HOW ARE ASSETS DIVIDED IN DIVORCE MEDIATION? HOW TO SAVE TIME & MONEY DOING IT?

   

                              Basic Principles of Dividing Property in Divorce Mediation

                                          By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator

As a mediator, I work hard to get parties to a property division quickly and for less cost. To do this, a properly prepared Financial Statement is essential. Unfortunately, some spouses are their own worst enemy when it comes to completing their Financial Statement; this causes delay and cost.

This article will explain how property is divided and how a properly prepared Financial Statement will efficiently lead to a mediated property division.

In Massachusetts, the general rule for dividing assets is that only material assets are divided. And, they are divided fairly. No Massachusetts law requires a 50/50 split.(See: https://www.divorcingoptions.com/Blog/if-we-go-to-court-will-our-property-be-divided-down-the-middle/ )

Generally, the mediator starts with asking if there is any reason why a fifty/fifty division would not be fair. If any reasons are offered they are considered and the mediator makes suggestions.

If mediating parties do not cooperate and compromise on a property division, then a judge or arbitrator will decide what is fair and a division is ordered as part of litigation.

Usually, substantial property includes: real estate, bank accounts with more money than necessary to pay a month’s worth of routine expenses, retirement accounts, investment accounts and valuable unique items, e.g., art work, a yacht or a private business.

It is not unusual to divide value rather than an actual item. For example, if property includes a house with an equity of $300,000.00 and a personal business in the husband’s name with an equity value of $300,000.00, the property agreement may be that the wife keeps the house and the husband keeps the business.

Generally, immaterial assets stay with whomever owned or primarily used the asset, examples include: an automobile, a wedding ring, engagement rings, a dump trailer used to take trash to the curbside, a lawnmower, tools.

Reasons for not equally dividing an asset, material or not, include, but are certainly not limited to: the marriage lasted less than five years; a spouse’s conduct resulted in unreasonable spending; a spouse’s health requires special needs; a spouse’s lack of any type of contribution toward the acquisition of a piece of property.

Before a division can be made, all material property needs to be properly described and listed in each spouse’s Financial Statement.

A properly prepared Financial Statement allows the judge, arbitrator, or mediator to:

  1. See how each piece of property is “legally held or owned”.
  2. See the value of each separate piece of property.
  3. Obtain the complete name of each property and any account number.

Items 1 and 2 are used to determine, with other information, what a fair division would be.

Item 3 is necessary to comply with the requirement that a Separation Agreement be “clear and unequivocal”. That is why the mediator includes the exact name and account number of material property in the property section of the Separation Agreement.

The first paragraph of this article stated: “… some spouses are their own worst enemy when it comes to properly completing their Financial Statement: …”. Clients who choose to ignore instructions for completing Financial Statements will always cause delay and more cost.

Marital debt must also be divided and can affect a property division; this is a subject for another day.

The 2 takeaways:

– In Massachusetts, property must be divided fairly, not equally.

– The failure to properly prepare the Court’s Financial Statement will delay the   property division and will add to the cost of divorce mediation.

©2020 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

Our Clients Say It Best

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

Recently, a couple came to me seeking my help in resolving their divorce. They were in litigation and had been “going at it” for over a year. Fortunately, with their hard work and dedication, we mediated a resolution.

They showed their appreciation by writing kind reviews and notes.

Here is a summary of some of their kind words about my style and my paralegal, Donna’s comforting manner:

My husband and I were in the divorce process for over one year.  Anthony helped us “untangle our knots” within a few short months and settle our case without trial.

Anthony took my urgent phone call right away, this was much appreciated and helped de-escalate the matter. 

He was more than flexible – he rearranged his schedule multiple times to accommodate our needs.  Thank you for helping us to meet our tight deadlines.

Anthony kept a calm, confident yet gentle presence during tense moments.  His role as teacher was helpful when one or both of us needed education on terms or concepts, or legal definitions.

Although I wish that no one would have to go through the divorce process, if you do find yourself in need of a mediator, I would recommend Anthony. His vast experience, warm and caring demeanor, and interest to be efficient in the proceedings will be a welcome respite in the process.

Donna’s warm and professional assistance with a comforting smile made the entire process easier to manage.  She is an empathic and impartial asset to your practice!

Anthony- Thank you for making an impossible resolution possible. 

©2020 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE MEDIATION &

 DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

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My Spouse is Hiding income. Is that Imputed Income?

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

Yes, it may be. Imputed income is an amount that a judge assigns to your spouse when your spouse’s Financial Statement does not report the assigned income.This comes up when you are able to show the judge at least one of two types of evidence about your spouse’s real income.

In the first type, there is evidence showing your spouse spending way above his or her means. For example, your spouse is leasing a Ferrari at a monthly cost of more than half of his or her monthly income.

In the second type, your spouse receives reimbursements or employer payment for expenses that are not reported in his or her Financial Statement, for example per diem payments or cell phone payments.

If the judge accepts the evidence of unreported income, an amount representing the unreported income may be imputed, or assigned, to the non-reporting party.

However, in court litigation, you have to consider the consequences of disclosing unreported taxable income because the judge is obligated to report the matter to the IRS. If you filed joint returns, an IRS audit may hurt you in an unexpected way.

One of the many advantages to using Collaborative Divorce or Divorce Mediation is that the process is confidential and the parties can negotiate an agreement as to all money being earned.

© Anthony C. Adamopoulos 2019

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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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

 

#divorcemediatornearme

#collaborativeattorneynearme

 

What is Collaborative Divorce?

In Collaborative Divorce, you, your spouse, your lawyers and other Collaborative Team members make up the Collaborative Team. The Team has one goal, the efficient, collaborative resolution of all issues without trial, arbitration or the threat of either. This goal is accepted at the beginning by all Collaborative Team Members.

The Collaborative Team will include coaches who will make your divorce process efficient and usually less expensive.

The most common Collaborative Coaches are the Facilitator and the Financial Neutral. Your Facilitator expedites the process by helping you and your spouse identify short and long term goals and overcome inter-personal roadblocks. Your Financial Neutral expedites the process by analyzing the unique needs of your family, identifying tax provisions related to those needs and creating realistic plans to preserve family income and property.

In Collaborative Divorce, attorneys are specially trained and certified in the practice of Collaborative Divorce. Since neither attorney need be concerned about the possibility of a trial, each is free to consider all options for obtaining a satisfactory resolution. In fact, all Collaborative Team members are encouraged to think “outside the box” when working toward the resolution of unique problems.

Should one party decide to convert to adversarial divorce, both attorneys must withdraw, and certain information gathered in collaboration cannot be used in the adversarial process.

Collaborative Divorce is totally confidential. In adversarial divorce, all court proceedings are public.

©2019 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

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

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