Recovery Rebate Credits, Economic Impact Payments, and Divorce

On February 16, 2021, the IRS announced that all legally permitted first and second-round Economic Impact Payments (also known as “stimulus payments” or “stimulus checks”) have been issued. Beginning in April 2020, the IRS and Treasury Department began delivering the first round of Economic Impact Payments for qualifying individuals and families due to the economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. According to the IRS, the second round of payments were to be made by January 15, 2021, although some second-round payments may still be in the mail. If individuals did not receive a payment, or receive the full amounts, they may still be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (the first and second Economic Impact Payments are considered an advance of the credit), but must file a 2020 tax return in order to do so. While Economic Impact Payments were based on 2018 or 2019 tax year information, the Recovery Rebate Credit is based upon 2020 tax year information.

For married couples who are separated and no longer living together or who have initiated a divorce action since filing their 2019 income tax returns, a contested issue may be who is entitled to benefit from the Economic … Keep reading

Relocating With Your Children Amid Divorce

When one parent wants to move out of Massachusetts with minor children during or after a divorce, the consent of the other parent is required. If the other parent does not give consent, the court must grant permission. Join attorneys Francine Gardikas and Robin Lynch Nardone for an in-depth discussion about “removal” and what the court looks at when determining whether or not to grant such a request.

Click here to watch the full webinar.… Keep reading

Social Media and Divorce

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last fifteen (15) years, it is hard to imagine a force that has had a more significant impact on day to day life than social media. I know personally, my screen time alerts from Apple indicate far more time spent on social media than I am proud of. Recent events have greatly magnified the social media microscope and the incredible power it wields, from providing evidence for the impeachment of a former sitting president to stripping a congresswoman of her committee assignments. Politics aside, social media can be a treasure trove of evidence and information in family law cases as well.    

The rule of thumb for social media, when engaged in a divorce or custody case (and really just a good rule of thumb in general), is THINK BEFORE YOU POST. Think about how the information can be used against you. Think about whether it is something you want your children to see someday. Think about whether it is something you would like an employer to see. Do not post anything that you would not want read in front of a judge.   

It is never appropriate to post negative information … Keep reading

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