Driving Forces in Divorces

Before I begin the intended topic of this newsletter, I want to reflect briefly on my recent commentary about the jury process. After I sent my most recent newsletter, I probably received two (2) dozen emails and telephone calls, asking about my actual opinion regarding likelihood of a conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Despite an inclination that there  would be conviction of second degree murder,  I, for obvious reasons, was not going to state that in my newsletter (and I would have been wrong anyways).

North Attleboro thrived and commanded respect, while being highlighted by national news.  Friends rallied to protect and support families living close to his residence.  The NAPD did an amazing job collecting evidence and making sure that residents continued to feel safe during the investigation. Similarly, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office rose to the challenge of prosecuting a difficult case, despite the defendant being a known “personality.”  Ultimately, it is a very sad situation for two (2) families, both of which lost, albeit in different ways, a son, sibling, and friend, but also for a small child who may never really have a real father.

Now, its time to separate from this topic and to discuss the driving forces behind divorces.

My divorce clients are among my most captivating, because they all come to my office about to embark on a new journey. Most of my clients are ordinary people, who are just trying to navigate their way through a rough patch in their life, whether the situation was wanted, forced upon them, or driven by a mutual decision.  My clients usually have two major questions: What will happen with my children and finances?

The Court removes emotion, to the greatest extent possible, when deciding cases. Judges care most about the best interest of children, making sure that all minor children have their best interest and needs met. To the contrary, the division of marital assets is treated, in most cases, as a math problem.  In Massachusetts, marital assets will often be divided as near equally as possible, but it is not a community property state, requiring an equal division.

Division of the marital assets is defined by Massachusetts General Laws c. 208 $34.  The Court considers the following factors when dividing assets: length of the marriage, conduct of the parties during the marriage, age(s) of the parties, health of the parties, occupation(s) of the parties, income of the parties, station or lifestyle, vocational skills, employability, debts, potential for future income, and the needs of the parties.  Therefore, where conduct of the parties is only one (1) of the factors considered, it does not play as significant of a role in division of assets as commonly thought or often hoped.

I always defer to my clients on the decision of whether to file with no-fault or fault grounds. In ten (10) years, I have had only a handful of clients who want to file for a divorce with fault grounds to either “send a message” to future, significant others or for their personal satisfaction of being “right.” In my experience, it is rarely worth the extra drama or financial commitment necessary to litigate a case on fault grounds or out of distain.

Imagine that someone has just made some nasty allegations about you. How would you feel? For most people, the first reaction, regardless of whether or not the allegations are true, is to be mad. Real mad. Maybe embarrassed. Nonetheless, you would probably try to clear your name and reputation. How do you do that? You fight back with every ounce of energy. When it comes to litigation of a divorce, it raises the emotional impact on both parties and  the legal bills.

Ultimately, both no-fault and fault divorces still involve dividing assets according to Massachusetts General Laws c. 208 $34 and, while it may tip the scales in one party’s favor slightly, it rarely puts one party in a drastically different position than it would have been otherwise.

My job is to simplify the process for my clients by attempting to reduce the emotional element.   I’m not going to attempt to convince you that I don’t feel some of the pain of my clients during the process, because I certainly do, especially when there are children involved. Nonetheless, my client’s best interest, including their children and assets, are my priority.  I take that responsibility very seriously, by minimizing the amount of costly litigation necessary and protecting what remains as they start their travels on an unknown road.