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  • Brockton MA Divorce Law Blog

    Divorce settlement record could soon be broken

    Any divorce can present a number of challenges that require in-depth legal guidance and/or litigation. However, high-asset divorce is often complicated and can involve a great deal of legal as well as financial expertise. After all, divorcing couples with substantial marital property in Massachusetts can have years’ worth of investments and other forms of property to identify and divide.

    Even though the case is closed to the public, some information regarding the divorce between the founder and CEO of an oil company and his wife of 26 years is surfacing. The husband in the case has political ties and is recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the wealthiest people in the entire world. One source figures that the husband is worth a little over $20 billion. It’s for that reason that some divorce and finance experts are wondering how issues like property division will be handled by both parties.

    Am I eligible to receive alimony?

    For many Massachusetts families, the prospect of divorce poses serious financial and emotional difficulties. Not only must people come to terms with the fact that their lives and lifestyles will be significantly affected by the dissolution of their marriage but they must also deal with the real, practical implications of losing a reliable source of income. Alimony, while traditionally regarded as financial support for stay-at-home mothers, serves to assist both men and women financially after divorce.

    Findlaw explains that alimony is designed to serve several purposes, all of which can depend on the particular circumstances of the divorcing couple. Spousal support is a prevalent issue in high-asset divorces and can be implemented in order to maintain the standard of living for which the non-wage earning spouse was accustomed to during marriage. Alimony can also be a means by which to compensate for the loss of income that the non-breadwinner spouse will incur as a result of divorce. And while multiple factors are taken into consideration when determining alimony, family law courts have a great deal of leeway and discretion.

    Understanding divorce costs

    Massachusetts couples who pursue divorce as their way of resolving otherwise unresolvable marital issues must make many difficult decisions along the way. For people with minor children, the angst of determining child custody and visitation plans can be among the most emotionally challenging parts of a divorce. For spouses who have no minor children at home and may be at or near the age of retirement, concerns about protecting retirement accounts and other long-term savings may take center stage.

    Regardless of whether or not children are involved in a divorce, the property division agreement can often be the element that draws out a divorce process. The short- and long-term impact of financially-related determinations can be far reaching. Even with the laws of equitable division well established, it is still important for both wives and husbands to maintain close watch over credit reports and bank accounts before, during and after divorces.

    Spousal support agreement contested by celebrity

    When couples come to the point of dissolving their marriage, financial factors are taken into consideration to account for the needs and lifestyles of both parties. Spousal support is intended to provide for the spouse who was not the primary provider during the course of the marriage. However, financial support like alimony is not intended to place undue hardship on the spouse responsible for paying. Issues can arise, therefore, when the liable spouse challenges his or her legal obligation to the other.

    Hollywood actor Terrence Howard married Michelle Ghent in early 2010. The couple did not have any children together and divorced the following year. Subsequent divorce proceedings resulted in numerous and varied accusations, and garnered a great deal of public interest. Recently, media attention over the couple’s divorce was renewed when Howard challenged allegations that he owed more than $300,000 in spousal support by arguing that he simply couldn’t afford the steep amount.

    Property division and Social Security benefits

    For many Massachusetts residents, the process of dividing assets is the most difficult part of dissolving the marriage. While the ultimate goal of property division is to come to a fair and equitable conclusion for both parties, some people are reluctant to pursue all of the various types of assets they are legally entitled to. Understanding exactly how Social Security and survivor benefits factor into the property division equation can be helpful for those that may be eligible to receive their ex-husband’s or wife’s payments.

    Typically, people are eligible to receive the Social Security or survival benefits of their ex-spouse if they are currently not married or were married to their ex for a minimum of 10 years. And while the Social Security Administration does require that people meet those requirements, along with some others in certain circumstances, benefit eligibility cannot be denied on the basis of statements in a divorce decree. Many people do not know that their ex-spouse cannot prohibit them from drawing from his or her Social Security if they are found to be eligible according to the above guidelines.

    Managing debts during divorce

    When people are confronted with the end of their marriage, they are also often faced with a number of practical and emotional issues to overcome. Not only must Massachusetts residents consider how their living situation may change but they have to also begin the difficult process of dividing assets. And given that debts are recognized as property to be distributed appropriately between divorcing parties, it’s important to accurately acknowledge and address debts.

    One of the first things that people can do to eliminate concerns over the division of debts in divorce is to immediately begin the process of paying down and eliminating marital debts. Resolving joint debt issues before the divorce is finalized is recommended, since doing so can reduce potential financial issues and disputes in the future. Another thing that people should do early on in the divorce process is use up-to-date credit information to identify any and all personal and shared credit accounts. Once all accounts are recognized, decisions can be made over which party is responsible for paying them off.

    The value of retirement accounts during divorce

    Many couples build their lives together over a series of decades, accumulating memories and assets as they go. As a result, the property division process that occurs at the time of divorce can be complex and difficult for many. Massachusetts residents that divorce in their retirement years often have the opportunity to include retirement accounts into their list of marital property.

    Over the past 20 years or so, the divorce rate of retirement-age Americans has doubled, and the U. S. Census Bureau estimated recently that more than 10 percent of people in their mid 60s to 70s were divorced. However, one recent survey found that a large percentage of people are unaware that they are entitled to claim the retirement benefits of their spouse during divorce.

    Determining how a prenup figures into divorce

    Prenuptial agreements may have once been associated with a certain degree of stigma, but they are becoming increasingly common. In fact, couples approaching marriage in the state of Massachusetts and beyond are often encouraged to make legal arrangements addressing such issues as spousal support and property division in an effort to account for the possibility of divorce later on. And while prenups are considered legally binding, there are instances where they may be overruled in divorce proceedings.

    Family law judges take several factors into consideration when weighing the merits of a prenuptial agreement during divorce litigation. In addition to identifying whether or not all relevant financial information was included in the premarital contract at the time it was drafted, the judge may also question at what point prior to the wedding the agreement was established. Beyond that, there may be concerns over the possibility that one spouse was coerced into signing the contract.

    Alimony dispute may result in appeal, new legislation

    The process of dissolving a marriage can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but there are instances where spouses actively engage in long and highly emotional disputes that can take years to resolve in the Massachusetts family law system. And because alimony can become a point of contention between parties, family law judges sometimes establish support agreements that are later contested and/or amended.

    One alimony dispute has been going on for years and may continue despite the fact that New Jersey’s Superior Court recently ruled on the case. The high court's Appellate Division found that the ex-wife in the dispute is entitled to permanent alimony and reimbursement for her attorney’s fees. That ruling is in agreement with a lower court and also recognizes that the woman is permanently disabled and unable to provide financially for herself.

    The argument for staying in the family home during divorce

    Despite the fact that most people regard the end of their marriage as a kind of unraveling process, household changes that occur during a separation are often taken into consideration by family law courts to help create new living and financial arrangements. For instance, the decision to either move out of the household or stay for the duration of divorce proceedings can play a major role in everything from determining alimony payments to child support.

    Whether a person is the one seeking divorce are not, it’s advisable for that person to remain in the family home during the divorce process. The idea of staying in the house with one’s ex may seem awkward, but the gesture of staying present and engaged in one’s family is often recognized by the court when it comes time to make important financial and lifestyle arrangements.