Stock options granted to a party during a marriage are considered marital assets subject to property division upon divorce, even if the options vest after the parties are divorced. However, whether stock options that are issued after a divorce are treated as income once exercised when calculating support is less certain. The recent Appellate Court decision of Jones v. Jones, No. 20-P-1217 (September 14, 2022) suggests that they may – but it all depends upon the drafting of the divorce agreement and the – parties’ intent when entering into the divorce agreement. Divorce agreements, often called “Separation Agreements,” must have clear language regarding the definition of income, bonuses, stock options, and other forms of executive or deferred compensation.  Absent clear language that the vesting of stock options granted after a divorce is to be considered income when calculating support, that income may not be included when calculating support.

An employer’s granting of stock options as executive compensation has become increasingly popular. This provides the employee with additional compensation and an incentive to stay with the employer long term (as the employee needs to be employed by the company when the stock options vest, sometimes years after the grant) … Keep reading

Divorce Law Monitor Blog Robin Lynch Nardone

The Massachusetts alimony statute provides that when alimony is set, the court shall exclude from the calculation gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order.  Effectively, this has meant that for most divorcing parties with minor children, where the parties together make less than $400,000 per year, there is only a child support order but no alimony.  To the chagrin of many who spent years working on alimony reform, the Supreme Judicial Court has determined that the alimony statute does not mean what it says.

In August 2022, in the case of Cavanagh v. Cavanagh, the SJC determined that a judge abused her discretion when she calculated child support and then, without conducting a fact-specific analysis of the family’s circumstances, denied the wife any alimony based upon the following language in G.L. c. 208 § 53(c)(2):

When issuing an order for alimony, the court shall exclude from its income calculation: … gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order.

The SJC held that a plain language interpretation of § 53(c)(2) resulting in alimony being nearly prohibited where child support has already been awarded is untenable. Further, … Keep reading

Mental Health During Divorce

When you board an airplane, the flight attendant’s speech usually includes a welcome statement and requests that you securely fasten your seat belt. Then the attendant will alert you that if needed, oxygen masks will be released overhead and request that you secure your own mask before assisting others. Similar to an emergency plane landing, during a divorce, it is important to make sure to take care of yourself before helping others.

Many clients ask at the outset of their case how to best protect their children in divorce. My answer usually stresses the importance of self-care for the client. After my client has put on their own oxygen mask and taken care of themselves, they will ultimately be able to assist their child best.

As a family law attorney, it is my responsibility to shepherd clients through one of their most difficult situations – divorce. Divorce, for many, is the death of a dream. In this post, I’ve shared five tips that I recommend to clients going through a divorce.

Tip #1: Engage a therapist or mental health professional.

It is important to consider engaging a therapist to guide you through the roller-coaster of emotions associated with divorce. … Keep reading

Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

A lot of emotions and impulses can arise during a divorce, and it’s critical to avoid any behavior that you may regret– including in the courtroom. What’s at stake? Credibility, time, money, custody, and peace of mind, to name a few. Below, read the top 10 behaviors to avoid during a divorce.

  1. Do not put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to have read aloud in court.

    This means no harsh text messages or emails to your spouse, and no nasty messages to friends and family about your spouse either. If you are upset or overwhelmed and need to vent, speak to a therapist or other mental health professional, or, if this isn’t possible, a trusted friend or family member in a private location (and never vent to your children about their parent or stepparent).

  2. Do not put any tracking devices on your spouse’s car or electronics.

    Even if you suspect them of having an affair, installing tracking devices or spying on them or their friends will not produce any information that is valuable enough to risk your credibility in court. This type of behavior is frowned on by judges, and infidelity – without something else such as

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Griffin v. Kay: A Cautionary Tale in How Your Separation Agreement Is Worded

When spouses reach agreement on terms for a divorce, a written settlement document – commonly known as a Separation Agreement – is prepared. Parties then decide whether the agreement will either “merge” into the Judgment of Divorce or “survive” as an independent contract. I have written about how your election impacts your ability to modify provisions in the future.

The recent decision in Griffin v. Kay is an excellent cautionary tale about making sure that the merger or survival language is clear and that both you and your spouse agree on what that language means.

