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Worcester Family Law Blog

Massachusetts alimony orders pre-dating the 2012 reform

Last week, we discussed how Massachusetts’ alimony laws were reformed in 2012 and, among other things, were changed to allow alimony payments to stop once the paying-spouse reached retirement.

Of course, with the reform came many questions about how the changes would affect alimony orders that were already in effect. This week, the state’s highest court considered whether spouses who were ordered to pay alimony before the reform took place also get to cease making payments once they retire.

What are the alimony rules in Massachusetts?

On March 1, 2012, Massachusetts became one of the first states to establish comprehensive alimony reform. In a unanimous decision, the state legislature approved a bill that almost eliminates permanent alimony awards and creates specific alimony durations for marriages lasting 20 years or less.

For example, in marriages lasting less than five years, alimony will not be awarded for longer than half the time the marriage lasted. In marriages lasting longer than 10 years but less than 15 years, alimony can last no longer than 70 percent of the number of months the marriage lasted.

What’s the difference between a prenup and a postnup?

You have probably heard the term prenuptial agreement in the past and know that it refers to a contract entered by a couple prior to marriage that lays out terms such as property division and alimony if a divorce should occur. But did you know there are also postnuptial agreements? These are similar contracts that take place after the couple has already entered the marriage.

Ultimately, the only difference between a prenup and a postnup is when the contract is signed.

Steps to obtain financial independence from an abuser, part 2

Last week, we began discussing a Time Magazine article that provides several steps for victims of abuse to take in effort to gain financial independence from an abuser.

The topic came to light after recent news events inspired victims of abuse to share their reasons for staying with their abusers on social media using the hashtag #WhyIStayed. As it turned out, many abuse victims stayed in marriages and relationships because they were financially dependent on the abuser. 

Steps to obtain financial independence from an abuser, part 1

The issue of domestic violence was thrust into the media spotlight this week after video surfaced online of former Baltimore Ravens football star Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée, now-wife, Janay Palmer. The shocking video, which was caught by an elevator surveillance camera at a casino in February, showed Rice punching Palmer in the head and knocking her out cold.

Video footage from a different surveillance camera at the casino was released less than a week after the incident and showed Rice dragging his fiancée out of the elevator, her body limp. However, it was the recently-released violent video that caused outrage, including questions over why Rice was only suspended for two games by the NFL and how Palmer could go on to marry Rice after the incident.

Child support basics in Massachusetts

Massachusetts law provides that children have the right to receive financial support from their parents, irrespective of whether the child's parents are divorced or never married, and child support consists of court-ordered payments that are to assist with the costs of raising a child. Child support usually lasts until the child in question is 18 years old, but it can be extended to the age of 20 if the child is still in high school.

Child support can be set up in a variety of ways, including through an agreement between the parents of the child or by a judge's decree during a divorce or other family law proceeding. However, the majority of child support is set up through a process involving filling out an Application for Full Child Support Services and submitting it to a local office of the Department of Revenue.

Divorce concerns for those over 50

When facing the possibility of the end of a marriage, there are many things that people have to take into consideration. In addition to the emotional impact, there are financial concerns that could potentially cripple Massachusetts individuals seeking a divorce. This is especially true of those over the age of 50, who are reportedly part of a growing demographic.

Getting divorced when over the age of 50 can create a unique set of concerns. While divorce can be emotionally traumatic for anyone involved, those over 50 have additional financial concerns. Two unique issues that individuals who divorce later in life may face are retirement and Social Security benefits. In respect to Social Security benefits, it is reported that it may be possible to collect a portion of those benefits, provided that the couple had been married for at least 10 years and the individual is over the age of 62.

Military family law and child custody disputes

Child custody orders in Massachusetts can require extensive conversation and court analysis to determine what the best situation may be for a child. A person that is on active duty and attempting to settle a custody arrangement may choose to use military family law to help ensure that their case is handled appropriately. Military family law can help use specific legal standards to enable a fair negotiation and neutralize contention in the event that a military parent is not immediately available.

Military mothers and fathers who are on active duty while in the midst of a custody dispute may have anxiety regarding their rights while they are out of touch. The ability to appear in court or respond to court documents is limited when a person is serving, making it difficult to understand where their case is. Some people may question whether proceedings may be put on hold or temporarily halted in their absence.

Considering benefits in a Massachusetts divorce

In the last two decades, the baby boomer generation has been described as hosting the highest rate of divorce in America. For aging spouses in Massachusetts who will soon be ending their marriage, they may face certain changes to their benefits that could impact their financial security post-divorce. These benefits can include personal investments and savings as well as Social Security and company-provided retirement contributions.

Some benefits exist to help support spouses who may have been primarily dependent on the income of their partner before the end of the marriage. Although different Social Security benefits may be available, it may be important for a person to determine which may be the highest form of support when planning for one's financial future following the end of a marriage. Social Security and other investments or benefits may not be enough to provide financial security for some people after separating.

Managing finances during and after a Massachusetts divorce

A Massachusetts couple that has made the decision to divorce after a lengthy marriage may question their financial future independent from one another. Some people may have not ever had the opportunity to earn an income or manage money for their family and may have anxiety regarding their capability. Taking the steps to secure finances and manage funds for children or retirement during the divorce process could impact the future.

It can be intimidating for a person to end a marriage that has lasted decades or the majority of one's life. A spouse who has stayed at home with children, allowing the family to rely solely on the income of the other, may have fears about supporting the children. When children have special needs or handicaps, this fear can be even greater. Determining the best way to secure assets and receive a fair settlement in a divorce can be overwhelming for many people.

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