Nancy Van Tine

Making Sense of Recent Law Changes

Happy New Year, all! May 2018 bring you health, happiness, and prosperity.

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in conjunction with Massachusetts’ Alimony Reform Act, will bring the Commonwealth’s divorce practitioners and their clients a certain amount of confusion.

Prior divorces and divorces with agreements completed in 2018 will not be affected. But most divorces take longer than a year to complete, and thus, many folks filing in 2018 will be impacted by the changes.

The new federal law eliminates the deduction for alimony in divorces occurring after December 2018. Every previous settlement contract (and judicial divorce decision) was negotiated with consideration of the alimony deduction. It enabled the parties to save some of the money that would otherwise have gone to the government in taxes.

The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act was written with these tax implications in mind. The percentages of alimony to be paid (30% to 35%) reflect the deduction to the payor, and are, therefore, higher than the child support calculation.

Both of these are laws, and the federal supersedes the state. As a result, real inequities to the payor spouses will exist if the legislature does not find a way to make … Keep reading

Divorcing a Narcissist

Life with a narcissist is often destructive, demeaning, and difficult. In fact, being with that person can make it nearly impossible for you and your children to not lose yourselves entirely. Unfortunately, divorcing a narcissist is a complex and frustrating battle that can frequently feel like reliving the worst moments of your marriage.

In general, divorce requires defensive thinking. Divorcing a narcissist requires more. You have to think through what he may do (I say “he” because male narcissists outnumber females by 2 to 1) and you have to figure out how to let him believe he has won. Not an easy, quick, or inexpensive process.

The majority of divorce cases (approximately 95%) settle. Ones involving a narcissist typically do not. The path to finality is filled with unnecessary battles. In most cases, discovery of a spouse’s finances is relatively straightforward. Not so with a narcissist. There will be multiple trips to court necessitated by his focus on control, making the process costly and painful. There will be fights over children…

In the end, I have come to believe, through post-divorce friendships with my clients, that those fights are worth it – that being able to lead a … Keep reading

Three Tips to Help You Navigate the Holidays

When you are divorced with kids, Christmas and Hanukkah can become minefields that make previous family headaches look simple. But there’s good news: There are a number of steps that you can take ahead of time to make things better for everyone involved.

It pays to go into the holiday season with a plan. This year, I’m offering three helpful tips that will allow you to do just that.

  1. Remember and enshrine the idea that the holiday isn’t about you. It’s about making it calm, fun, and memorable for your kids. First, work out the parenting strategy in advance, and let the kids know what is going to happen and when. Make sure you don’t convey to the kids that you are going to be lonely without them. Figure out what you’ll be doing, tell your kids, and let them know that you will have fun and be fine—and that they should have fun and will be fine with the other parent. Kids pick up on emotions very easily and tend to feel responsible for a parent’s happiness in divorce. There is a pretty general standard plan when dealing with Christmas parenting time, assuming the kids aren’t
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If you read this blog, you probably know that I am a huge proponent of negotiating settlements in divorce cases. As an attorney who has spent her career in divorce litigation, I know firsthand the costs associated with bringing a case to trial, and the devastation that trial can leave in its wake. But convincing parties who are angry and have hurt one another to compromise is no small feat.

The length of time and expenses involved with litigation can, therefore, encourage parties to become more reasonable. In some instances, one of the parties may be truly unable to recognize that compromise is in his or her best interest. But in others, a letter from counsel, laying out the realities of the various choices available and asking the client to sign off on the unreasonable negotiating position he or she is forcing their attorney to take, can break the logjam. (There are also times that intractable issues exist that must be tried; however, that is very rare.) A lot of cases settle on the eve of trial, which is horrifically expensive. Over the years, innumerable judges have told me that the best divorce agreements leave both sides unhappy. I … Keep reading

Horse named Zeus

Horse named Zeus
Zeus probably has strong opinions about being considered property rather than one of the family.

