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

Tax Time is Here

The deadline for filing 2019 federal and state income tax returns is right around the corner – July 15, 2020. If you were divorced in 2019, here are a few things to think about:

Filing Status – Your marital status as of December 31st controls whether you are considered married or single for purposes of filing your tax returns. Remember the Nisi period discussed in a prior post?  Under Massachusetts law, a party is not considered divorced until the Nisi period expires. This means that even if the Judgment of Divorce is dated December 1, 2019, due to the Nisi period, you remained married for another 90 days. If you were still married as of December 31, 2019, you can file your 2019 tax returns as married filing jointly or married filing separately. There are risks and benefits to either filing option, so consult with your attorney. There is also an option to file as head of household where you are “considered unmarried” due to living apart from your spouse for six months or more during the tax year. To qualify as head of household, you must also have paid more than half the cost of maintaining your … Keep reading

The Spousal Elective Share

When it comes to your estate plan, the law seeks to protect and carry out your intentions with respect to the disposition of your property upon your death. But Massachusetts law may dictate a different outcome if you leave your spouse out of your will. In Massachusetts, like many other states, the elective share statute aims to prevent one from disinheriting a spouse.

The elective share statute permits a surviving spouse to set aside their deceased spouse’s will and instead claim a statutorily-defined portion of the deceased spouse’s probate estate. Depending on the existence of descendants of either or both spouses, parents of the decedent, and/or other close family members of the decedent, the surviving spouse may claim an amount ranging from one-third of the probate estate to $25,000 plus one-half of the remaining estate. A portion of that share may be received as a life estate in the subject property.

Unfortunately, in many circumstances, the elective share statute misses its mark in achieving a fair and equitable outcome for the surviving spouse. For example, the current statutory scheme fails to take into account the length of the marriage, thereby treating a recent marriage exactly the same as 40-year … 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

Temporary Orders (Allowances) Explained

Temporary Orders, or Temporary Allowances as they are called in Rhode Island, are interim orders that are made in a case before a final hearing (trial) in order to address pressing issues. Temporary Orders can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the Court after one or both parties file a Motion. Some of the issues that are addressed via Temporary Orders in divorce cases include child support, alimony, parenting plans, health insurance, and the payment of expenses. Temporary Orders last until changed by a final decision or a further Temporary Order of the Court.

It is important to understand, especially as it relates to parenting plans, that Temporary Orders have a way of becoming permanent orders. What this means is that Temporary Orders that are in effect for a long period of time may ultimately be the final orders agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the Court. As such, if you negotiate and agree on Temporary Orders, it is important to consider how those orders will work for the long haul, as they may be difficult to change. In light of the current backlog in the Courts, especially because of COVID-19, it is taking … Keep reading

Webinar: How to Know When You Are Ready to Divorce

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

At What Age Does a Child Have a Say in the Parenting Plan?

One of the most frequent questions I am asked by parents involved in custody disputes is: “when is my child old enough to decide to live with me?” The answer – that children under age 18 in Massachusetts do not get to make decisions around parenting plans – often comes as a surprise.

M.G.L. c. 208, sec. 28 provides:

Upon a judgment for divorce, the court may make such judgment as it considers expedient relative to the care, custody and maintenance of the minor children of the parties and may determine with which of the parents the children or any of them shall remain or may award their custody to some third person if it seems expedient or for the benefit of the children….Upon a complaint after a divorce, filed by either parent or by a next friend on behalf of the children after notice to both parents, the court may make a judgment modifying its earlier judgment as to the care and custody of the minor children of the parties provided that the court finds that a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the parties has occurred and the judgment of modification is necessary in the Keep reading

Planning for Your Children’s Financial Security

Last month I reviewed how to approach the extremely important decision of choosing a guardian for your minor children. Let’s now look at some vehicles for ensuring financial stability for your children in the event of your passing, which is particularly important if you are divorced. The options outlined below may already be familiar to you; hopefully, this information can help get you started on deciding which may be a good fit for your circumstances. Keep in mind any special considerations, such as setting aside money specifically for education or medical expenses, your child’s age and ability to manage money, or any special needs for which you need to account. Weigh these in conjunction with the ease and expense of setting up and administering each option.

Establish a Trust. A trust is undoubtedly the best vehicle for managing and protecting your children’s assets. A trust can be structured in numerous ways to accommodate your specific intentions. The trustee you name can provide asset management and decision-making in accordance with the parameters you specify.  Distributions of trust assets to your child can be limited to specific purposes like education and health expenses, or you can give the trustee broad … 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

Considerations for Your Kids in Your Estate Planning

Planning for the wellbeing of your children may be at the forefront of your mind in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The decision you have been putting off may feel more urgent than ever. Namely, who would care for your minor children if you and a co-parent (if any) become unavailable? Now is a critical time to carefully consider your intentions and solidify them in writing with an estate planning attorney. But where should you start and what factors should you consider?

Consider naming separate individuals.

Legally, stand-ins for parents fall into two separate roles. A guardian of a minor is responsible for making any legal and medical decisions on behalf of the minor, and generally is the person who cares for and raises a child. A conservator is responsible for managing assets and financial affairs on behalf of a minor (or otherwise incapacitated person) Both are nominated in your Will (and a temporary guardian may be nominated in an Emergency Guardianship Proxy), and you may considering naming separate individuals for each of these roles.

It may prove easier to narrow down individuals who would be well-suited for each role separately based on their respective strengths and … Keep reading