Wait. There Are Different Ways to Get Divorced? The major divorce process choices explained: demystifying your options.

By Ann Buscho, Ph.D.  This article was posted Feb 16, 2021 at the Psychology Today Blog: : A Better Divorce.  Dr. Buscho is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in family issues and issues related to divorce, parenting, parenting planning, and co-parenting counseling. It is reprinted here with permission of Dr. Buscho. Learn more at www.drannbuscho.com  (Two brackets were added by ACA)

 

THE BASICS

 

Your spouse has announced [he wants] a divorce. Or maybe you’ve decided that you have no other choice. How does a divorce happen?

The process you choose has a huge effect on how the divorce will go, how long it will take, how painful it will be, and how much it will cost. In this blog post, I will give you a brief overview of

the divorce process options so that you can begin to think about the direction you’d like to go.

In California and some other states, you can attend a free workshop called Divorce Options. This three-hour workshop packs in a ton of information about the divorce process and the law, which vary in different states. It also includes information about how to tell your children, and how to make the divorce easier for them.

Once you have all the information about various divorce processes, you can make a thoughtful decision about which process is the right one for you and your family.

Without this valuable information, if you don’t make a choice, people often end up in an adversarial process. In California, litigation is the default process. In other words, you need to choose another process, and if you don’t, your divorce will involve the court in a decision-making role, and you won’t have a confidential process.

Also, wait to interview or retain an attorney until you’re clear about which process you’d like to pursue. Often people rush out to hire a divorce attorney recommended by a friend. This attorney is going to be a very important person in your life, so choose someone who feels like a good fit. You will want advice, guidance, information, and someone you can trust.

I recommend that you interview more than one attorney but wait until you are clear about which process you will be using as attorneys often have practice specialties in one process but not all.

Here are the options:

  1. A do-it-yourself divorce. Also called a kitchen table divorce, may be a good choice if you don’t have property, own a business, or have children. If you have been in a short-term marriage and your divorce is amicable, you may be able to work out the details yourselves and submit the forms to the court. The drawback is that you won’t have the information you need about the law.

This process is best for very simple divorces where there isn’t much to negotiate or divide. Nolo Press has a do-it-yourself-divorce book that can walk you through all the steps.

  1. Mediation. Mediation is a very common way to settle a divorce. A mediator is a neutral facilitator. He or she will facilitate your conversations but won’t be able to give you advice. Some mediators are lawyers, and others are therapists or laymen. Because not all mediators know the laws, you should also hire a consulting attorney. That lawyer can advise and educate you about the law and will ensure that you understand your settlement before you sign anything. Many people consult with their attorneys between mediation sessions to prepare for the next session.

One advantage to mediation is that it is a confidential process, and your settlement can be kept confidential and not become part of the public record. Mediation works well when you and your spouse can communicate respectfully and honestly. You will need to feel confident that you can advocate for yourself and your needs. If one of you is overwhelmed with emotion or doesn’t have a clue about finances, mediation might not be the way to go. You may need more support.

In some areas, professionals are offering a hybrid called Integrative Mediation. In this scenario, there are two neutrals, such as an attorney and a therapist or financial specialist. This provides more support to you as you navigate the divorce process.

  1. Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative Divorce has been around since the mid-1990s but has recently become much more well known. When mediation doesn’t provide enough support, consider a Collaborative Divorce. In a Collaborative Divorce, each of you has your own attorney trained specifically in this process. You may have others on your teams, such as Collaboratively trained divorce coaches or financial specialists.

You have much more support in your negotiations, as the attorneys join you and your spouse at the meeting table to assist you in finding the resolutions that best work for each of you and your children. In a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse are in control of the decisions you’ll make, and the law is a factor, but not necessarily the determining factor. As long as you understand the law, you can make decisions outside of the law if they fit your family better. You can “think outside the box” to find win-win solutions.

The coaches help with communication and emotions, and the neutral financial specialist helps you put together your disclosures, which are required by law. Collaborative Divorce is a confidential process, like mediation, and a potentially amicable process.