Hi there,

If you know me, you know I’m a fervent pet lover. We have dogs, cats, horses, goats, and are related to someone with a bearded dragon. I know, viscerally, how pets can feel like family members. As a result, they can be incredibly important to someone in the middle of a divorce. I also know, as does anyone who has befriended an animal, that animals have needs, wants and opinions of their own. However, the law has been pretty clear that pets are considered property, like a chair or lamp, during a divorce.

The ownership (homing) of a pet can be a hot-button issue in high conflict divorce cases. I’ve had many cases through the years where pets were at issue. If there are kids, it often makes sense for the pet to stay with the children. As we come to a more egalitarian parenting world, where kids are splitting time almost equally, this decision is not going to be as simple. In cases where there are no kids or the kids are grown, companionship of the critters can loom larger. Judges … Keep reading

2016/17

Hi there,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, despite what may be trying circumstances. Throughout the year there were many changes and clarifications in basic divorce law that will affect the many of you that are planning to divorce in 2017. This period between Christmas and New Years is what I consider the calm before the storm, as January is generally a very busy month for divorce lawyers. This quiet week is the perfect opportunity to both reflect on the past and prepare for the future. Below is a list of blog posts that explain the recent changes to divorce law and what those changes mean for you.

As we say goodbye to 2016, I wish each of you a happy and healthy new year. See you in 2017!

2016 Changes and Clarifications to Divorce Law

Best,
Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there,

I was somewhat surprised a couple of weeks ago to be asked for an interview by the talented Globe writer, Cindy Atoji Keene. It was published on Sunday, and reading it made me realize just how important it is to be able to let go of that “salad spinner” and focus on what’s truly important in the end game in a divorce.

There’s a salad spinner in every case — it could be the cat, the couch, or whether the kids come to visit at 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. Imagine fighting over a stuffed parrot, horse semen, or geese. These were all expensive court battles that I was involved in, and it all comes down to control.

I like to call it the Salad Spinner War, after one of my first cases that involved a short-term marriage with a wealthy Brahmin gentleman and his younger wife from abroad. We came to a fair division of assets and property, and because I was young and stupid, I agreed to go to the house to help divvy up miscellaneous items. We went through the antiques, oriental rugs, lamps, and furniture, and then came to the kitchen, where they started

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2016 Best Legal Blog Competition

Best Legal BlogHi there,

Our team of attorney bloggers takes great pride in bringing you important legal updates and helpful suggestions. We’re honored to have been nominated for The Expert Institute’s 2016 Best Legal Blog Competition! This election year, there have been some tough choices to make. We’re glad that out of hundreds of competitors, our readers nominated us!

If you find the Divorce Law Monitor blog to be a helpful resource, it is up to you to vote for something you can truly rely on. Best of all, it only takes a few clicks.

Vote here!

Thank you for your continued readership. We look forward to bringing new and interesting content to you.

This may be the easiest decision you have to make this November.

Best,
Nancy… Keep reading

divorce-related questions

divorce-related questions
You have questions. We have answers to at least 12 of them.

Hi there,

If you’re considering a divorce, prepare to face some of the most difficult questions of your life. The divorce process doesn’t have to be a minefield of uncertainty, though. Some of the most common mistakes are also the most avoidable, as long as you have the right direction.

Join my colleague, attorney Michael (Mick) Judge for an inside look at the divorce process. He’ll touch on pre-divorce considerations (including pre-nuptial agreements, divorce mediation and marriage counseling), the divorce process, and post-divorce matters (including modifications and contempt actions). A financial advisor will join him to address many of the pressing financial implications of your divorce.

What: The ABC’s of Divorce: Now is the time to begin your education…

When: Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Where: Burns and Levinson LLP, 125 Summer Street, Boston, MA

Cost: Registration is complimentary through this link.

Starting right at the beginning, Mick will walk you through some of the key issues involved in a standard divorce case.

  1. How is a divorce case started?
  2. What types of divorces are there?
  3. How are child custody cases handled?
  4. What is the role
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