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Worcester Family Law Blog

Know the facts about spousal support before filing tax return

Many Massachusetts residents know about the changes to the tax treatment of alimony payments under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As of Jan. 1, 2019, alimony payments are no longer considered tax deductible for the payer nor taxable for the recipient. However, the new law applies only to new agreements signed on or after the first of this year or older agreements that have been modified after Jan. 1, 2019. For all others, for tax purposes, it is important to know exactly what is considered alimony, otherwise known as spousal support.

Individuals who are planning to claim alimony payments when filing their tax form need to know the required criteria for a payment to be considered alimony. For example, the two parties involved must be living separately when spousal support is paid. As well, people are required to have in place a divorce or separation instrument to a spouse or former spouse, such as an official divorce decree, separation agreement or any other court order requiring support payments, even if it is a temporary order. People should also note that payments cannot be voluntary in order to qualify; a verbal agreement between parties does not count.

Accident on Massachusetts Turnpike causes fatal personal injury

Most Massachusetts drivers know all about driving in wintry conditions and understand the need to slow down if roads are covered in snow or ice, or they will simply avoid taking to the roads all together. Unfortunately, some people will drive in any circumstances and will ignore rules of the road that are presumably in place for a good reason, sometimes causing personal injury to others. In a recent accident, a man was killed due to what may have been poor judgment on the part of another driver.

The incident happened very early on a Thursday morning when the driver of a tandem tractor trailer traveling east on the Massachusetts Turnpike lost control of his vehicle and collided with several other vehicles. The driver of a box truck died in the crash. Three other people involved were transported to a local hospital with minor injuries.

Gray divorce can affect retirement plans

Although many people think of the typical divorcing couple as young to perhaps middle-aged, in recent years, more older people are deciding to end their marriage. According to statistics, the rate of older adults divorcing has increased significantly, prompting a special term for this situation: "gray divorce." The trend may be due to greater financial independence of women in recent generations, empty-nest syndrome or other factors, but whatever the reason, Massachusetts couples making this decision later in life need to be aware of the potential effects of the divorce on their retirement plans.

For one, divorcing older couples may find a challenge when figuring out how to divide assets. Individuals who are divorcing in their 50s or 60s will likely not have a lot of earning potential ahead of them, as the asset pool is likely closing soon or may already be closed. People in this position may find it a greater challenge determining how to divide assets that will not be growing. Divorcing individuals also must keep in mind tax considerations during discussions around asset distribution. For example, if one party decides on early withdrawal on a 401(k), or they both do, they need to consider the penalties that will be involved, as well as the possibility of a higher tax rate on withdrawals.

To save money, know the facts before proceeding with divorce

Most Massachusetts couples who are about to begin or are already involved in the process of separating likely know they have a challenging path ahead of them before they see the end of their marriage. As divorce is often a process that is already fraught with tension and can be costly, they are smart to become as informed as possible in advance of any issues that may arise. Several experts offer advice to help divorcing individuals avoid potential pitfalls along the way.

First, in light of the instant exposure of social media, divorcing people are wise to be cautious about oversharing on these platforms. If the divorce is a contentious one, certain information could be used against that person in a battle concerning money, for example. As well, according to a financial specialist, people should think ahead regarding paperwork, including account information, Social Security statements, important receipts, etc. and gather these pieces now rather than later. Even if a divorcing person does not need a document at the moment, he or she may need it years later when the ex-spouse may not be able (or willing) to provide it.

During the divorce process, some valuable assets may be forgotten

Divorcing Massachusetts couples know they will need to make a number of significant decisions on the way to dissolving their union, including division of assets between the two parties. When asked by their attorney to list all assets, most people will easily remember to include the marital home, investments, bank accounts and the like. However, the divorce process is typically an emotional and difficult time; therefore, some assets that hold monetary or sentimental value may be easily forgotten.

Divorcing individuals are wise to consider their intangible but valuable assets. For example, many exclusive clubs have long waiting lists, and their memberships hold value. Because of this, if the couple holds such a membership, they should decide who will keep it. As well, individuals should consider any credit cards they have in which reward points have accumulated and either divide the points or determine the value of them. Also, given the current technology, many couples share digital accounts, such as Facebook, and should consider who will retain ownership rights to these accounts.

