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DLM Blog Post – What Not to Do During a Divorce (2022 Edition) Part II - Financial

In the second part of this two-part series, you will learn about financial pitfalls to avoid in the divorce process. Experienced divorce counsel can guide you to ensure that financial decisions don’t cost you credibility, time, and money. Always consult your attorney before taking any action that would have a significant financial impact, and consider these top 10 “what not to do” tips regarding finances.

1. Do not forget to disclose all of your assets, income, and liabilities, and do not attempt to hide them. 

You must disclose all assets, income, and liabilities to your divorce attorney and the Court. Failing to disclose them, and especially purposefully trying to hide them, can harm your credibility in court and result in increased legal fees, time, and annoyance.

2. Do not gift assets to friends or family members. 

Once you file a complaint for divorce or are served with a complaint for divorce, Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 411 (“Rule 411”) goes into effect and prohibits you from gifting assets to third parties. If you gift assets, the Court could find you in contempt, or you could receive fewer marital assets in the divorce to account for those gifts. Even … Keep reading

Stock options granted to a party during a marriage are considered marital assets subject to property division upon divorce, even if the options vest after the parties are divorced. However, whether stock options that are issued after a divorce are treated as income once exercised when calculating support is less certain. The recent Appellate Court decision of Jones v. Jones, No. 20-P-1217 (September 14, 2022) suggests that they may – but it all depends upon the drafting of the divorce agreement and the – parties’ intent when entering into the divorce agreement. Divorce agreements, often called “Separation Agreements,” must have clear language regarding the definition of income, bonuses, stock options, and other forms of executive or deferred compensation.  Absent clear language that the vesting of stock options granted after a divorce is to be considered income when calculating support, that income may not be included when calculating support.

An employer’s granting of stock options as executive compensation has become increasingly popular. This provides the employee with additional compensation and an incentive to stay with the employer long term (as the employee needs to be employed by the company when the stock options vest, sometimes years after the grant) … Keep reading

Divorce Law Monitor Blog Robin Lynch Nardone

The Massachusetts alimony statute provides that when alimony is set, the court shall exclude from the calculation gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order.  Effectively, this has meant that for most divorcing parties with minor children, where the parties together make less than $400,000 per year, there is only a child support order but no alimony.  To the chagrin of many who spent years working on alimony reform, the Supreme Judicial Court has determined that the alimony statute does not mean what it says.

In August 2022, in the case of Cavanagh v. Cavanagh, the SJC determined that a judge abused her discretion when she calculated child support and then, without conducting a fact-specific analysis of the family’s circumstances, denied the wife any alimony based upon the following language in G.L. c. 208 § 53(c)(2):

When issuing an order for alimony, the court shall exclude from its income calculation: … gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order.

The SJC held that a plain language interpretation of § 53(c)(2) resulting in alimony being nearly prohibited where child support has already been awarded is untenable. Further, … Keep reading

5 Reasons to Avoid Court in Your Divorce Proceedings

Court is inevitable in divorce proceedings. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in full agreement on all issues, you’ll need a judge of the Probate and Family Court to approve your separation agreement and incorporate it into a judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce legally terminates your marriage. In cases where agreement cannot be reached, there can be numerous appearances in court, including motions, pre-trial and trial. There are some reasons you may want to consider avoiding a trial and instead consider mediation or other forms of alternate dispute resolution:

  1. Uncertainty: If you take your case to a judge to decide all issues or even just one or two issues that you and your spouse can’t agree on, there is uncertainty in going before the judge. Probate and Family Court judges have a lot of discretion in making decisions in a divorce, particularly those relating to child custody and asset division. So, one judge could decide your case differently than another, and parties do not get to choose which judge is assigned to their case. It can be hard to know what your assigned judge will do in your case and what the result will
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

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

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

What to do When a Spouse Ignores the Divorce Process

When a marriage becomes irretrievably broken, both spouses generally agree that a divorce is necessary.  However, some divorces are contested by one party, which may make the process more difficult and lead to prolonged negotiations and delay the ultimate resolution.  What can make things even more difficult is when one spouse refuses to even respond or engage in the divorce process.

When a spouse is dilatory or refuses to participate in the divorce process, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Service

The first hurdle in any divorce process is actually getting the process started.  Once a Complaint for Divorce is filed, the Summons and a copy of the Complaint for Divorce needs to be served upon the other party.  This is typically done by having a Constable or Sheriff deliver the Summons and Complaint for Divorce to the other spouse.  Once the Summons and Complaint for Divorce are served on the other spouse, the Original Summons, along with a Certificate of Service signed by the person who hand-delivered the Complaint, is returned to the Court for filing.  After the Summons is filed with the Court, the case is ready to proceed and the Court will likely issue a notice of … Keep reading