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Shutdown.

Working for the government is typically awesome. Most state and federal employees get incredible health and life insurance benefits.  They also have fairly “normal” hours, without necessity to check email on nights or weekends. These benefits are tossed on the back burner when there is a government shutdown.

Unfortunately, these shutdowns have become all too common, under both Democratic and Republican leadership. In late 1995-1996, the federal shutdown lasted over a month.  What happens to support obligations during these periods?

Child support and alimony obligations survive government shutdowns.  What should you do if a shutdown or layoff effects you?

The essentials:
Make sure that you have a rainy day fund. Regardless of whether you are self employed or working for someone else, there will certainly be an amount of time during your career where your income is less than usual or non-existent. Just like your rent or mortgage, you should plan for how you will pay your support obligations during that time; and

Communicate with your ex. We know, we know….you don’t want to talk with your ex, but it may save you unnecessary time in court.  If your ex is aware of the situation and you communicate your concerns to them, they may be more likely to work with you to figure out a reasonable solution rather than just bringing you in to court. In most cases, both parties can come up with a reasonable, short term agreement on their own. 

If those options don’t work:
If you are the payor, you could file a Complaint for Modification. If your loss of income continues for an extended period of time, it may worth it to file a Complaint for Modification based on a material (ie. significant) change of circumstance. Child support can always be changed, depending on custody and income; however, it typically takes a month or so to have matters heard so the change should be fairly long term; and

If you are the payee, you could file a Complaint for Contempt. If the loss of support continues for an extended period of time, it may be worth it to file a request that the court acknowledges that someone is in violation of an agreement (ie. Contempt). There is no minimum amount of late payments that must be accrued prior to filing, but judges usually look for a pattern or significant amount of late payments. Filing could lead to a finding that the person is in violation of the agreement, but the judge could also lower payments or defer to a payment plan on the arrears based on an inability to pay.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions about child support and alimony or any other legal matters.

Regards,
John & Faye

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Common Sense.

 

“When can I start dating?”
– Approximately 60% of clients during divorce consultations (based on totally unscientific studies)

We suggest that people use common sense when starting to date during the divorce process. If you think that your dating might create anger in your spouse, it likely will; that anger often leads to prolonged proceedings and increased legal fees.

We recommend keeping the divorce moving towards resolution by following these simple guidelines:
Protect your Assets: If you want to date, remember that you are spending marital assets to pay for the dates. You have the right to move on and to enjoy life, but it may ultimately effect division of marital assets. Typical dating and entertainment expenditures are typically not an issue, but we recommend nothing extravagant, especially if it interferes with your ability to support your family;
Be Smart and Discrete. If you want information to remain private, do not advertise what you are doing on social media. Not might your spouse see it, but potentially your spouse’s attorney (of course, under ethical boundaries). The quickest way to discredit an argument about lack of money are photos of fancy dinners, vacations and adventures;
Be a Parent First: This is not the time to start introducing new “friends” to your children. First of all, children experience a range of emotions during (and after) a divorce. They will often “blame” the first person that they meet for keeping their parents apart, even if that person has nothing to do with the split. Also, rebound relationships are common and it is not in the best interest of the children to be introduced to many “friends.” Lastly, anyone who meets the kids will be open to scrutiny by your spouse and the court for any influence that they might have on your children;
Know Yourself: Everyone wants companionship. In the short term, it may mean surrounding yourself with family and friends or a new puppy; however, at some point in the future, you may want romantic companionship. Even if you wanted the divorce, you may still may not be ready to date beyond something very casual.
As always, please let us know if we can guide in you in any legal matters.

Warm regards,
John & Faye

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Creative Marketing

While driving through the Baltimore/ Washington D.C. area, there was a billboard that said, “Don’t get a divorce…get a bigger house.” Four days later, the advertisement is stuck in my head.

Although we are all for buying the house of your dreams, it will not save your marriage. What really happens to your house in a divorce?

1. The marital home is the most sought asset during a divorce. At the beginning of the divorce process, everyone wants to keep the marital home; however, it is rare that that both parties can afford to keep the home on their one income, often determining who could actually keep the house;
2. One spouse keeps the house. If one of the parties can afford to keep the home, they should refinance under their own name and based on their individual income. At the time of refinance, the ownership is often transferred by Quitclaim Deed;
3..Get your name off the mortgage if you don’t own the house. If you have signed a Quitclaim Deed to relinquish ownership rights, make sure that you don’t have any financial responsibility for the mortgage or taxes. We recommend this for both security (in case your ex doesn’t pay the mortgage for any reason) and because any financial obligations will limit your ability to secure your own credit for a future rental or purchase;
4. Sell the house. This can be done either before or after the divorce occurs, but it’s easier if the parties agree how the proceeds will be divided before the house is put on the market;
5. It gets more complicated when the mortgage exceeds the value of the home. Couples that cannot afford to pay the overage due usually have to choose a short sale, renting the home or continuing to live together;
5. Buying a house during the divorce process isn’t always a great idea. The home will be considered a marital asset and subject to division. Also, mortgage underwriters may be a bit concerned about your future income and assets, which could cause delays.

As always, please let us know if we can assist you with any concerns or legal matters.

Warm Regards,
John & Faye

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Put Away the Swords

“You didn’t always hate each other. There had to be nice moments, during the courtship, maybe? Or the wedding?”
-John Beckwith, Wedding Crashers (2005)

The “Divorce Nisi” period is one of the strangest legal concepts for people to grasp. Most people assume that their divorce is final on the day that a Judgement of Divorce is ordered; however, in Massachusetts, parties have to wait 90 days longer for their divorce to become final or absolute.

After months of fighting over airline miles, the Nisi period gives the parties an opportunity to “put away the swords” and consider reconciliation before their divorce becomes final. How often does this happen? Not often, but we always believe in looking at a glass half full and with the hope that it could. There are two defining characteristics of the “Nisi” period:

1. Neither party can remarry; and
2. If the Nisi period has not ended by December 31, the Parties will considered married for tax purposes and must file “joint” or “married, filing separately” for that year.

As always, please let us know if we can be of assistance to you.

Warm Regards,
John & Faye

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Independence.

It’s ironic that we approach a holiday week that celebrates independence from England by reflecting on how independent we are not.  This year is a little different for us. We aren’t going to comment on the immigration issues that divide our country at the moment. What we are thinking about is how we are never truly independent.

This week, the announcement was made public by Wicked Local that we won the best local attorneys in the region. As the news broke, we couldn’t help but thinking about how we got here and it’s not from being independent.

We are the faces of WJS Legal, but we are not the reason for our success. We would be lost without Katie and Kyla, who help keep us organized and moving forward flawlessly.  We could not succeed without our realtors and lenders. Our survival depends on our family law clients who trust us with the most intimate and sensitive parts of their lives. We need all of you, who believe in us and support our work.  We are, truly, only two people who are surrounded by greatness.

Thank you for always supporting us and Happy 4th of July!
Warm Regards,
John and Faye

Our two minutes of fame:

http://www.wickedlocal.com/section/favoriteswinners category=local%20shopping&town=north%20attleborough&cbResetParam=1