Diamonds are forever, according to the song, but a marriage that starts with a lavish ceremony and expensive engagement ring is less likely to succeed.
Parent Coordinators are commonly used in child custody and parenting matters in Massachusetts to facilitate resolving disputes between parents on issues relating children of divorce and children born out of wedlock. The Parent Coordinator typically acts as a referee to rule on any disputes, or works more like a mediator to help the parents negotiate and resolve any dispute. Using Parent Coordinators can be an effective tool in assisting parents in avoiding lengthy litigation in the Probate and Family Court to resolve custody and parenting disputes.
On September 15, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on a case of first impression relating to Parent Coordinators, in the case of Bower v. Bournay-Bower. The issues at hand were whether the Probate and Family Court has authority to appoint a Parent Coordinator over the objection of one parent, and also whether the decision of the Parent Coordinator be binding upon the parents.
The Supreme Judicial Court acknowledged that Parent Coordinators play an important role in resolving disputes between parents. The SJC further stated that the Probate and Family Court can recommend or refer a Parent Coordinator in a specific case, but the authority of the Probate and Family Court is not limitless. By mandating that a Parent Coordinator be appointed to a case, the SJC held that such an appointment undermines due process and the rights of parent to seek relief through the courts and also obtain judicial review.
However, in no way does the SJC mean to discount the important role Parent Coordinators play in a custody or other child-related matter. The Court acknowledges that parties can by agreement engage a Parent Coordinator, and define the scope of the Parent Coordinator’s role, including binding the parties to any decisions made by the Parent Coordinator. Because of this importance, the SJC referred the issue of Parent Coordinators to the Probate and Family Court to review whether rules regarding Parent Coordinators should be promulgated.
Ultimately, the use of a Parent Coordinator, after Bower v. Bournay-Bower is still permissible; however, the appointment of a Parent Coordinator by the Probate and Family Court when one or both parents object to such an appointment is not permissible. Now it we will just have to wait and see what, if any, rules the Probate and Family Court promulgates regarding Parent Coordinators.
By LAURA MATTIA, Baron Financial Group
Financially Empowering Women
Too many women undergoing divorce don't think enough about their long-term financial stability.
All too often, women getting divorced become financial victims. Many get settlements that are fair or, in some cases, more than fair. But because they have misguided priorities, they may make choices that aren’t in their best interest, ultimately rendering themselves victims. The sad reality is that they are responsible for this unfortunate fate.
For some women, victim status is assured by the way they relate to their husbands concerning money during their marriages. When they get divorced, the choices they make amid this emotional turmoil may stem from this marital dynamic in ways that make their situations worse. By contrast, women who are financially empowered are more likely to make choices in their best interest.
If women are to emerge from divorce in a financial situation that works for them in the long run, many need to begin thinking in a new way. Just thinking straight is difficult when undergoing this emotionally wrenching process. Thinking about money in a new way is especially difficult.
Critical to this new mindset is the importance of looking out for yourself – not just regarding the division of marital assets, but also regarding your long-term financial security. Many women who have been financially dependent on their husbands in marriage make the mistake of continuing this dependence after divorce by focusing too much on alimony. There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting alimony, especially if you’ve foregone career opportunities to stay home with the children, enabling him to advance his career. However, obsessing over alimony to the exclusion of self-reliance can be an error with serious consequences.
You may not get all of this money; some ex-husbands disappear to avoid their alimony (and child-support) obligations or they just don’t pay, and it can be extremely difficult to get them to make up missed payments. They could become disabled, unable to work, or they might die. Many women think they have this covered by life insurance, but what if, to give an extreme example, he commits suicide? Then the insurance company may not pay.
Also, in many states where alimony is common, divorce agreements typically limit the total amount and duration of alimony payments. What will you do when the payments end?
A more fundamental problem with obsessing over alimony is it’s a distraction from what should be your real focus: earning a living. If you can get alimony, fine. But instead of getting as much alimony, perhaps you can secure a provision in your divorce agreement to receive money for tuition for more education or skills training to increase your value on the job market.
