Signing your name to just about any document relative to a divorce or family law case matters.  The public oftentimes expects that they can argue ignorance, duress or lack of representation later on.  Unfortunately, your signature can create a binding, contractual obligation for you.  If you have regrets later on, you may have little to no recourse to “undo” your signature, much less what you’ve obligated yourself to.

         The best advice we at Ryan Faenza Carey can offer is this:  When in doubt, don’t.  If you have any hesitation, err on the sign of caution.  If you feel pressured or don’t understand what you’re signing, put the pen down.

         Before you sign, ask questions, educate yourself and seek counsel.  Don’t ever sign something based upon the representations or promises of others, especially if those representations or promises are not contained in the document you’ve been asked to sign.  Read every word, line and paragraph of the document. 

         If you have questions or need something clarified, contact an independent attorney to review the document for you and with you.  Make sure your attorney explains to you the meaning, significance and implications of the document you are considering signing in a way that you understand. 

Grey Divorce

Much has been written lately on the “Grey Divorce” – a term used to describe (nicely or not so nicely) parties over the age of 50 who are getting divorced.  Here are some ways that skilled divorce attorneys approach the so called Grey Divorce compared to other more ‘traditional’ divorce scenarios:

  • Grey divorces are not necessarily more expensive.  The cost of a divorce is primarily driven by time spent in court, conflict between the spouses, unreasonable attorneys or parties, and assets which are more complex to value (such as businesses that need to be valued and pensions, verses bank accounts that can be easily divided).
  • Child related issues rarely need to be dealt with – custody, parenting time, child support, etc. rarely come into play in a grey divorce, as the majority of the time the children are already fully grown and emancipated. However, there may be issues that need to be addressed during the divorce pertaining to outstanding debt associated with the child(ren)’s education, including parent plus loans and/or one or both of the parties being listed as a co-signer on student loans.
  • There may be significant assets to divide. If the parties have been married for a long period of time they may have accumulated a lot of “stuff” as well as significant financial assets (including retirement accounts and real estate) during their marriage.
  • Pensions and Social Security may need to be considered. In addition to any retirement accounts either party has accumulated, one or both of the parties may have received a pension (which may or may not be in payment status at the time of the divorce). When dividing the pension of a party to divorce, it is imperative to consider the social security benefits which both of the parties may be (or may not be) entitled to, as well as the option chosen by the recipient.
  • Parties to a grey divorce are often at the peak of their earning potential or already retired. Both of these circumstances create legal challenges regarding the interplay of division of assets and alimony or spousal support. Typically, neither party to a grey divorce has much opportunity to begin a new career or advance their current career much further. 
  • Financial “need” is especially important to weigh in grey divorces.  Oftentimes, retirement assets are insufficient to fund the retirements of both parties and/or the spousal support payor is near or past retirement age. In these cases, alimony and spousal support decisions are extra important.
  • The date that alimony should terminate may not be clear.  The issue of the length or termination date of an alimony obligation can be more complicated for parties divorcing when one or both of them are close to, or in some cases beyond, full retirement age.
  • Medical insurance may still be an issue. Even for parties who are eligible for Medicare at the time of the divorce, there are usually still concerns over payment for supplemental insurance which will need to be addressed.

If you are contemplating filing for divorce, or are already involved in a divorce and are unaware of your legal rights, it is important that you speak with an attorney who concentrates in the field of domestic relations law to ensure that all of your rights are preserved.

If you are going through a divorce or preparing to file, the best thing you can do is to limit or stop yourself from posting on social media, especially photographs.

This is increasingly important as we are confronted daily with new social platforms and smartphone applications. We live in an age of constant written communication and sharing (i.e., iMessage, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, etc.).

Today we have the ability to share our every moment – the good and the bad. It is easy to become excited and share personal or professional accomplishments and announcements. You may have the urge to voice concern or frustration about an issue that is personal or not in nature.

Before you reach for your smartphone, stop and think.

What you perceive as acceptable may have harmful consequences to your case. Remember, a social connection is a connection and not necessarily a “friend.” A connection may share your post with your spouse. So even if blocked, your spouse might obtain your posts and photographs and use them as leverage in negotiation against you, or in court to damage your credibility and challenge your fitness as a parent or ability to work.

Be mindful that anything that you write, post, tweet, or share could be used as evidence against you in court, even if you think your previous posts were deleted or hidden. It is possible to recover deleted posts or for an individual to take a screenshot. Do not be fooled by apps such as “Snapchat” in believing the picture you sent will disappear after a few seconds. The recipient can save the image with a screenshot and possibly show it to a judge.

If you must use social media, then you need to exercise discretion and good judgment in what you share and put in writing. The general rule of thumb is “when in doubt, don’t.”

The dog days of summer will soon come to an end and children will return to school. Some will even transition to college in the fall or begin filling out college applications.  Even for parents whose children are young, the thought of college brings excitement, along with anxiety about how they will cover the costs of college.

Any parent is weighing these questions about college expenses:

  • Should the adult child have skin in the game and take on debt to pay a portion, or all of the cost?
  • Did the parents or family members contribute to college savings funds for the child?
  • Should the parents commit to taking on student loans for their child?
  • How are college expenses defined?
  • Do college expenses include college visits, college application fees, admission fees, and travel to and from school?

These questions are further complicated for parents with children of all ages who are going through a divorce. Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a parent with respect to your adult children’s college expenses.

A judge will help determine how to split costs of education in a divorce

In Massachusetts, a parent’s obligation to contribute to college expenses is not presumptive but is left to the discretion of the judge. The Court considers a series of factors in determining whether a parent must financially contribute to their children’s education. These factors include the cost of the college or university, the child’s aptitudes, the child’s living situation, the available resources of the parents and child, the availability of financial aid, and other relevant factors.

There are limits on the amount you can be ordered to pay

Under the Massachusetts’ Child Support Guidelines, no parent shall be ordered to pay college costs in an amount greater than 50% of the undergraduate, in-state resident costs of University of Massachusetts Amherst, unless the Court enters written findings that a parent has the ability to pay a higher amount. The Guidelines define “costs” as mandatory fees, tuition, and room and board for UMass Amherst, as set out in the “Published Annual College Costs Before Financial Aid” in the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges. The Guidelines’ limitation on payment of college expenses is recommended for most cases, but not mandatory.

College expenses can impact other factors in the child support agreement

A parent’s child support obligation may be reduced or terminated when paying for the adult child’s college expenses. However, it is also possible for a parent to pay child support in addition to paying for the adult child’s college expenses.

Whether a parent will have to pay for his or her children’s college expenses varies on a case-by-case basis.

Divorce is complicated- especially with children in the mix, and particularly when college is on the horizon! If you are a parent and involved in any legal matters involving custody and child support it is important that you speak with an attorney who specializes in the field of domestic relations law to ensure that all of your rights are preserved. Contact RFC today for help!

When it comes to children; unmarried parents have rights and obligations, too.

Massachusetts Courts have taken pains to see that children of unwed parents and married parents, at least theoretically, are treated alike; and that children of unwed parents should be entitled to the same rights and protections as children of married parents. Here are some of the legal boundaries that maintain equality for unmarried parents in Massachusetts law:

Unmarried parents have rights to see their children, and obligations to support them. Child support obligations can be retroactive to the date of the child’s birth. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply to children of unwed parents in the same way they apply to children of married parents.

  • Unmarried parents have rights to seek, or obligations to provide, health insurance for their children, and to pay uninsured health expenses for them.
  • Unmarried parents may be obligated to provide (or seek for their co-parent to provide) life insurance to secure child support and other child related obligations.
  • The Court has the authority to make orders concerning custody and parenting of children of unwed parents.
  • The Court has the right to enter orders concerning payment of college or extracurricular activities.
  • Children of unwed parents are entitled to receive a share of their parent’s estate if there is no Will or other estate plan in place.
  • Curious about the rights or obligations of yourself or a co-parent? Ryan Faenza Carey is here to help you navigate the law in the best interests of your child(ren). Contact us today.