Geraldine Griffin and Harry Kay divorced in 2004 and entered into an agreement calling for Harry to pay alimony of $90,000 per year until the death of either party or Geraldine’s remarriage. Their agreement provided as follows relative to merger or survival of the alimony provisions:

Notwithstanding the incorporation of this [a]greement in the [divorce judgment], it shall not be merged in the [J]udgment, but shall survive the same . . . retaining its independent significance as a contract between the parties. Provided, however, in the event of a material negative and involuntary change in the circumstances of either party, that party may seek Keep reading

No Prenup? A 101 Guide to Postnups

More and more couples are electing to sign prenuptial agreements before their big wedding day, yet some can’t agree, don’t want to, or don’t have time to do one beforehand. After all, some people continue to believe that asking for a prenuptial agreement indicates that they expect the marriage to fail. Even if that is not the case, discussing a prenuptial agreement can be a difficult conversation to have during one of the happiest times of a relationship, making it problematic for some couples to agree on whether a prenuptial agreement makes sense for them.

Suppose you did not sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding but wish to set forth financial rights and obligations between you and your spouse during your marriage or in the event of divorce or death. A postnuptial agreement may be an option for you to consider.

Below are some things to think about when considering a postnuptial agreement.

What is the difference between a prenuptial agreement and a postnuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a written contract signed between parties intending to marry. It outlines their financial rights and obligations if the marriage ends due to death or divorce.

People often enter into … Keep reading

Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

When summer and school vacations approach, many divorcing spouses wonder: what happens with the children and the parenting plan? Do I get to take them for vacation, and sign them up for camps? What happens if my coparent refuses to let me take the children to my family reunion that only happens once every ten years?

Summers and school vacations can be stressful due to the changes in routine alone. That stress can be exacerbated by issues communicating with your coparent, or by uncertainty about vacation parenting plans and travel arrangements.

There are no hard and fast rules on these issues under Massachusetts law. However, to minimize stress and disruption for you and, most importantly, for your children, it is useful to know what is typical for coparenting and parenting plans during school and summer vacations, as well as how to address issues that may arise around vacations and coparenting.

A preliminary issue to consider is what is typically ordered by a judge, or agreed to between divorcing parents, as far as summer and school vacation parenting plans:

  • February/April Vacations: Massachusetts public schools typically have two week-long vacations, one in February and one in April. These vacations are
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Can We Divorce Even if My Partner Is Pregnant?

What do Bridget Moynahan, Tiki Barbar, and Denise Richards have in common?  They (or their spouse) were all pregnant while going through a divorce.

Divorce is never easy.  Divorcing while pregnant adds another complication.  In some states it is not even possible to finalize the divorce while a party is pregnant.  However, in Massachusetts, although expecting parents are permitted to finalize a divorce, there are certain obstacles about which a divorcing, expecting parent should be aware.

1. There is a legal presumption that a child born to a woman during a marriage is the child of her spouse.

Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209(C), section 6, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he is married to the mother at the time of birth of the child or if the child is born within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment or divorce. (While the terms man and woman are contained in the statute, this law applies to same-sex couples, as well.) The husband’s name will automatically be placed on the birth certificate of the child, even if the husband is not the biological parent.  It then becomes the burden … Keep reading

Serving Papers: The Start of a Case

“You’ve been served.” But what does that actually mean? The service of court papers (referred to as “service” throughout this post) has been a hot topic in the news recently as Jason Sudeikis allegedly had his ex-partner and co-parent, Olivia Wilde, served with court documents for a child custody case while she was on stage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Sudeikis swears he knew nothing about the very public way in which Wilde was served. However, most family law lawyers would tell you that Sudeikis’ purported ignorance is suspect considering the purpose of service, and how it is generally accomplished.

Service in its purest form is notice. It is giving the other party to a court case notice that an action has been filed against them. Examples of family court actions where service is necessary include divorce, child custody matters, contempts, modifications, etc. Upon the filing of a court case, the court in which the case was filed issues a summons. Depending on the action, the summons can demand that the party appear at the court on a certain date at a certain time, or take other action, such as filing an answer (a formal response) to the complaint … Keep reading

Divorce Law Monitor Blog Robin Lynch Nardone

Divorce Law Monitor Blog Robin Lynch Nardone

Alcohol consumption is widespread in American culture. A 2020 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that two-thirds (66.3%) of American adults consumed alcohol in the past year, with 5.1% of them admitting to engaging in regular heavy drinking.

The likelihood of divorce triples for couples where one party struggles with alcohol. According to some statistics, more than 14.5 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse disorders – defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

Study data reflects that more than 7.5 million children in the United States live with a parent who suffers from an alcohol abuse disorder.

How are children protected during a divorce? The Court always strives to maintain a parental relationship while also protecting the child(ren) from harm. When a parent’s alcohol use impairs their ability to care for a child physically and/or emotionally during or after a divorce, the Court will intervene.

Interventions can include:

  • Requiring a parent to maintain sobriety in order to exercise parenting time, which is monitored through random urine screens or the
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