You and your spouse sign an agreement not to go to litigation, and not to threaten it. If you do leave the Collaborative Process, your professionals will all withdraw, and you’ll have to hire new professionals. Collaborative Divorce is a good option if you need support, guidance, and advice, and you don’t want to take your divorce to court.

In some areas, you may hear of a “cooperative divorce” or a settlement-oriented divorce. In this process, the attorneys take a larger role in bringing your divorce to a final settlement, often negotiating on your behalf. It is not a confidential process.

  1. Litigation. Some families need an outside decision-maker when they are unable to come to an agreement in any other way. Unfortunately, the outcome is often a “win-lose” outcome, and you may find yourself going back to court over and over. You will each hire an attorney who will fight for you to win in court. It is the most adversarial process. Litigating attorneys often don’t work together cooperatively to come to a settlement. Their focus is on getting the “best deal” for you, even when the outcome may not be ideal for your children or family.

When your divorce is litigated, you are putting all of your decisions into the hands of the Judge, who is guided strictly by the law. Your attorneys make the most convincing case they can as they advocate for you, the client. The judge doesn’t know your family but is making big decisions for you, and can only use the law as a basis for his decisions. And don’t expect the judge to provide “justice” or to punish your spouse. This kind of high-conflict divorce is hard on you and your children. Avoid it if you can.

Litigation is probably the most costly process because you are in fact preparing for trial, although only 3-4% of divorces actually go to trial. The rest settle on the courthouse steps, at the last minute.

These are the four main process options, and in many areas, you will find some variations.

When you decide how you want to proceed, ask the attorney you interview these questions:

  1. Do you specialize in family law? How long have you been in practice?
  2. Have you been trained [and certified] in mediation or Collaborative Divorce? If so, how many cases have you done successfully?
  3. What percentage of your practice is mediation, going to court, and Collaborative Divorce?
  4. Have you worked with my spouse’s attorney in the past? How is your relationship with him/her?
  5. What are your fees?

In addition to the answers you get, ask yourself how it feels to be in the room (or on Zoom) with this person? Does she talk too much? Is he too aggressive? Does she welcome your questions and answer them directly? Is he interested in your intentions and desires? Does she seem to want to find a way to meet the needs of your whole family?

One last word of advice:

Take some time to settle down emotionally before starting a legal process. Work with a therapist, clergy, or divorce coach to work through your feelings. They can also work with you about how to tell your children and help them adjust.

Once your emotions have calmed down you will be able to think more clearly and make more well-thought-through decisions. This is all about self-care.

Start with self-care.

© Ann Buscho, Ph.D. 2021

Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. is the author of The Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting: A Child-Centered Solution to Co-Parenting During Separation and Divorce, published by Simon & Schuster. For more information and help about divorce, check out Dr. Buscho’s web site at  www.drannbuscho.com.

 

What is the Difference Between Imputed Income and Attributed Income?

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Imputed and attributed income are distinguished in the Child Support Guidelines, 2018.

Imputed income is income that is not reported on a parent’s Financial Statement but is nevertheless being received by or available to the parent.  One appellate court decision has said: A judge may “reasonably impute income to [a] parent” who receives “[e]xpense reimbursements, in-kind payments or benefits received by a parent, personal use of business property, and payment of personal expenses by a business in the course of employment, self-employment, or operation of a business . . . if such payments are significant and reduce personal living expenses.”

Attributable income is  “[i]ncome …[assigned] to a parent when the Court determines a parent is capable of earning more than is currently being earned and assigns a hypothetical amount of income to the parent.”    If a judge finds that a parent is unreasonably underemployed or unemployed, the judge may assign attributable income to that parent.

©2020

Anthony is available to discuss and explain Collaborative Divorce & Divorce Mediation to private and public groups. Call for more information.

 

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How Does a Judge Set Alimony?

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Collaborative Divorce Attorney and Divorce Arbitrator

Alimony is based on: the need of the recipient, the payor’s ability to pay it and a cap on the amount to be paid.