If you’re working already, of course, there’s not as much need for alimony, though you’ll probably need to make more money. Consider the old adage about learning to fish versus receiving a fish. If you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s when you get divorced, becoming equipped to get a job or increase your existing income can make a significant long-term difference.
Failing to realize the importance of true independence, some women undergoing settlement negotiations don’t like to talk about increasing their incomes -- or, if they don’t have a job, about getting one -- because they believe they’ll get a better deal in their agreement if they appear helpless (victims). They should be aware that because they’re not focusing on their own earning potential, their fixation on alimony could cost them dearly.
Regardless of their post-divorce earnings picture, many women make self-defeating decisions regarding their property settlements. A prime example of this is the common fixation on trying to get the house. They think of how their children used the swing set in the backyard, and irrationally connect motherhood with getting the house. Emotionally tied to their homes, they don’t consider a host of important financial factors.
When a couple divorces, one household becomes two. This is expensive. Critical questions include:
- Can you and your husband afford notto sell the house? Do you have enough other assets that one partner can be fairly compensated for the equity in the home? This assumes that there is substantial equity which, given the prevalence of outsized mortgages, often isn’t the case.
- Assuming that there are enough other assets, can you afford to own the house – not just initially, but down the road? Will your post-divorce income be enough to pay the mortgage each month?
- Can you afford the upkeep costs – energy bills, repairs, renovations, yard maintenance among them – that would be far lower with a smaller, less expensive home or a townhouse or condominium?
Instead of getting the house, perhaps it would be better to get a fair share of the liquid assets (which may include money from the sale of the house), plus money for job-training or additional education.
The goal of post-divorce life should be financial independence and self-reliance. Finding a man with money after divorce isn’t independence; it’s dependence. As is the case when you’re married, a man is not the answer to your financial situation.
Often, the die is cast for becoming a financial victim of divorce during the marriage. The way to avert this fate is to claim your financial power and to use it to make beneficial decisions during – and, if you get divorced, after – your marriage. Claiming this power is an uphill battle when you’re divorcing, but it’s all the more necessary then.
Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.
Meshel isn’t the only one who’s been influenced by his close friends’ splits — so-called “copycat divorces” are actually quite common. An April 2014 joint study from Brown University, Yale University and the University of California, San Diego, found that people are 75 percent more likely to be divorced if one of their friends is divorced.And Meshel’s logic is actually one of the most common reasons why copycat divorces occur. Many copycatters want to get divorced but don’t have the guts to go through with the humongous, life-changing, emotional roller coaster of an event — made even more complicated if kids are involved. But seeing their friends do it first gives people the strength to follow suit — and the reassurance that it’s possible for everything to work out OK.
“People often stay in unfulfilling marriages because they don’t want to be blamed for ruining the dynamics of the friend group, or the family,” explains Christie Hartman, a Denver-based dating and relationship expert. “But if one of their friends blazes the trail first, and they see that their friends survived the trauma, it’s easier.”Another reason for copycat divorces is that having divorced pals provides a built-in support group.Nicole Feuer, 45, can validate that logic. The Westport, Conn., divorce advisor and founder of the divorce community sosdivorceadvisors.com, told one of her best friends, Sarah, that she was filing for divorce. And Sarah, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, filed for her own divorce three months later.
“Sarah told me that she felt relieved just knowing she would have someone to support her and who would understand what she was going through — and I felt the same way,” says Feuer. “She told me that she may not have gone through with her divorce had I not just done it.” Point is, Feuer and Sarah were there for each other in ways they felt that their other married friends were not. “It helps to know that someone relates to your situation,” she says.
So are copycat divorces a good idea? In certain scenarios, like Meshel and Sarah’s, they can be. The desire was there for both of them, and they just needed courage and reassurance. The problem occurs if you do it out of peer pressure. “Check in with yourself, and make sure you’re doing it for you, not for your friends,” cautions Hartman. “Otherwise it will end in disaster.”
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — MY wife and I disagree, sometimes vehemently, about how best to raise our four children. She’s a lawyer, and I am sure the thought of suing me has crossed her mind once or twice. But she cannot. American courts consistently refuse to entertain child-rearing disputes between married parents.
