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Wellesley Family Law Blog

Divorce: the more complex, the higher the stakes

Even in cases where spouses agree that it's time to call it quits and are on good terms, getting divorced is never an easy or pleasant process. This is especially true when a couple has a considerable amount of wealth, as sorting out matters related to dividing assets, what to do with real estate and whether to keep or sell property can quickly become overwhelming and contentious. Add in other highly emotional divorce-related issues like child custody and visitation, dividing personal belongings and family pets, and it's easy to understand why some complex divorces take years to settle.

Going through a divorce often stirs up all sorts of feelings that can cloud one's ability to think clearly and rationally. Whether an individual feels guilty about a divorce or simply wants out of a marriage as quickly as possible, letting emotions drive divorce decisions is never wise.

In divorce terms, ‘equitable’ has a very different meaning

Divorce is much more than simply choosing to no longer live together. It entails the untangling of an individual's personal and financial lives from that of a spouse and can therefore become exceptionally complicated. This is especially true in cases where a couple was married for many years and has amassed a considerable amount of wealth.

In a recent blog post, we touched on the legal concept of equitable distribution and discussed how it applies to divorcing couples in Massachusetts. As previously discussed, while the term “equitable” suggests that assets and property are divided equally between spouses, this is rarely the case.

Divorce and hidden assets

For anyone who is planning or going through a divorce, finances are often a chief concern. Most divorcees want and expect to maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed while married. As fears about how assets will be divided and how those decisions may adversely impact one’s financial position and security mount, some husbands and wives will go to great lengths to hide assets from a soon-to-be ex-spouse.

A January 2015 poll by the National Endowment for Financial Education revealed that a whopping one-third of all spouses admit to hiding purchases and/or assets from a spouse. Given this likely conservative estimate, it's safe to assume that this figure is even higher among divorcing spouses. For husbands and wives who suspect that a spouse is hiding assets, it's important to address those concerns with a divorce attorney who can work to uncover hidden assets and ensure an individual obtains his or her fair share of marital assets in a divorce settlement.

As remarriage rates soar for individuals age 55 and up, prenuptials more relevant than ever

There's a saying related to the belief that love is sweeter the second time around. In the U.S., this appears to be the case for many divorcees and widowers who are age 55 and older. A 2014 study conducted by the Pew Research Center reported that 67 percent of individuals age 55 to 64 who had previously been married are now remarried. Additionally, individuals over the age of 55 are more likely to report being married three or more times.

For an adult child, the remarriage of a parent often stirs conflicting emotions and raises practical concerns. While a son or daughter may truly be happy that a parent has found love and happiness again, he or she may also have concerns about how a remarriage may affect both a parent's and one's own future financial security.

Divorce can raise concerns about seeing a grandchild

For many individuals with grown children, welcoming a grandchild into a family is a highly anticipated and joyous event. Free of many of the worries and stressors that tend to accompany parenthood and raising young children, grandparents can truly enjoy and cherish their time with a grandchild. However, in cases where a grandchild's parents divorce or split up, a grandparent may have questions and concerns about how decisions related to child custody and visitation may affect their relationship with and access to a grandchild.

It's important, therefore, that grandparents in Massachusetts take steps to become informed about the various factors that may influence whether or not they are able to obtain legal visitation rights to a grandchild.

Divorce considerations for business owners and their spouses

All but a handful of states divide marital property at divorce based on the principle of equitable distribution. Note: you don't have to ask a court to intervene, but if you and your spouse are unable to agree on property division in Massachusetts, then the court will endeavor to equitably divide marital assets and debts. Keep in mind, though, that "equitable" is not necessarily the same thing as "equal."

Equitable distribution can be particularly complicated when a business is involved. Business assets and debts may be included in the marital estate and thus subject to division between the spouses. In some cases, though, it is possible to prove that the business is not subject to division because the business qualifies as separate property.

Rutherford forced to return children to father in Monaco

If you watch entertainment news, then you may already know about the custody battle taking place between Kelly Rutherford and her ex-husband. Her ex-husband had custody of their children and took them to Monaco, but she is trying to obtain custody to bring them back to the United States.

These situations can be hard for parents, especially because their children are too far away to see them often. Recently, a judge had ordered the children back to the USA for the summer, but the legal arrangement required the children to return to Monaco with their father in August 2015. When Rutherford didn't return her children as required, a judge ordered them back to their father.

Tips for court: conducting yourself correctly

Conducting yourself in the right manner during your divorce trial is important. Not doing so can get you in trouble and even make a judge less likely to want to rule in your favor. Fortunately, there are a few tips you can follow to conduct yourself correctly, keeping you on the good side of the law.

First, dress appropriately. You shouldn't wear T-shirts, shorts, or other casual clothing to court if it can be helped. You want to dress in a way that shows respect; a suit, dress, or other business clothing would be suitable. Remember not to chew gum, either, as this is considered disrespectful.

Can rapists request child custody by law in Massachusetts?

Child custody concerns can come from many angles, but one interesting concern some clients have is what happens if an alleged rapist sues for parental rights. Technically speaking, the man suing for his parental rights in this situation is the biological father. These cases can be difficult, because not all kinds of rapes and sexual assault situations are the same. In truth, if the man was never convicted, it can be hard to deny him the right to see his child, but it's possible to do so.

Fathers should have the right to see their children as long as they don't cause duress or injury to the child or mother. In some cases, a man has already pleaded guilty to the rape of a minor or adult. What happens then? It's possible for a mother to request child support from the man, so should he have a right to see his child?

An amicable parenting plan can be negotiated with your spouse

Divorce can be hard on spouses, but it can also be devastating for children. Children who once saw their parents daily may now see them only a few times a week, and that can be difficult. Creating a parenting plan that works well for you and your ex will help alleviate any stress your child is going through. Knowing parents are working together and providing a safe environment to live in is important.

If you and your ex can work together to make an amicable parenting plan, it's more likely that you will have fewer problems with child custody down the line. For instance, if you have to work a 40-hour week from 9 to 5 and your child has to go to school from 8 to 4, it may be reasonable to have your children live with you and have a babysitter or relative watch them for the hour until you get home. Then, weekends and summers could be spent with the other parent. This would be one potential way to designate time with your child.

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