Divorce Law Monitor

  •  What Not to Do During a Divorce – Part 1August 11, 2022

    Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

    A lot of emotions and impulses can arise during a divorce, and it’s critical to avoid any behavior that you may regret– including in the courtroom. What’s at stake? Credibility, time, money, custody, and peace of mind, to name a few. Below, read the top 10 behaviors to avoid during a divorce.

    1. Do not put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to have read aloud in court.

      This means no harsh text messages or emails to your spouse, and no nasty messages to friends and family about your spouse either. If you are upset or overwhelmed and need to vent, speak to a therapist or other mental health professional, or, if this isn’t possible, a trusted friend or family member in a private location (and never vent to your children about their parent or stepparent).

    2. Do not put any tracking devices on your spouse’s car or electronics.

      Even if you suspect them of having an affair, installing tracking devices or spying on them or their friends will not produce any information that is valuable enough to risk your credibility in court. This type of behavior is frowned on by judges, and infidelity – without something else such as

    Keep reading

  • Griffin v. Kay: A Cautionary Tale in How Your Separation Agreement Is WordedJune 28, 2022

    When spouses reach agreement on terms for a divorce, a written settlement document – commonly known as a Separation Agreement – is prepared. Parties then decide whether the agreement will either “merge” into the Judgment of Divorce or “survive” as an independent contract. I have written about how your election impacts your ability to modify provisions in the future.

    The recent decision in Griffin v. Kay is an excellent cautionary tale about making sure that the merger or survival language is clear and that both you and your spouse agree on what that language means.

    Geraldine Griffin and Harry Kay divorced in 2004 and entered into an agreement calling for Harry to pay alimony of $90,000 per year until the death of either party or Geraldine’s remarriage. Their agreement provided as follows relative to merger or survival of the alimony provisions:

    Notwithstanding the incorporation of this [a]greement in the [divorce judgment], it shall not be merged in the [J]udgment, but shall survive the same . . . retaining its independent significance as a contract between the parties. Provided, however, in the event of a material negative and involuntary change in the circumstances of either party, that party may seek Keep reading

  • No Prenup? A 101 Guide to PostnupsJune 17, 2022

    More and more couples are electing to sign prenuptial agreements before their big wedding day, yet some can’t agree, don’t want to, or don’t have time to do one beforehand. After all, some people continue to believe that asking for a prenuptial agreement indicates that they expect the marriage to fail. Even if that is not the case, discussing a prenuptial agreement can be a difficult conversation to have during one of the happiest times of a relationship, making it problematic for some couples to agree on whether a prenuptial agreement makes sense for them.

    Suppose you did not sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding but wish to set forth financial rights and obligations between you and your spouse during your marriage or in the event of divorce or death. A postnuptial agreement may be an option for you to consider.

    Below are some things to think about when considering a postnuptial agreement.

    What is the difference between a prenuptial agreement and a postnuptial agreement?

    A prenuptial agreement is a written contract signed between parties intending to marry. It outlines their financial rights and obligations if the marriage ends due to death or divorce.

    People often enter into … Keep reading

  • How To Navigate School Breaks, Summer Camps, Vacations, and Co-ParentingJune 02, 2022

    Catherine Spanu, Burns & Levinson

    When summer and school vacations approach, many divorcing spouses wonder: what happens with the children and the parenting plan? Do I get to take them for vacation, and sign them up for camps? What happens if my coparent refuses to let me take the children to my family reunion that only happens once every ten years?

    Summers and school vacations can be stressful due to the changes in routine alone. That stress can be exacerbated by issues communicating with your coparent, or by uncertainty about vacation parenting plans and travel arrangements.

    There are no hard and fast rules on these issues under Massachusetts law. However, to minimize stress and disruption for you and, most importantly, for your children, it is useful to know what is typical for coparenting and parenting plans during school and summer vacations, as well as how to address issues that may arise around vacations and coparenting.

    A preliminary issue to consider is what is typically ordered by a judge, or agreed to between divorcing parents, as far as summer and school vacation parenting plans:

    • February/April Vacations: Massachusetts public schools typically have two week-long vacations, one in February and one in April. These vacations are
    Keep reading

  • Can We Divorce Even if My Partner Is Pregnant?May 09, 2022

    What do Bridget Moynahan, Tiki Barbar, and Denise Richards have in common?  They (or their spouse) were all pregnant while going through a divorce.

    Divorce is never easy.  Divorcing while pregnant adds another complication.  In some states it is not even possible to finalize the divorce while a party is pregnant.  However, in Massachusetts, although expecting parents are permitted to finalize a divorce, there are certain obstacles about which a divorcing, expecting parent should be aware.

    1. There is a legal presumption that a child born to a woman during a marriage is the child of her spouse.

    Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209(C), section 6, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he is married to the mother at the time of birth of the child or if the child is born within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment or divorce. (While the terms man and woman are contained in the statute, this law applies to same-sex couples, as well.) The husband’s name will automatically be placed on the birth certificate of the child, even if the husband is not the biological parent.  It then becomes the burden … Keep reading

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