At this point, divorce attorneys enter the story . . . and as Emma Johnson reports in her recent post at wealthysinglemommy.com, what the legal system has to say to women who chose to give up their paid jobs and now seek alimony from their ex-husbands can come as a rude awakening. Indeed, divorcing SAHMs are often in for a distinct shock when they realize that family court judges, even female ones, are not necessarily sympathetic to their plight. (Keep in mind that many female judges had their own children in day care while pursuing demanding legal careers and may not necessarily feel empathy for an educated, capable woman who deliberately gave up her earning potential.)Johnson points out that even though many women may consider raising children a full-time job, the legal system does not. Family courts expect you to support yourself, and being a caretaker will not excuse you from that expectation.In other words, don’t assume that because you’ve been working as a SAHM, you’ll receive alimony covering full support.
“What we often find is that many stay-at-home parents, either moms or dads, as is becoming increasingly common, go into the divorce process assuming that lifetime alimony covering full support is a given. In this day and age, however, this kind of expectation is simply not realistic,” says New Jersey family law attorney Bari Weinberger.What’s the primary driver of this shift? Alimony reform.“In states, such as Massachusetts, that have seen alimony reform laws passed in recent years, ‘permanent’ lifetime alimony awards are all but abolished, except under certain circumstances. In other states, including New Jersey, permanent alimonyis still available, but is far less likely to be awarded just because a parent decided to leave their career to stay home with the kids,” Weinberger explains. “What is becoming more the norm for stay-at-home moms and dads is ‘rehabilitative’ or ‘temporary’ alimony that’s put in place to help the spouse get on their feet long enough to re-enter the workforce.”
Divorcing SAHMs, confronted with this reality, have to immediately begin pursuing full-time paid work – and prove to the court that they’re doing so. Many end up taking jobs ill-suited to their education and skill sets.Johnson concludes that she “would like to see more women buffering themselves against that situation.” How so? Keep one foot in the door of the working world, she urges. Maintain your skills and contacts, do part time work, freelance work or whatever it takes to maintain contact with the adult, professional world.
So, what happens to Amy down the road?That depends on how she and John acknowledged and addressed the sacrifices she made in leaving her job years ago. In doing so, she gave up her salary and her peak earning years. She gave up her benefits, becoming entirely dependent on John’s employment for health insurance and retirement savings. She gave up colleagues, professional associations and memberships. She gave up all the momentum of an up-and-coming career . . . momentum she is very unlikely ever to regain. John, meanwhile, gave up none of this. In fact, he advanced up the corporate ladder quite a bit faster than he could have done without all the duties of home and family being handled seamlessly and competently by his wife.If Amy and John recognized these realities, and were still willing to take them on, a formal postnuptial agreement would have been wise and appropriate at that time. Working out a postnup to ensure the wife’s future financial security as she leaves paid work is an excellent opportunity to talk seriously and candidly about the financial implications of that decision.“If a couple never executed a prenuptial agreement, or does have one, but it doesn’t address spousal support, it can feel like you’ve missed the boat. Thanks to postnuptial agreements, you still have time to establish provisions to protect you financially should you make that leap to stay home and raise your kids,” notes Weinberger, adding that postnuptial agreements can pre-decide alimony amounts and address other asset division issues.
Whatever path you decide is best for you and your family, one thing is certain: you need to protect your financial future. To my mind, a prenup or postnup is an absolute legal and financial necessity for any woman choosing to give up paid work and all its associated benefits, tangible and otherwise, to stay home with the children. For more to think about, see my earlier article about why you need a postnup, and other points to consider before leaving paid work to become SAHM.However valuable at-home parenting may be to you – and it certainly has its rewards – it is inarguable that becoming a SAHM is riskier, financially, than continuing to do fulltime paid work. Greater risk warrants greater protection, and a well-executed postnuptial agreement can provide it.Source; http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2014/05/29/deciding-to-become-a-sahm-stay-at-home-mom-consider-this-cautionary-tale/
So alimony is supposed to be a wash in terms of total income reported by taxpayers. It turns out that taxpayers are routinely whipsawing the IRS. That accounts for the large number of alimony cases. Actually there should be a lot more. The latest I have seen is the case of Joseph Peery which was decided last month by the Tax Court.
