Marriage has always been governed by state law, and it is only in very recent history that select states began revising their definitions of marriage to acknowledge the rights of all couples to be married. While Massachusetts made same-sex marriage legal in 2003 via the decision in Goodridge, it was not until the landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marriage, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Finally, same-sex couples could avail themselves of the many legal benefits of marriage that opposite-sex spouses enjoy. However, same-sex spouses often face unique and complex legal issues in the event of divorce or death, and their legal rights are unfortunately still not always secure. Some of these challenges can be avoided or minimized with careful and strategic planning.
Common in any divorce are determinations regarding the division of assets and potential spousal support. A major factor is the length of the marriage, which may be less straightforward for same-sex spouses. If a relationship between a cohabitating same-sex couple spanned 20 years prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, yet their marriage of only … Keep reading
President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, 2021. In addition to the stimulus payment, this plan contains some tax credits that should be considered by parents divorcing this year.
The Child Tax Credit
• The plan increases the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child – $3,600 for any child under the age of 6 – for tax year 2021 only.
• The plan provides for children under the age of 18 at year-end – as opposed to 17 under the current plan – to qualify for the credit for tax year 2021.
• For 2021 only, the credit is fully refundable, even to those with no taxable income • The 2021 credit starts phasing out for single filers at $75,000, for head of household filers at $112,500, and for joint filers at $150,000.
• The American Rescue Plan Act requires that half of the Child Tax Credit be paid in advance, meaning that payments for 2021 should be paid between July and December 2021 with six monthly payments. Eligibility for the credit will, in the first instance, be based on 2020 tax returns.
• This credit can be taken by the parent … Keep reading
No one enters a marriage intending to get divorced, yet nearly half of all marriages dissolve this way. Before you move forward with the legal process, you must make sure this is the right step for you and your family.
In the first episode of our new webinar series, Elizabeth Crowley and Ronald Barriere discuss trusting your intuition, selecting a lawyer, and what questions you should be asking yourself during this difficult time.
Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading
Many people going through divorce experience feelings of fear, sadness, loss and depression. Out of concern for the impact seeking help for these feelings may have on custody disputes, some people choose not to seek help, which may only make matters worse.
The loss of a marriage and change in family is a traumatic experience. If you are going through a divorce, know that seeking help for feelings of depression and sadness is normal and reasonable, even for those seeking custody of their children. Needing to talk to someone, or even to take antidepressants, is common. There is no reason to avoid seeking treatment.
In 2019, the suicide rate in Massachusetts was 9.7 deaths per 100,000 residents. Research reflects that up to 20% of those in Massachusetts who committed suicide experienced an intimate partner issue, such as divorce, break-up or conflict in their relationship in the months or weeks prior to death. Even after the divorce is over, there is evidence that divorced and separated people have higher suicide rates than married people. Of divorced people, divorced men commit suicide at rates 9 times higher than that of divorced women. It has been suggested, though not proven, that because … Keep reading
Another week of social distancing, an extended stay-at-home advisory, and a new update on the status of operations of the Probate and Family Court due to COVID-19. While continued social distancing measures were certainly expected to continue in Massachusetts in some form past May 4, 2020, it was not easy to digest that this new “normal” would remain in place for at least the next month (particularly for this working mother of two young children who no longer has the assistance of outside childcare after Governor Baker announced last week that daycares would be closed until at least June 29, 2020).
On April 27, 2020, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an updated Order guiding Court Operations under COVID-19, which becomes effective May 4, 2020. The new Order extends the closure of the Probate and Family Courts from May 4, 2020, until at least June 1, 2020, except in the case of an emergency. A copy of the new order can be found here.
What does this new “normal” look like for divorce or custody matters presently pending or to be filed in the Probate and Family Court? Here are a few of the most relevant take-aways:
- Until at
… Keep reading
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are finding themselves working from home while caring for and schooling young children, which creates enormous stress. In situations where a marital relationship was already suffering before the parties were forced to be in near constant contact, the boiling point may be reached. Courts are mostly closed, except for true emergencies, instilling further feelings of hopelessness and stagnation. If you find yourself in a precarious home situation during these difficult times, below are some tips to navigate.
1. Be gentle on yourself.
Recognize that trying to work from home, care for children, school children, cook, clean, make dinner, etc., all while navigating the uncertainty, is hard! Don’t beat yourself up. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Your children will not be scarred forever if not all school assignments are completed perfectly, or if screens are used to allow you to get a few hours of work done. Just do the best you can, and don’t be fooled by the pictures of perfection portrayed on social media.
2. Protect your mental health.
If at all possible, try to engage in some form of self-care each day. Take a … Keep reading
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 has required the government to take some unprecedented steps. The Probate and Family Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts remain open as of today, but only for emergency matters, which will be handled by phone or teleconference when possible. Click here to read Standing Order 2-20: Court operations under the exigent circumstances created by COVID-19, which went into effect today, March 18, 2020. There are many nuances to the Order relating to specific matters heard by the Probate and Family Court.
Burns & Levinson LLP is committed to helping clients with family and personal matters get through this difficult time. Our team of attorneys, paralegals, and dedicated staff are available to answer questions about how this Order impacts you and to facilitate obtaining emergency orders when necessary.… Keep reading
All too often divorce cases involving children end up being hotly contested, with a “win” or “lose” mentality. Inevitably, this mentality results in neither parent winning and the children more often than not losing. While an asset division or support dispute can easily be assessed on a cost-benefit analysis (there is X is in dispute and you will spend Y in attorneys’ fees fighting it), when it comes to child-related issues, there is no price you can put on your child’s best interest. This often results in both parents spending a significant amount of time and money “fighting” to get custody of the children, which invariably causes a polarizing effect on their ability to co-parent the children going forward.
Rather than focus on who is going to “win” custody of the children, both parents should focus on what is truly in their child or children’s best interests, not their own. What works for other families may not work for their family. Both parents should be acutely aware of the individual needs of their child or children and work towards addressing those needs upon separation and divorce.
While it may not work in each case, and while it is certainly … Keep reading
Seems you can’t log on to social media, read a news headline or flip on the television these days without hearing about the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control has warned Americans to prepare for an outbreak, large cities (including San Francisco) have declared emergencies before even one confirmed case, and the World Health Organization is on the verge of declaring the coronavirus a pandemic, which is a disease found on more than one continent that spreads frequently between people. As a result of fears related to the Coronavirus, global markets have been hit hard, and in the last few days, the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 have been decimated, erasing all 2020 gains. According to the New York Times, flights on Chinese airlines are selling for less than a cup of coffee.
So how does this all relate to divorce? Well, asset division is a major component of divorce. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, dividing assets is a three-step process. First, it must be determined whether the asset is part of the marital estate, next the asset must be valued, and finally, the asset must be divided. As fears relating to the coronavirus have crippled the global … Keep reading
In 2011, the Alimony Reform Act determined that alimony is “the payment of support from one spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time.” G.L. c. 208, §48. The “reasonable length of time” during which alimony shall be paid has presumptive durational limits based upon the length of the marriage. Pursuant to G.L. c. 208, §53, the Court can deviate from the durational limits when setting the initial award or at the time an alimony award is modified “upon written findings that deviation is necessary.” The statute sets forth grounds for deviation, as follows:
(1) advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
(2) tax considerations applicable to the parties;
(3) whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the recipient spouse;
(4) whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance;
(5) sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties divorce;
(6) significant premarital … Keep reading