To determine need, the judge must consider: marriage length; age and health of the parties; income, employment and employability of both parties, including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training, if necessary; economic and non-economic contribution of both parties to the marriage; marital lifestyle; ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle; lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage; and other factors considered relevant and material.

For the payor’s ability to pay, the judge considers the above factors to see if the payor has money left over after providing for the payor’s need. If there is money left over, the judge will generally award alimony to be the lesser of the recipient’s need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes.

In Collaborative Divorce and Mediation, the parties have more leeway in setting alimony.

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

Anthony is available to discuss and explain Collaborative Divorce & Divorce Mediation to private and public groups. Call for more information.

 

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE MEDIATION &

DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

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Is Collaborative Divorce Cheaper than Mediation or a Court Resolution?

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Collaborative Divorce Attorney and Divorce Arbitrator

 

Unless a couple has been married for under a year, it is almost impossible to quote the cost of any divorce process, let alone Collaborative Divorce.

What can be said is that Collaborative Divorce is efficient and cost effective. And, it meets emotional and economic needs in a way that mediation cannot.

Collaborative attorneys have one objective, settlement.  This is not the case with court resolution. Attorneys of mediation clients usually do not attend settlement negotiations and work on the specifics of settlement.

Collaborative attorneys work under a schedule geared to speedy settlement. Court cases react to court-imposed schedules which may not reflect client needs. Mediators often have one client wait while the needs of the other client are being addressed.

Collaborative attorneys serve at their client’s side and speak on their behalf. In mediation, attorneys are usually not present, leaving clients to negotiate and speak for themselves.

Collaborative trained “neutrals” resolve economic or emotional problems, usually on lower fee schedules.  Mediators do not routinely use neutrals.

In summary, for marriages of over 5 years, involving good earnings, significant assets and disagreement surrounding children, support of one party or the division of property, Collaborative Divorce is the efficient cost-effective choice.

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE MEDIATION & DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

Anthony is available to discuss and explain Collaborative Divorce & Divorce Mediation to private and public groups.

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For How Long Will Alimony Run?

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Arbitrator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Alimony here refers to the most common type – General Term.

The length or duration of alimony is contingent on two factors.

The first is the length of the marriage. (Italics are quotes from the Alimony Reform Law.)

The length of the marriage begins, at a minimum, from the date of marriage. However, the court (or arbitrator) may increase the length … if there is evidence that the parties’ economic marital partnership began during their cohabitation … prior to the marriage.

If there was an economic marital partnership, an extension to the length of the marriage, is in the discretion of the judge (or arbitrator).

Some evidence of an economic marital partnership includes the couple:

  • holding themselves out as an intact family;
  • wearing rings, they bought for each other;
  • participating in activities together with their children;
  • vacationing together;
  • sharing finances;
  • sharing the cost of housing.

The length of the marriage ends when a spouse is served a notice of divorce.

The second factor. Once the length of the marriage is determined, the judge (or arbitrator) then sets the duration of alimony.

Presumptive limits on the duration of alimony are based on the length of the marriage.

Where the marriage is longer than 20 years, alimony may extend for an indefinite length of time… .

For 20 years or less there are four categories of duration:

(1) If the length of the marriage is 5 years or less, … not longer than one-half the number of months of the marriage.

(2) [for] 10 years or less, but more than 5 years… not longer than 60 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.

(3 [for] 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, …not longer than 70 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.

(4) [for] 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, …not longer than 80 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.

 The above duration categories are presumptive and the judge (or arbitrator) may deviate from the presumption. (Rules for deviation are left for another article.)

So, to determine the presumptive duration of alimony, first determine the length of the marriage and then fit the length into one of the 5 duration periods.

 

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

Anthony is available to discuss and explain Collaborative Divorce & Divorce Mediation to private and public groups.

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Attorney Pontisakos Added to Primary Care Attorney Referral Registry

 

Very pleased to announce that Attorney Demetra Pontisakos has been added to my Primary Care Attorney Referral Registry.

