Divorce Planning

New Decision Fine-Tunes Mass. Removal Law

In some divorces/post-divorce situations, one parent wants to move with the parties’ children to another state, or even another country. This is called “removal,” and requires either the permission of the other parent or the approval of the probate court. Removal is commonly driven by a new job or spouse, a desire to return to a previous hometown in which friends and extended family live, or a need to move to a more affordable location.

Massachusetts’ highest court recently released a new removal decision in the case of Miller v. Miller. For many years, we have had two standards for the court’s analysis of whether to allow removal: the “real advantage” standard under Yannas v. Frondistou-Yannas—where one parent has primary physical custody of the children—that slightly favors the custodial parent seeking removal; and the “best interests” standard under Mason v. Colemanwhere the parties share physical custody (roughly, 50/50)—that puts the parties on equal footing. Until now, cases typically fell under one standard or the other, based on existing custody stipulations, orders, or judgments.

In Miller v. Miller, though, the Supreme Judicial Court has fine-tuned the law a bit. From now on, probate courts must … Keep reading

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

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

Newly separated and divorcing clients almost always come to us with preconceived ideas of what they hope/expect might happen in their cases. All too often, these preconceived ideas are based on a client’s own sense of equity and justice, but are incorrect as a matter of law. Here are five of the most common misconceptions, and reality checks for each.

1. My spouse almost never spent time with the kids while we were together, so he/she should not have significant parenting time with them now that we are separated.

Reality: Everything is subject to change post-divorce, including a parent’s active involvement in the day-to-day caretaking of the children. Gone are the days when it was presumed that the children would remain primarily with one parent after a divorce, spending every other weekend and perhaps a weekday dinner visit with the other parent. Courts are increasingly defaulting to shared-custody arrangements, even in situations where one parent’s involvement pre-divorce was fairly minimal. Every parent will be given the opportunity to be significantly involved in their children’s lives.

2. My spouse cheated on me, so I’m going to take him/her to the cleaners in this divorce.

Reality: As our fearless leader Nancy … 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

how to choose the right attorney

Hi there,

People have very strong opinions on whether to hire a divorce attorney. One friend may tell you, “Oh I didn’t use an attorney, and it was fine.” Another may say, “My attorney was terrible, the ex got everything!” Don’t let others’ experiences with divorce solely guide your decision when hiring legal counsel for your separation.

Many people think it’ll be easier if they don’t bring lawyers into the picture. They think they can save money, or allow the divorce to be less contentious. But even if you’re going to negotiate directly with your spouse or use a mediator, you still need to double check everything with an attorney. You don’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars or drag your spouse into years of litigation, quite the opposite. Double-checking with an attorney can probably save you legal headaches down the road. They can provide more valuable information than you will ever find from google. Guidance on protecting your digital assets, new changes in alimony laws, rights you may not know about or complex processes to avoid.

Every situation is unique. If you have kids or complicated assets, you might need a top shelf divorce … Keep reading

glass broken loss prevention

glass broken loss prevention
This doesn’t have to be your grandmother’s china…

Smartphones are everywhere, most working professionals have one. What you may not know is that during a divorce, you can use it as a handy tool to help protect your prized possessions from potential loss or destruction. Smartphones, including Androids and iPhones, have a camera. The video capabilities in your hand can be a valuable resource. We learned in a previous post that you must be very careful with video, so you don’t accidentally record speech without notice. But! The capability is on your phone and there are good reasons to use video for more than just capturing your spouse’s bad behavior.… Keep reading

narcissist goat

narcissist goat
Narcissists always values themselves more highly than others.

Hi there,

I love it when the holidays are over and the days start getting visibly longer. Among other things, there is an influx of new clients with new cases and new problems to solve.

One thing seems to hold consistently true, however. Everybody going through a divorce believes their soon-to-be-ex is a narcissist. To some degree, every human being exhibits narcissistic tendencies sometimes. True narcissists lack empathy for others, can be quick to anger and focus only on their own desires. It naturally follows that folks with destructive narcissistic qualities are often candidates for divorce. So, we see a lot of them.

A true narcissist is a misery during the marriage and beyond difficult when you are divorcing him or her.… Keep reading

Divorce Is Hard

Hellen Keller_character through sufferingHi there,

As the summer winds down and kids start back to school, a lot of folks decide to take their first real step in the divorce process. I routinely see a lot of people in August who haven’t decided what to do and need to know what will lie ahead of them legally before they make a very tough decision.

There’s something about the beginning of fall and the kids going back to school that clarifies things. It’s a time of new beginnings and for some the new beginning is divorce.

Divorce is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re the one who chooses to divorce or the one on whom the choice is imposed. It is a life-altering event. Like all life-altering events, it makes you stop and really evaluate your life. The good, the not so good. 25 years ago I had breast cancer, and at the time I’d been a divorce lawyer for 10 years and thought I understood my clients. I found as time went on that I had really hadn’t understood the unexpected positives that come from pain endured and fear survived. You learn how strong you really can be.

I was inspired for … Keep reading