images of trips to exotic places, and updates on the lives of friends who I don’t hear from often enough. The images evolve over the years as babies are born, move through childhood, then grow up and start families of their own.

There is one holiday card I received years ago that sticks out in my mind. On this card was a picture of a mother with her two sons. On the back was the tale of how dad had “left the family” and a difficult divorce was in progress. That Christmas card later became an exhibit at the divorce trial.

Divorce happens. When it happens, it can be truly painful. But a holiday card is … Keep reading

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