Demetra has over 30 years of experience in family law and practices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  That means she can handle family law matters that cross state lines.  Demetra is a skilled negotiator and litigator. She has experience and training in a variety of approaches to resolving family law issues and, she produces excellent results for her clients. People I have referred to her report back that they are thankful for her abilities and the good results she achieved. Demetra also practices in certain specialized probate matters in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So, if you need a perfect, respected referral, please give me a call.

Remember that in addition to mediation, arbitration and collaborative representation services, I am a Primary Care Attorney who can refer you to a respected attorney with the expertise you need. My registry of experienced, respected attorneys is available and near you.

Anthony C. Adamopoulos is a divorce mediator, collaborative attorney and divorce arbitrator who practices in your area, and can be reached at:  acaboston@aol.com or (978) 744-9591.

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

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PREMIER LAWYERS OF AMERICA RECOGNIZES ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS

Anthony C. Adamopoulos a Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney of Topsfield has been nominated for membership in Premier Lawyers of America.

Nominated attorneys have been found to demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in the practice of law. Nominations are made by attorneys or by the Premier Lawyers of America advisory committee.

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES  

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

Free Educational Program – Chart Your Course to a Better Divorce

North Shore Collaborative Divorce will present a free educational program “Chart Your Course to a Better Divorce” addressing how the collaborative divorce process may be a better way to divorce.  The educational program will review the basic legal, emotional and financial issues commonly encountered during the divorce process.

Collaborative divorce takes a team approach.  The “team” consists of both parties, their respective attorneys, a neutral facilitator to address emotional and communication challenges which may arise and a neutral financial professional to help the team gather and understand financial information.  All of the professionals have completed Collaborative Divorce training.

The program will be presented by a panel of Collaboratively Certified professionals who practice on the North Shore and who will explain how Collaborative Divorce differs from divorce mediation and divorce litigation.  Some benefits of Collaborative Divorce are confidentiality of negotiations and a sensitive and informal approach that allows parties to control the agenda and pace of their progress.

The presentation will be repeated on the following dates and locations:

  • Thursday, October 3, 2019, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., in Meeting Room A, at the Flint Public Library, 1 South Main Street, Middleton, MA, 01949
  • Saturday, November 16, 2019, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the Gordon Meeting Room of the Danvers (Peabody Institute) Library, 15 Sylvan Street,  Danvers, MA 01923

All are welcome.  Simply register by calling Donna at 978-744-9591 or email to acaboston@aol.com with Subject Line – Register

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IF WE GO TO COURT, WILL OUR PROPERTY BE DIVIDED DOWN THE MIDDLE?

By:  Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator, Arbitrator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

No. Massachusetts is an Equitable Division state. This means a judge determines what is a fair division of the assets and it may not be 50/50.

The law provides a list of certain factors a judge must consider in “fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned”* to each party.  The required considerations are:

  1. the length of the marriage,
  2. the conduct of the parties during the marriage,
  3. the age of each party,
  4. the health of each party,
  5. the station of the parties,
  6. the occupation of each party,
  7. the amount and sources of income of each party,
  8. the vocational skills of each party,
  9. the employability of each party,
  10. the estate of the parties,
  11. the liabilities and needs of each of the parties,
  12. the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and
  13. the amount and duration of alimony, if any, awarded.

In addition, the law says the judge may in “fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned” consider the following:

  1. the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage,
  2. the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates, and
  3. the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.

So, the 50/50 rule does not apply in Massachusetts, and the Rule of Equitable Division provides for the consideration of many factors before a division is made.

 

*You can read the actual law by Googling: Mass Gen Law C.208, Sec.34

©2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS AMONG TOP 10 FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS IN MASSACHUSETTS

Topsfield divorce attorney and mediator Anthony C. Adamopoulos is pleased to announce that Attorney and Practice Magazine has ranked him among the top 10 family law attorneys in Massachusetts.

Attorney and Practice Magazine is a quarterly publication “addressing law firm management, attorney well-being, work/life balance, and the ever-changing technology that impacts a …practice.”  The List recognizes the significant achievements of those attorneys whose practice elevates the standards of the Massachusetts’ Bar.

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES  

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

© 2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos