It is natural for a couple going through a contentious divorce to lack trust in each other. Accordingly, one of the first questions that a divorcing party will often ask their attorney is how they can be sure that their soon-to-be-ex-spouse has fully and fairly disclosed all of his or her property, and that he or she has not engaged in "divorce planning" - that is, moving or concealing assets that could be considered marital property so that they will not have to be shared with the other spouse upon divorce.
The vast majority of divorce cases are resolved not by trial, but by the parties agreeing upon and submitting a Separation Agreement to the Probate and Family Court for approval. One of the more confusing elements of a Separation Agreement for many clients is the fact that certain provisions of the agreement are deemed to "merge" with the Judgment of Divorce and other provisions are deemed to "survive." Although these terms may be unfamiliar to non-attorneys, the distinction between the two is not particularly complex.
The United States Census Bureau shows the median age of individuals at the time of their first marriage is becoming increasingly older for both men and women. Meanwhile, the number of unmarried individuals cohabiting with their significant others is growing. These trends may be due in some part to couples delaying the responsibilities of marriage as they focus on their careers, but here is something all couples should know: for purposes of determining the length of a marriage for an alimony award, the period of premarital cohabitation could be included regardless of whether both parties were contributing financially.
Many married couples give little thought to the issue of which party "legally owns" property acquired during the marriage or the impact that legal ownership may have upon the distribution of assets in the event the marriage ends by death or divorce. Some couples assume, albeit incorrectly, that all property is "marital" in the sense that everything owned by either party will pass to the surviving spouse in the event of death. Other couples assume, also incorrectly, that owning property in one's individual name (rather than jointly) will protect the asset from the other in the event of divorce. While neither assumption is correct, the irony of the current state of Massachusetts law is that parties are afforded far greater rights in the property and estate of the other if their marriage ends in divorce than they are if their marriage ends in death.
When parents or grandparents are able to pass down residential property or a family business to their children and grandchildren, it should be a piece of the American Dream come true. And, with foresight, good planning and a little bit of luck, it can be. Too often, however, these "gifts" can devolve into situations that tear extended families apart. It often doesn't take long before family members start to treat each other unfairly and eventually become openly hostile towards each other.
Beth Shak, a famous World Series of Poker player and aficionado of expensive, designer shoes, who has been featured on MTV Cribs and Millionaire Matchmaker, is in the news again, and she gives us food for thought regarding Mandatory Self-Disclosure and Financial Statements in divorce cases.
Business owners and their spouses involved in a pending divorce should consider various issues specifically related to business ownership. Here are a few of such considerations: