A list of the assets and properties that can be up for division during divorce negotiations

Most people are aware that real estate, bank accounts and furnishings are part of the “property” that will be divided in a divorce. But these aren’t the only ‘things’ that can be split (or traded for another asset) in divorce. Massachusetts law states that all property, however acquired and whenever acquired is “subject” to division, irrespective of title.

Here is an abbreviated list of the less-well-known types of assets which may be subject to division in divorce:

 

Retirement Assets. Pensions, retirement accounts, IRA accounts, Keough accounts, profit sharing accounts and other retirement-type accounts will be considered in property division. In the case of pensions and other “defined benefit” retirement type accounts, those accounts may need to be valued by an actuary if they are traded off for other assets. Note, however, that retirement assets are generally treated differently because they are “illiquid” and generally “pre-tax.” Social security benefits are not a divisible asset; however, they may be considered in other ways by the Courts in some circumstances.

 

Employment Assets. If you or your spouse has stock options, pre-tax dependent care plans or medical expense savings plans, deferred compensation, restricted stock, phantom stock, profit sharing or other benefits associated with employment, these may be subject to division. In the cases of future payments, some assets may be divided on an “if, as, and when” basis.

 

Inheritances, Expectancies, Trusts. If you or your spouse have or will receive an interest in an estate or trust or as a beneficiary, that interest may be considered as well. If a family member has recently passed away, and you are a named beneficiary/heir (or determined by law to receive distribution of the property when there was no Will)), these would be recognized as assets or future interests that may be divided or at least considered in your divorce.

 

Business Interest. If you or your spouse owns a business, the value of that business, if any, is likely to be divided or at least considered in your divorce.

 

Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents, Royalties are other interests which may be divided or considered in some way as part of your divorce.

 

Lawsuits and Legal Claims. If you or your spouse is a plaintiff in a lawsuit (or a potential plaintiff), any monies or assets flowing from your claim as plaintiff may be considered as an asset or interest to be divided in divorce. Similarly, a potential liability or legal claim against you or your spouse as a defendant is likely to be considered as well in your divorce. Monies due you or your spouse, or owed by you or your spouse, under a Promissory Note or other instrument may be considered as well.

 

Tax Assets or Liabilities. If you or your spouse has unused passive tax losses, tax carryforwards, or tax liabilities not yet paid (whether related to joint returns or separate returns), these may be considered in divorce. Similarly, tax refunds not yet received, or tax liabilities not yet paid, are also fair game.

 

Lottery Winnings. If you or your spouse hits the lottery, the winnings would be up for conversation on whether to divide.

 

Cash or Safe Deposit Box contents. Think you can salt away cash or jewels in a shoebox or safe deposit box and escape dividing it with your spouse? Think again. Cash, jewels and other valuables are divisible in divorce. If you fail to fully disclose these assets or interests on your Financial Statement, you can be prosecuted for perjury, and forced to divide the assets anyway. In addition, you may end up paying costs and attorneys fees of your spouse as a result of a misrepresentation by you, or attempt to conceal. Being forthright in your financial disclosures actually helps to protect you against a claim in the future made against you.

The attorneys at Ryan Faenza Carey will assist you in identifying all assets and liabilities relevant to a division of property in your divorce proceedings. Contact us today!

Dealing with divorce and protecting your children at the same time

It is not uncommon for a divorced or divorcing individual at some point in his or her life, either during or after divorce, to try and “erase” the past and start again; to pretend that the past hasn’t happened and try to chart out a new course for the future avoiding history as it occurred. In circumstances where no children are involved, this new course or direction may occur without too much collateral damage; however, if children are involved, it can be devastating.

 

Sometimes, a parent can actually take this effort too far, in the process emotionally or physically distancing him/herself from a child as well. That parent may stop seeing or being as involved in the life of their child(ren), and oftentimes financially withdraws support for them as well. For parents who had previously been involved in the child’s life, that can cause incredible trauma. This is a heartbreaking situation for everyone—the departing parent, the available parent who must try to compensate, but especially for the child who will bear the scars and endure this heartbreak for the rest of his or her life.

Here’s the bottom line: The decision to be a parent is permanent and irrevocable. The decision to have a child carries with it multiple responsibilities, not the least of which is providing love, emotional support, financial support and guidance to the child. These responsibilities are not something which a parent can later “undo” or “quit”—parenting is forever.

 

All parents matter, and the best interests of the child should be considered paramount.   The responsibilities of parenting should be borne by the adults who brought the child into the world, and not by the innocent child. If you find yourself struggling with divorce to the harm of your child(ren), there are many resources you can seek including counseling to help avoid long-standing emotional harm on your family.

How will I see my divorce in 20 years?  What will I wish I had done differently, and what will I be glad I did?  How will it feel?

Here are some things you can look forward to, many years after your divorce; This information stemming from my many years advising and guiding clients through divorce, but also my own personal divorce experience and learnings.

You’ll have distanced yourself from the emotion

The raw emotion will be barely recognizable– it will seem like a distant spec on the horizon. Like childbirth, the horrible parts will be a distant memory, and you will be able to remember and appreciate the positive parts. In fact your children, if you had them, will have their own memories and ideas, which will be much stronger than yours.
You will no longer feel as though ‘I just want this to be over with,’ because it will be indeed over. Time heals all wounds, if you let it.

You’ll be glad you found kindness

You will not regret a single kindness done or spoken toward your spouse, your ex-spouse or your children, and you will wish you had done these things more often. The times you took the ‘high road.’ will come back to you a hundredfold.

You will regret the things you did and said out of anger, spite, hostility, selfishness, hate and righteousness.

You’ll be able to look back with clarity

You will have a greater understanding of what drew you together with your former spouse, what kept you together, and what broke you apart.

You will truly acknowledge that it took two to tango– two to make things work and two to break things apart.

If you have healed (which you should have done), you will wish the best for your ex and have a greater understanding than you ever had, of what you did wrong, and what you did right.

You will be able to see the good in the past, appreciate, and forgive

You will be able to admit your mistakes, forgive yourself and forgive your ex, recognizing that you are both wonderful, and flawed, individuals.

You will appreciate more than ever before, the positive things which came from your divorce, and the ways in which you are enriched from divorce; strength is indeed borne of tragedy.

You will see in your children every day the scars you helped make, and the good character you helped build.

You will be able to remember with affection the wonderful parts of the person you once loved, and be able to actually remember the affection you felt, as well as the pain, and the wonderful qualities of that person, despite the pain and heartache that came later.

It helps to have an experienced divorce attorney who can support you during this difficult time and see you through the rough parts. If you’re thinking about, ready for, or in the midst of a divorce, contact Ryan Faenza Carey for a consultation.

1. Don’t make an offer without a preapproval from a mortgage lender. A seller might not even consider your offer if you do not have a preapproval. A preapproval shows a seller you are serious, and that you are creditworthy. It also provides you with an idea of what you can truly afford to pay as a monthly mortgage payment, so you won’t waste your time looking at houses you cannot afford.

 

2. Have an attorney early on in the process. Most buyers don’t realize that in Massachusetts, the “offer” is a binding contract entered into before you sign a binding Purchase and Sale Agreement. There are important terms and dates that are contained in the offer such as the date by which you must secure financing, and the date of the closing. Generally, these cannot be changed in the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Consult a lawyer as you begin your home search to ensure s/he assists you in determining things to include in your offer.

 

3. Don’t forget to specifically inquire about the extra costs of owning the home you are interested in, such as fuel, energy, trash removal, and such. These costs can add hundreds of dollars monthly to the cost of living in your home. For example, a home with electric heat can add $300-$700 a month in the winter months if the house is in a cooler climate.

 

4. Do not assume what is included or excluded in the sale as far as appliances and fixtures. Make sure your offer specifies what you want to be included in the sale such as appliances, window treatments, and blinds, and what you want removed from the house.

 

5. Don’t assume you can just work with the realtor who listed the house. A home sale transaction can involve one or two realtors; A realtor who lists the home (listing realtor) and one who works with the Buyer. Although a listing realtor can successfully complete a sale leaving both Buyer and Seller happy, to ensure your desires are understood and your needs are satisfied, find a realtor to work directly with you.

Here at Ryan Faenza Carey, whether you are buying, selling or refinancing a property, we can help. Call Attorney Anne Marie Corraro for assistance at 508-668-9112.

Parties to a divorce often have difficulty filing for divorce under no fault grounds (Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage), particularly if they feel wronged in one way or another by their soon to be ex-spouse. Filing a divorce under irretrievable breakdown is not an admission that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse, or that the other party should not be penalized in some manner when it comes to the division of the marital assets. Filing under irretrievable breakdown simply means the marriage is over for one or both of the parties and neither party’s conduct was so extreme as to warrant filing for divorce using one of the available fault-based grounds. The majority of divorces in Massachusetts do not contain fact patterns which warrant or require the filing of a Complaint for Divorce on fault-based grounds.

In addition to Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, the following fault-based grounds are available for a party to allege in filing for divorce:

  • Adultery;
  • Impotency;
  • Desertion of at least one (1) year;
  • Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication;
  • Cruel and abusive treatment;
  • Grossly or wantonly and cruelly refusing or neglecting to provide suitable support and maintenance; or
  • Imprisonment of more than five (5) years.

Unlike filing under the grounds of irretrievable breakdown (no fault), the Court may not grant a Divorce when a Complaint is filed using one of the above referenced “fault based” grounds. Filing for divorce under “fault” based grounds requires the moving party to prove to the court that all of the elements of the particular grounds are met.

If you are considering filing for divorce, whether under fault-based grounds or under the grounds of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage you should consult with an attorney who concentrates in divorce and family law prior to filing.