Hit-and-run accident results in serious personal injury

Most Massachusetts residents know that honesty is the best option, especially in the case of a serious error or accident. Unfortunately, not everyone follows this line of thought. This seems to be the case following a recent hit-and-run accident involving a car and a pedestrian, in which the pedestrian suffered significant personal injury and the driver later allegedly attempted to mislead investigators.

The incident happened on a recent Wednesday evening at an intersection when a vehicle hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The 40-year-old man was transported to a Boston hospital with serious injuries. When police arrived, in addition to the victim, they found only a passenger side mirror that appeared to be from the vehicle that struck the man. The driver had fled from the scene.

Divorce process often includes alimony negotiations

Massachusetts couples who have decided to split have a great deal to think about from the moment they make that crucial decision to end their marriage to the day they receive their final papers stating their union has been legally dissolved. Many individuals would likely say that child support is one of the more challenging issues to negotiate during the divorce process. For some people, alimony can be an equally contentious topic, particularly if the split is less than amicable. Divorcing individuals who need to visit this topic are smart to know the facts before the discussion begins.

First, an individual entering into alimony negotiations should determine his or her financial picture to use as a starting point, including the estimated cost of the desired lifestyle and future earning capacity. As well, it is important for people to know the laws in their state regarding alimony payments, as this knowledge can help a divorcing individual manage expectations and enter negotiations with realistic goals. It is also important to know that most states do not have standard guidelines for alimony, so factors can be applied differently in each case.

How do separating unmarried couples deal with property division?

What happens to the family home when an unmarried couple decides to end the relationship? Many Massachusetts residents likely know the basic options regarding property division available to a separating couple who has been legally married. However, with an increasing number of couples living together without being married, and many of those owning a home together, the question of property division in the event of a split is important for many to address. 

In a legal sense, married couples who divorce and own a home together have a clear set of rules to follow regarding property division. They have several options, including one person buying the other out, a delayed buyout, or selling the home and splitting the profit. In addition, if the divorcing couple cannot agree on what to do with the house, the court can intervene and force the sale of the property. If an unmarried couple who own a home together split, the court has no such power to force the sale if one side does not want to do so and the other does. In order to sell, both parties must agree to do so. 

During divorce, financial knowledge is essential

During a separation, or even when a couple is contemplating a split, both individuals tend to experience higher than normal levels of stress. People may be concerned about future living arrangements, effects on children and many other aspects. Many individuals have particular concerns about the effect of the divorce on their financial well-being, now and in future. Massachusetts residents who are considering or going through a divorce are wise to be sure they are well-informed in several different areas of their financial situation in order to make smart decisions throughout the divorce process and into their future. One financial expert explains several categories to evaluate: assets, liabilities, income and expenses.

First, divorcing individuals need to assess their assets, including cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc. People also need to be aware of the tax consequences for each, especially when they are determining division of assets during the divorce process, as some assets are treated differently than others. In addition, divorcing individuals need to be sure to discuss division of defined-benefit plans, such as pensions, including details around survivor's benefits in case of death. Real estate, which could include the marital house, rental properties, business properties and many other types, will also need to be negotiated, including how property itself will be divided, and if it is being sold, how proceeds will be divided.

Massachusetts woman suffers personal injury in multi-car crash

Most Massachusetts drivers know that driving is a privilege, not a right. While behind the wheel, a person needs to devote all of his or her attention to the act of driving and continually be aware of potential dangers on the path ahead. In addition, a vehicle owner should maintain his or her vehicle in good working order to decrease the chance of an unexpected incident. Unfortunately, a Massachusetts woman who seems to have caused a multi-car crash leading to personal injury may not have adhered to all of these safety measures.

The accident happened on a recent afternoon when a vehicle driven by a 47-year-old woman spun out of control while entering an interstate highway in Middleboro. The car began in the northbound lane, but ended the spin-out pointing southward. At that point, a Cadillac driven by a 55-year-old woman hit the car head-on.

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