Valuation and Division of (Unusual) Property in Divorce

Hi there,

That handsome fellow on the right is a jackalope. He was given to one of my paralegals by a client in gratitude for her work dividing an extensive collection of very unusual stuff, which did indeed include another jackalope.

Many of you, if you divorce, will have extensive property to value and then divide, including stock options, retirement accounts, real estate, deferred compensation, and business interests. All of these will require some form of valuation. They also will require consideration as to whether they will be divided immediately, usual for retirement accounts, or one party will keep the asset and then pay the other, which is usual for real estate and business interests.

Sometimes divorce can be used to prevent divestment of an asset, as in the case of the unlovely Sterlings.

Then there are collections; I find these fascinating. I’ve had to find experts to value everything from fine art (easy) to circus memorabilia (not so easy), to jewelry, and once, designer handbags. The evolution of internet sales has made valuation of individual items a bit easier (Hermes handbags, for example, are now fairly easy to value). Also, the sheer size … Keep reading

Hi there,

I’ve been playing hooky, and my colleague Andrea Dunbar has stepped up to complete her series on points to consider in gray divorces.





Andrea Dunbar Burns & Levinson AttorneyThere are important differences associated with dividing retirement plans that are already in pay status and those that are not.  Some people divorcing later in life are already retired, and thus are most likely already collecting from a retirement plan.  This limits the options available for dividing some plans in divorce.  Different plans have different options, so it is imperative to know the rules of the plan you are dealing with. 

Pension plans, as opposed to 401(k) plans or 403(b) plans, once in pay status, pay a fixed sum of money each month for the rest of a participant’s life.  The amount of the payment is typically based on the income the person earned over a period of time.  The payment amount will also depend on whether there was a survivor beneficiary named at the time of retirement and the extent of the continued benefit.… Keep reading

Andrea Dunbar Burns & Levinson Attorney

Hi there,

Gray divorce is on the increase.  As Boomers age they are deciding to divorce.  There are a number of issues that are of particular importance.  My very talented colleague Andrea Dunbar has written today about Social Security and Medicare benefits.




Andrea Dunbar Burns & Levinson AttorneyWhile each divorce case presents its own set of complex facts and circumstances, divorces involving older clients (also known as “gray divorce”) can be especially complex.  Issues such as Social Security, Medicare, retirement benefits and estate planning are, more often than not, fringe issues when dealing with couples divorcing at other points in life.  These issues come to the forefront, and sometimes become of critical importance when a divorce occurs later in life.    

Social Security

It is important to know the ins and outs of Social Security when going through a divorce during advanced age.  The rules of Social Security, like most other federal benefits programs, are counter-intuitive and often lead to surprising results. 

A widow or widower at full retirement age or older receives 100% of a deceased spouse’s basic Social Security benefit amount.  The same is true even if the spouses are divorced, as long as they were married for at least … Keep reading

Hi there;

Right now one of the more interesting discussions in matrimonial law in Massachusetts is how long should alimony last.  Currently, judges lack the authority to terminate alimony with any finality, due in part to the fact that unless there is an agreement between the parties that the court won’t be able to change the alimony provisions, any judgment regarding alimony is not necessarily final and often must be rather open-ended (or as we in the trade describe it alimony ends at death or the recipient’s remarriage).

This has resulted in a lot of anomalous situations, the most common of which has to do with retirement.  As a result, there is a move afoot to eliminate alimony upon the retirement of the payor spouse.  There is currently a case pending before the SJC which will determine how this goes. Boston Magazine had an interesting article on this recently.  However, as with so much in family law, there can be circumstances that require a different result, as well as the application of judicial discretion.  David Cherny, another prominent divorce attorney in Boston, had an interesting comment on Fox News in this regard.

As with so much else in divorce, … Keep reading