Divorce Process

Divorce and the Engagement Ring

A diamond is forever. Unfortunately, sometimes marriage is not. So, what happens to the engagement ring?

An engagement ring is in the nature of a pledge, given on the implied condition that a marriage will take place. If the engagement is broken off before marriage, then the “contract to marry” is said to be terminated and the donor (the one who gave the ring) can recover the ring, provided the donor was without fault relative to the breakup. After marriage, however, things are different.

Under Massachusetts law, upon a divorce, marital property is divided equitably. A judge may divide all property to which a party holds title, “however, and whenever acquired.” This means that any property owned by either party at the time of the divorce is subject to being allocated between the parties – including the engagement ring. Further, “fault” in terms of the reason for divorce will not result in the exclusion of the ring from the divisible marital estate. A judge will consider what is equitable under the facts of each case and has the power to order the ring to be retained by either party or sold. While an engagement ring is most often retained … Keep reading

Demystifying Myths About Dividing Assets in Divorce: Part 2 – The Treatment of “Personal” Assets

“What’s mine is . . . yours?” 

Welcome back to the long-awaited second part of my series on demystifying myths about asset division in divorce.  I started this incredible year by addressing the most common of misconceptions about the divorce process – the impact of an extramarital affair in asset division.  Since then, the world has seemingly turned upside-down.  So for those of you yearning for simpler times, go back and check out the first part of this series before diving into Part 2.

In this second part of the series, we consider another of the common misconceptions about dividing assets in the divorce process, what happens to “personal” assets?  By “personal” assets, I am generally referring to those premarital assets (including real estate) titled in one spouse’s name, inherited assets received by one spouse prior to or during the marriage, personal business interests, and those investment and retirement accounts that you worked so hard to grow over time.  Basically, anything you would think of as “mine” instead of “ours.”  As you can imagine, the divorce process heightens this sense of personal ownership of these assets, which makes what I am about to say next all the more painful … Keep reading

Webinar: So You are Ready to Divorce... What is the Process?

In the second episode of our new webinar series, Robin Lynch Nardone and Andrea Dunbar walked through the divorce process: financial disclosure, what documents you need to collect, parenting classes, and more. They discussed the distinctions between contested and uncontested divorces in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and what to expect from either process.

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

You Have a Videoconference Relating to Your Divorce Matter Scheduled – Now What?

While you are finally able to get your hair cut at a salon or barbershop, a bite to eat and drink at an outdoor restaurant, and even a pedicure (thank goodness!), the days of appearing in Court for a hearing, or in an office setting with a large group of people for a deposition or mediation, are likely a long way off. Even though social distancing requirements are being lifted, and even with the Supreme Judicial Court’s updated order of June 24, 2020, indicates that Massachusetts state courthouses will physically reopen to the public for limited purposes, including some in-person proceedings, on July 13, 2020, virtual court appearances, depositions, and other meetings are here to stay.

In order to keep divorce cases moving during COVID-19, many divorce lawyers and the Courts have transitioned away from in-person meetings entirely (except in cases where an in-person meeting is absolutely necessary) and towards videoconferencing. The Judges of the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts have now all been granted “Zoom” accounts to conduct hearings (motions, pretrial conferences, and even trials) via videoconference. Mediators and conciliators are offering videoconferencing sessions, with the ability to conduct “break out” rooms for privileged settlement discussions between … Keep reading

Safeguarding Your Mental Health During and After Divorce

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

The New “Normal”?  Well, at Least Until June 1st…

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:

  1. Until at
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With Chaos, Comes Opportunity – Court Initiatives During COVID-19 That Hopefully Will Continue to be Implemented for Years to Come

As someone who has repeatedly sought to bring some levity to my articles on the topic of divorce, an objectively life-altering event, I find myself contemplating how the current COVID-19 pandemic will shape our lives, most importantly, but also the divorce process in the years to come. Despite working for four years as a public health professional in bioterrorism and emergency preparedness for my native Los Angeles County, I am far from qualified to dispense advice on the long-term impact of the pandemic on our lives, so I will focus this article on the divorce side of things.

Sun Tzu famously wrote in The Art of War, “in the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.” As a quick aside, I think that I once used that quote as an away message on my AOL Instant Messenger account, probably in reference to a fizzled high school romance or something. See, levity. Anyway, while I usually reserve famous quotes for ironic and/or comedic purposes in lighter times, I think the quote well-encapsulates the glimmer of hope for positive change and adaptation in the middle of this incredible public health crisis.

The Family Law Bar (not the place selling $5 pitchers … Keep reading

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Handling Your Probate and Family Court Matters During COVID-19

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

Coronavirus and Divorce

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

First of all, to our past, present, and future readers, we want to thank you for reading and wish you all a very Happy New Year!  We hope that our articles provide you with some new insight and perspective, as well as the occasional levity to the often challenging (but always interesting) divorce process.  In this “fake news” era, I thought it would be helpful to start the year by dispelling some “myths” and “misconceptions” of the divorce process, specifically, as they apply to the ubiquitous issue of dividing assets in a divorce.  I hope you enjoy.

Divorce practitioners are very familiar with our clients’ “friend” who was awarded all of the assets in the divorce because [insert divorce myth here].  The topic of these unscathed friends comes up frequently in the context of the initial intake meeting in which we discuss goals and expectations in the divorce process with our prospective clients.  Truth is, everyone going through the divorce process (for the first time) will inevitably have certain expectations about how the marital assets will be divided at the end of the divorce.  Often times, the expectations are rooted in someone else’s prior experience with the process.  As … Keep reading