Divorce

No matter who initiates the divorce or if it is decided by mutual agreement, getting divorced is difficult.  It represents  a dramatic change in your life.  We work with you and the particulars of your situation to assist you and protect your rights as you go through the process.  Divorce proceedings include:

Property Division

The statute governing the division of assets provides that all assets, no matter how or when acquired are marital assets (“marital property” or “marital assets”).  They are subject to “equitable division” when you divorce. This means a fair division in consideration of a number of factors listed in the statute.  It is not always equal. Courts look at many factors in deciding property division issues, including:

  • Marriage length
  • Conduct of the spouses during the marriage, particularly financial conduct or misconduct
  • Ages of the parties
  • Health of the parties and the children
  • Employability and vocational history
  • Occupation of the parties
  • Income of the parties
  • Needs of each party including the standard of living during the marriage
  • Estate or assets of the parties
  • Liabilities
  • Financial contribution of the parties
  • Non-financial contribution including homemaking and child care
  • Opportunity of the parties to acquire future income and assets
  • Present and future needs of the children of the marriage

An equitable division of assets requires a synthesis of these factors to determine what division of assets (and liabilities) is fair and reasonable under the circumstances.  In long term marriages, asset divisions are often equal or close to equal.  Some factors that have suggested differences include the contribution of significant premarital assets, family gifts or inheritances.

Tax considerations are important in the division of assets.  For example, there is no tax associated with the division of a cash bank account.  On the other hand a brokerage account may contain a portfolio of stock with a low tax basis.  This means that in order to convert that stock to cash, the owner would have a significant tax liability.

Alimony

A court can order alimony from either spouse to either spouse. Alimony is a payment that is tax deductible for the payor and taxable to the recipient.  This differs from child support which is an after tax payment. There are other tax considerations associated with alimony that are important to understand when crafting an agreement.  Massachusetts has recently enacted a new alimony reform statute, effective March 1, 2012.  This statute represents a dramatic departure from prior alimony law.  Until this new statute, alimony would typically be indefinite; with no specified end date. Read more on alimony reform »

Custody & Support

Ideally the parents agree to what the best situation is for the children.  There are many traditional and creative options to meet the family needs in raising the children.  The best interest of the children should be the primary factor in making the decision, and there are many ways to meet the children’s needs.  We work with parents by offering advice and recommendations based on our extensive experience. Read more on child custody and support »

Domestic Partners

While Massachusetts now recognizes same sex marriages, there are many couples who are breaking up but who have not married.  Domestic partners do not have rights under the laws of marital dissolution.  If they own property together, property law may govern their rights and responsibilities when it comes to dividing jointly held assets.  Sometimes, one party owns property and the other contributed or received promises during the relationship.  The law of equity may be applied to address these rights. This often applies to same sex relationships that have not had the benefit of marriage or other domestic partnerships.

Modifications

After the case is resolved, circumstances can change and we help our clients to modify their existing judgments to meet their changing needs.  Whether it was an amicable settlement and creative modifications are needed or whether there is a material change of circumstances necessitating a modification to the agreement or judgment, we can successfully counsel on a variety of options.

Contempt/Enforcement

If a parent is subject to a valid court order and that parent fails to comply with the terms of the order, the parent is a contempt action. A contempt order from the court compels the parent to comply with its order under the threat of remedial payments or jail sentence. Contempt issues can include:

  • Support Orders
  • Child Custody & Visitation Orders
  • Attorney Fees/Costs Orders
  • Property Division Orders
  • Restraining Orders & Family Court Protective Orders
  • Failure To Comply With “Declaration Of Disclosure” Requirements

At the Law Offices of Lisa J. Graff, we will pursue contempt and enforcement orders when a party to the action is not in compliance with an agreement or court order.

Contact the Law Offices of Lisa J. Graff for a confidential consultation. We’re located in Sudbury, Metro West Boston, Massachusetts and service the following counties: Middlesex, Worcester, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Plymouth and Bristol Counties.