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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!

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.

Divorce is messy, overwhelming, scary, and hard. A qualified attorney can help clients navigate the process, but the most successful divorces occur when clients help themselves. Here are the things we strongly recommend to anyone facing or currently undergoing a divorce. We are certain it relieves the burden-both long and short term- of this major life event.

 

  1. Engage an attorney you trust, tell your attorney the truth about everything, and follow his/her instructions and recommendations.

 

  1. Understand that divorce is a process and does take time; buckle up for the ride and resist the urge to “just get it over with.”

 

  1. Leave your kids out of it—protect them, nurture their relationship with you and with your soon to be ex and take the high road in all respects—parent them first.

 

  1. Be reasonable. Spending $100 in legal fees to chase $50 is a waste of your time. Be willing to cut your losses where it is practical to do so. Don’t go to trial or fight endlessly over something for which you have a low likelihood of success.

 

  1. Decide what matters most, and negotiate your divorce agreement according to those priorities.

 

  1. Have reasonable expectations. In a good divorce, BOTH parties walk away unhappy. You will not get everything you want. Be prepared to compromise.

 

  1. Reach an agreement before appearing before a judge, if at all possible. Even a bad agreement is better than a good trial. You and your spouse, with the help of competent attorneys, are in the best position to negotiate a divorce agreement that is tailor made to your family. You will not have that luxury with a Judge.

 

  1. Be civil, and don’t burn your bridges. Ultimately the best thing for you, your soon to be ex and your children is for you and your soon to be ex to communicate and be able to deal civilly with one another. The investment you make in having a civil relationship will come back to you a hundred-fold in the future.  Don’t make anyone the bad guy—even if they deserve it. Civility is a huge investment in reaching resolution and staying out of Court both now, and in the future.

If you’re facing a divorce and in need of legal support, contact RFC today.

 

  1. There are no punitive damages. Not for extra-marital affairs, not for being the spouse seeking the divorce, and generally not for other conduct unless it has a significant impact on the health or finances of the parties or children.

 

  1. What goes around comes around. If you disparage your spouse to your children and to others in order to cause pain to your spouse, it is likely to cause significant long term pain to your children, and ultimately to you as well, causing wounds which may never heal. More about how to handle divorce with your children in Silver Linings, the book.

 

  1. Alimony is gender neutral. For the successful higher earning men and women of Massachusetts, you may pay alimony to your soon to be ex in a divorce.

 

  1. You can’t have it both ways. An equitable divorce in the eyes of the law may be one in which both parties walk away feeling unhappy.   For every benefit there is generally a corresponding burden. Your idea of “fair” may not comport with the Court’s view of fairness.

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  1. You can’t “stop” a divorce. We have no fault divorce in Massachusetts.   If one spouse wants a divorce, a divorce will be granted, even over the objections of the other.