Main Navigation

Law Offices of Lisa A. Ruggieri
781-489-3759 Weekend & Evening Appointments Available

Wellesley Family Law Blog

Avoiding co-parenting disputes during the holiday season

For an unhappily wed individual, divorce ushers in many changes and signals numerous new opportunities. No longer forced to live in a tension-filled home with one’s ex, an individual is free to make his or her own decisions about how to live life and build a happier future. For couples with no children, once a settlement is reached and signed, divorce can truly offer a clean break from an ex-spouse. For divorced parents, however, their lives will forever be linked as they attempt to successfully co-parent.

While there are many times when divorce truly is the best option for parents and children alike, that’s not to say that it it won't, at times, be difficult for everyone involved. For many divorced families the holidays are a particularly hectic and challenging time. For divorced parents, while it may be impossible to avoid all conflicts, it’s important to plan ahead, communicate clearly and be willing to compromise.

As a beneficiary, will my trust distributions be included in a divorce settlement?

When planning or during the early stages of the divorce process, it's critical to account for all assets either held jointly or in an individual spouse's name. Assets that may be included in a comprehensive list include pension, investment and retirement accounts as well as real estate, personal property, art collections and other types of family heirlooms.

Additionally, it's important to take into consideration that Massachusetts is among those states that do not necessarily distinguish between what is considered marital vs. separate property. Therefore, while assets that are gifted, inherited or held in a trust are almost always retained by an individual spouse in most states; in Massachusetts these types of assets are considered fair game in divorce proceedings.

Later-in-life divorcees can benefit from an ex's Social Security benefits

For any individual who is approaching retirement age, ensuring for one's future financial security is often top-of-mind. While many individuals who have invested wisely likely have sizable retirement savings, a later-in-life divorce can complicate and inhibit one's retirement plans.

Within the last two decades, the divorce rate among married couples age 50 and older has doubled. Additionally, according to the World Bank, as of 2012, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was nearly 79 years. This number marks nearly a 13 percent increase since 1970 when the average life expectancy was age 70. This means that an individual who divorces at age 59 must be prepared to fund his or her retirement for the next 20 or more years.

Divorce and the importance of addressing estate planning matters

Many wealthy married couples in Massachusetts take the time to establish a comprehensive estate plan. Via estate planning, a couple can provide clear directives regarding end-of-life decisions related to the distribution of assets. A couple can also establish one or more trusts, account for long-term care matters and name beneficiaries for financial and retirement accounts. In cases where a couple subsequently divorces, it's important to update an estate plan accordingly.  

While going through or upon emerging from a divorce, most individuals want a break from all of the personal and legal drama and simply want to move on with their lives. Consequently, some may put off or fail to address and make changes to important estate planning documents which could potentially have significant consequences. 

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.

Privacy Policy | Business Development Solutions by FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business.