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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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Ch-ch-changes to Child Support

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are changing quicker than David Bowie used to transform into Ziggy Stardust. Starting in September, 2017, there will be massive changes to how child support is calculated. There are a lot of changes in store, but some of the highlights that will be most interesting to our clients:

A blanket 25% reduction in support obligations for children between the ages of 18-23;
A presumptive cap on college contributions, for each parent, at 50% of the cost of attending UMass Amherst (aka “The UMass Formula”);
Removal of modified support based on parenting time; and
Acceptance of unreported income, thereby making it easier to “impute” income.

Like all new rules and guidelines, it will take a while to determine how some of the more detailed changes actually get applied in real cases. Please email or call us if we can help you to better understand how the guideline changes might apply to your specific situation.

A helpful link from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/support.html

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What is in a Name?

 

2016 was the year of “celebrity” deaths.  One passing that went fairly unnoticed was Richard Trentlage, who wrote the Oscar Meyer Wiener song.

Let’s be totally honest: growing up with a name like “Faye Weiner” can be a challenge. Nobody ever knows how to pronounce or spell it and more than every once in a while, someone will sing that catchy song to you like it’s the first time that anyone has ever thought of doing it.

Having a unique name can be rich with family history and personality; however, if you want to change your name, it is very easy to do through legal proceeding.

The most common type of procedure involves a change of marital status. At the time of marriage or divorce, Massachusetts law allows a person to change surname. You cannot force someone to change their surname; however, there is a growing trend of individuals who strongly want their (soon to be) ex-spouse relinquish their married name at the time of divorce. A while back we posted an article on Facebook and Twitter discussing this topic:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/Wjslegal/posts
https://twitter.com/WJSlegal

We often see our clients struggle with their post-divorce surname; the biggest reasons that we hear are concerns about having the same last name as the children, avoiding the process of changing all accounts and legal documents, as well as easier recognition within the community.  Either using your married or maiden name is acceptable and common.

Absent change of marital status, all you need is an original birth certificate, a completed petition to the probate and family court in your county, and a filing fee. Once the documents and fee are submitted, you need to attend a quick judicial hearing. It’s that easy.

….and for those who actually read to the end of this blog, a quick history lesson: the actual last name  “Weiner” is pronounced differently depending from where your ancestors migrated. In this case, the family name is related to wine producers (aka “Wine-er”) in European vineyards.

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Only the Lonely

Divorce can be really traumatic for children. Maybe you are divorced yourself or are a child of divorced parents. Maybe you have watched friends or family go through the process. Regardless, you know divorce impacts children. Divorce can sometimes be the best thing for children, because they now live in two happy homes instead of one miserable one. Even in the most ideal situations, it changes how children view the world.

Probate and family courts prohibit parents from making disparaging remarks about one another during the process and thereafter. Parents can still provide a loving ear for their children to express emotions in a supportive environment during the process without disparaging the other parent  This is important where there are multiple children, but maybe even more so in the case of an only child. When there are multiple children, they can bond in the commonality of the experience. If there is only one child, it can be even more isolating and scary.

In our office, we understand just how important your children are to you. We want to help you to best protect your children during this difficult transition.  We are parents ourselves so we understand. We specialize in working with parents who want to make this transition as easy as possible for their children.

For some great ideas on how to best help your only child during a divorce, Divorce Magazine published a great article:
http://www.divorcemag.com/blog/divorce-and-the-only-child

As always, please feel free to contact us for more information about this or any other matters. We can be found on Facebook, Twitter, www.wjslegal.com, or at (508)319-1529.

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Can I Keep It?

Thank you to everyone for your amazing feedback on the last newsletter! Since it was sent last week, I have received a handful of questions about how inheritances are divided during a divorce.

Inheritances may be subject to division if they are received either before or during the marriage unless there are terms in a pre-nuptial agreement specific to this situation. In my experience, this is often one of the most emotionally charged areas of contention, slightly behind child custody. Not surprisingly, the person who received the inheritance typically feels entitled to keep the entire thing; on the other side, their spouse often feels entitled to at least some portion of the inheritance.

Generally speaking, Judges consider when the money was inherited and how it was used during the marriage. In doing so, the Court looks at the length of the marriage, when the inheritance was received, whether it was used to maintain a standard of living or kept separate, and the value of the funds, relative to the other marital assets.

If there is an expectation that one person will inherit something, the spouse has no right to division of future inheritance. In most cases, a person cannot rely upon an inheritance until the Grantor or Trustee actually dies. However, the judge may consider the expected inheritance in determining the future needs of the spouse, which could affect the settlement that the spouse receives; however, the impact of a potential future inheritance usually small, because, again, there is not typically an irrevocable document in existence.

Some very simple, contrasting examples to demonstrate how a Court might analyze whether an inheritance should be divided:
1. A woman inherits $10,000 from her grandmother just before she is married. She immediately uses that money towards the purchase of a house and lives in that home with her husband. Fifteen years later, they file for divorce. In this case, she is unlikely to keep the full value of her inheritance.
2. A woman inherits the $10,000 from her grandmother just after she is married. She never co-mingles the money and doesn’t use it towards expenses or luxuries during the marriage. They file for divorce six months after their wedding. In this case, she is more likely to retain the full value of her inheritance.
3. A woman has knowledge that her grandmother has made a $10,000.00 gift for her in her Last Will and Testament. Fortunately for her, her grandmother is still alive. If she gets a divorce now, her spouse no right to any portion of the inheritance.

As always, if you have any questions regarding this topic, or any other, please feel free to contact me for more information.

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