Mr. Peery’s divorce agreement called for him to pay 40% of his income as spousal support. The obligation terminated on his death, her death or her remarriage. So far so good. There was also a property settlement. That was a little complicated, but the only part relevant to the case is a cash payment in the amount of $63,500.
The Court went through the statutory analysis as to whether that $63,500 was deductible alimony. There is a quite a bit more detail, but the deciding factor was probably that:The plain language of the separation agreement states that petitioner was obligated to make a $63,500 payment to Ms. Peery as a property settlement.
But it gets more complicated. There was a $63,500 check that was included in the substantiation of a total alimony deduction of $90,265.67. The check was issued eight days after the required property settlement. ”Spousal Support” was written in the memo section of the check, but that was crossed out.
Mr. Peery argued that the property settlement had been paid from other sources and that the $63,500 check was his ex-wife’s share of a capital gain. Just one of those crazy coincidences. It happens. Unfortunately, he was unable to substantiate the other $63,500, leaving the IRS unsatisfied and the Tax Court agreeing, The Court also upheld the accuracy penalty.The check with “spousal support” written on it and crossed out makes me think that this was one of the less than 5% of the alimony mismatches that was actually examined by the IRS. I am beginning to suspect that divorce attorneys, who may be smarter than their agreements make them look, may be deliberately gaming the system. Of course the AICPA Standards of Tax Practice prevent me from giving advice based on the audit lottery. Nonetheless, My inner villain's says - If you are going to have an alimony mismatch, better you should keep it under 50 grand.
If you're considering hiding assets in your divorce, you might want to think twice. Alternatively, if you're concerned your spouse may be hiding assets from you know that you have options.
Can you imagine being separated from your adorable, furry companion? Increasingly, pets are becoming subjects of contention for couples undergoing divorce. In some cases, pets are even included in prenuptial arrangements, also known as "pre-pups."
It is not uncommon for a spouse to want to modify certain provisions of his or her Separation Agreement after a divorce. As time goes on, circumstances will most certainly change for the former spouses. However, not all Separation Agreements are modifiable. Before a spouse files a modification action, it is important to ascertain whether the separation agreement, or the relevant portions of the agreement, can be modified.
In Massachusetts, Separation Agreements either “merge” or survive”. When a separation agreement “merges” it means that all provisions in the agreement may be modified through a Complaint for Modification, upon a showing of a material change in circumstances. When a separation agreement “survives” it means it has its own independent legal significance, and can only be modified in the rarest of circumstances. The courts have stated that there must be “countervailing equities” to modify a surviving agreement. Although the term “countervailing equities” has not exactly been defined by the court, it has generally meant the most extraordinary circumstance will permit a modification, such as a person becoming a ward of the state absent a modification.
It is also possible for part of a separation agreement to merge, and other parts to survive. Almost always, provisions regarding division of marital property and marital debt, survive, so those provisions can only be modified in the rarest of circumstances. Provisions regarding children, such as custody, the parenting plan, child support, and payment of college costs, almost always merge, and can be modified. Other provisions, such as life insurance and alimony, can survive or merge, depending on a case-by-case basis.
However, since the Alimony Reform Act went into effect in 2012, former spouses and attorneys alike have questioned if a separation agreement that survives, or a separation agreement in which the alimony provisions survive, can be modified in light of the Alimony Reform Act. Most attorneys have agreed that the answer is no, alimony cannot be modified if the agreement, or that provision, survived.
On August 22, 2014, there was a definitive answer to this question from the Appeals Court in the case of Becker v. Phelps, where the Appeals Court made it clear that the Alimony Reform Act does not change the status of the law when it comes to surviving separation agreements. In fact, the Appeals Court interprets the Alimony Reform Act of affirming the long line of case law stating that a surviving agreement can only be modified in the rarest of circumstances.
Thus, the status of separation agreements has not changed under the Alimony Reform Act. A surviving separation agreement, or a portion of a separation agreement relating to alimony which survives, remains modifiable only in the case of “countervailing equities.” This just re-affirms the importance of understanding the difference between a surviving agreement and a merged agreement, and which applies in your case.