Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law

Worcester MA Divorce Law Blog

Divorce mediation when dealing with a high-conflict personality

Getting a divorce can be rough in more ways than one. When dealing with a spouse who has a high-conflict personality, one may think that litigation is the only way in which a final agreement will be reached. However, those in Massachusetts in such situations may still be able to use divorce mediation in order to complete the process.

Divorce will either bring out the good in each spouse or it will bring out the bad. If dealing with a spouse with a high-conflict personality, one is likely to see a lot more bad than good. This certainly does not make this already difficult thing any easier to get through so that each party can just move forward.

Shared child custody, should it be the new normal?

The custody issue is one that plagues many Massachusetts parents when they are going through the divorce process and even afterward. Simply put, child custody is a difficult thing to figure out, especially when it comes to creating terms that everyone is happy with for the long haul. According to a recent study, shared custody agreements -- if appropriate -- will best serve everyone involved. Should such agreements be the new normal?

A professor at Wake Forest University says yes, joint custody should be the new norm. It is believed to best serve children's emotional well-being. According to the National Parents Organization, children in shared custody situations perform better at school, are more optimistic about the future, have fewer teenage pregnancies and are less likely to engage in drug use compared to their counterparts who are in sole custody situations.

Consequences for not paying child support

Failing to financially support one's child can have pretty significant consequences. Massachusetts and all other states have child support enforcement options available that, if utilized, really can affect an individual personally and professionally. Those who are struggling to meet their child support obligations can take steps to resolve the issue long before any enforcement actions are taken.

One state recently shared its success in getting noncustodial parents to pay child support by refusing to renew vehicle registrations. According to a recent news report, this particular state denied 14,500 noncustodial parents the ability to register their cars over the past year. This is not something that these individuals found about at the time that they went to register their vehicles. The were sent warning letters 90 days in advance.

How parenting plans are written and put into action matter

When going through the divorce process, some parents in Massachusetts struggle with child custody. It can be difficult to work out custody arrangements, but it can be even harder to put parenting plans into action in a way that does not negatively affect their children. There are some things parents can do, though, to help their children adjust to their new family arrangement.

New living arrangements, adjustments in schedules, sometimes new schools and losing friends are changes children experience as a result of their parent's divorce. These significant life changes are often made worse when parents argue in front of their children or talk negatively about each other in front of their children or on social media. How children adjust really depends on the attitudes of their parents.

Do life-insurance premiums count as alimony payments?

For a spouse who has been the primary breadwinner during the vast majority of his or her marriage, if divorce enters the picture he or she may have to continue to provide for his or her ex well after the marriage is over. For some individuals in Massachusetts that will simply mean paying alimony. For others, however, the court may have other ideas in mind.

A good example of an alternative form of alimony is a support-paying spouse being ordered to keep his or her ex as a beneficiary on a life-insurance policy. Doing this will ensure that the receiving spouse is guaranteed support even after one's death. If this happens, does it mean that the premiums paid toward that policy count as alimony? Maybe.

How to collect child support when the paying parent is unemployed

In Massachusetts, as in other states, orders of financial support for children are created based on the incomes of both parents at the time the support is requested. There is always hope that the initial child support order will be sufficient, but life is always changing, and there are no guarantees that the paying parent will be able to continue making the support payment as written. For example, how does one collect support funds from a parent who loses his or her job?

Unemployment is a real problem in the United States. Many people have found themselves unable to find jobs or have been let go from their places of employment. It is unfortunate, but it happens. When a person who is ordered to pay child support becomes unemployed, it does not mean he or she is released from his or her responsibility to pay child support, but how can a custodial parent collect from someone who has no money coming in?

Divorce agreement: Avoiding tax penalties re retirement funds

The end of a marriage can have a significant impact on a person's future. Individuals in Massachusetts who are going through a similar situation may wish to secure a favorable divorce agreement, but with numerous crucial areas to cover, the process can be complex. With the potential gravity of the outcome of a divorce, seeking guidance in the initial stages is advisable.

Along with being an emotionally stressful experience, divorce can also be financially challenging as well. Since the division of marital assets will inherently have an affect on one's financial standing, pursuing the best possible outcome could be crucial to the future. However, the process may involve more than just picking and choosing which assets to pursue, especially if retirement accounts are a factor.

Does mental health play a role in custody dispute cases?

Many families can face considerable issues that need to be addressed. For parents who are divorced, a custody dispute can prove particularly contentious, and individuals may find themselves having to handle predicaments that they feel do not have a place in the proceedings. For instance, Massachusetts residents may be interested in one out-of-state man's current situation involving his PTSD diagnosis and a custody battle.

Reports stated that the man had served two tours of duty overseas as part of his military service before he and his wife divorced in 2007. At that time, the man had already been diagnosed with PTSD due to trauma experienced during his service. The individuals have three children together, and the custody terms indicated that they would share custody of the kids. However, because the two parents have been experiencing more tension lately, the mother is now vying for full custody.

Consider retirement needs when negotiating a divorce agreement

Most Massachusetts residents spend a large portion of their working years thinking about retirement. They may set aside a significant sum of money to fund their later years, or make plans that include spending time with loved ones, travel or pursuing hobbies. However, divorce can throw a wrench in those plans, and a divorce agreement that does not carefully consider retirement needs can lead to financial turmoil.

Spouses who are facing divorce must rethink their retirement planning. In many cases, couples plan for retirement together. They set aside money in various investment vehicles, and work together to structure a plan for how they will spend their golden years. Retirement planning as an individual requires a far different approach. Savvy spouses will begin changing their views on retirement planning early in the divorce process.

Massachusetts divorce mediation Q and A, conclusion

Over the last couple of weeks this column has answered some questions that Massachusetts residents may have about how mediation works. This week will be the conclusion of the divorce mediation Q and A topic. Those who have more questions or need information specific to their particular circumstances may speak to an experienced family law attorney who will be able to provide the answers needed.

Question number one for this week is: A typical mediation session lasts how long? This may be different for everyone. Typically, though, mediation sessions tend to last two to five hours. It all really depends on how much is accomplished during the session, how much time each party has to meet and how often sessions can be scheduled -- if more than one is necessary.

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