What about social media during my case?
Social media is now a part of everyday life. Facebook reports that it has 2.60 billion monthly active
users in 2020. In short, while not everyone may have the time or inclination to use social media, it is a
major part of the world we live in, the same as email, cell phone calls, and text messaging. When people
use social media, they inevitably create evidence. They generate information about themselves and may
make statements about matters in litigation. That information is available somehow, somewhere, on the
web. Lawyers, of course, are always looking for witnesses to testify in support of the lawyer’s case as
well as information which might be used to discredit witnesses who are testifying against the lawyer’s
case. Please do not be lulled into the sense that what happens on the internet is not “real” or will not be
discovered. The ease of use and the immediacy of access to information sometimes causes people
involved in litigation to let down their guard when they are online. Clients should be wary of this risk
and, when using social media, proceed with the caution knowing that whatever you say online can and
may be used against you.
What is a financial statement?
Every party in a divorce or modification case is required to file a current financial statement each time
he or she appears in court. It is usually the single most important document in the case. While
completing your financial statement may seem tedious, keep in mind it is one way in which you can
educate the court about your financial circumstances.
What is the automatic restraining order?
By Court rule, each litigant in a divorce case is prohibited from selling assets during the pendency of the
case except by permission of the court or written consent of the other party. It is called the “automatic
restraining order.” Other exceptions include: (a) as required for reasonable expenses of living; (b) in the
ordinary and usual course of business; (c) in the ordinary and usual course of investing; and (d) for
payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in connection with the action. Neither party shall
directly or indirectly change the beneficiary of any life insurance policy, pension or retirement plan, or
directly or indirectly cause the other party or the minor children to be removed from coverage under an
existing insurance policy, including medical, dental, life, automobile, and disability insurance.
What is the mandatory self-disclosure rule?
Each party to a divorce case is mandated to disclose certain documents to the other party early in the
case. These documents include the parties’ federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the
past three years; statements for the past three years for all bank accounts held in the name of either
party individually or jointly, or in the name of another person for the benefit of either party, or held by
either party for the benefit of the parties’ minor children; the four most recent pay stubs from each
employer for whom the party worked; documentation regarding the cost and nature of available health
insurance coverage; statements for the past three years for any securities, stocks, bonds, notes or
obligations, certificates of deposit owned or held by either party or held by either party for the benefit
of the parties’ minor children, 401(k) statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements for all accounts listed on the 401 financial statement; copies of any loan or mortgage applications made,
prepared or submitted by either party within the last three years prior to the filing of the complaint for
divorce; and copies of any financial statement and/or statement of assets and liabilities prepared by
either party within the last three years prior to the filing of the complaint for divorce.
What is the parent education program?
In all divorce complaints where there are minor children, both parties must attend and complete a
Parent Education Program before the Court will schedule the case for trial. In that regard, you can find
information regarding the Parent Education Program entitled “Reducing the Effects of Divorce” offered
by COPE (Co-Parenting Education) Training online. The website lists the dates, locations where the
seminars are held, the fee and includes a registration form. After completion of the program, you will
receive a certificate of completion which should be forwarded to your attorney for filing with the Court.
What is a guardian ad litem?
A “guardian ad litem” (GAL) is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the
“best interests of a child.” Sometimes the order is broad, other times more specific. The GAL could be
asked to look at the child’s overall situation and make general recommendations about things like child
custody and parenting time. The Court will usually order the GAL to make a written report. You have the
right to know what is in the report. GAL’s can be lawyers or some kinds of mental health professionals
who have had special training. It is best to identify people that the GAL should interview to bring the
truth of your case before the Court.
What is a Vaughan Affidavit?
Divorcing couples may want to know if their soon to be ex-spouse will be the beneficiary of an
inheritance post-divorce. In Massachusetts, the judge when determining the division of the estates of
two divorcing parties must take into consideration “the opportunity of each [party] for future
acquisition of capital assets and income.” This creates an awkward situation, where testators who are
not parties themselves to the divorce or settlers of trusts may not want to divulge the extent of their
assets. This was precisely the situation in Allan and Elizabeth Vaughan’s 1990 divorce. What has come to
be known as the Vaughan Affidavit was a compromise between Elizabeth Vaughan’s right to know about
her spouse’s likelihood of acquisition of future capital assets and Allan Vaughan’s parents’ right to keep
their estate plan and personal records confidential. The Court permitted the Vaughan parents to avoid a
deposition by preparing an affidavit with information limited to their approximate current total net
worth, a general description of their current estate plan and wills, and the date, if any, when the estate
plan or wills were last amended.
Is alimony deductible on federal tax returns?
Amounts paid as alimony under a divorce or separation agreement executed after 2018 will not be
deductible by the payer. Such amounts also will not be includible in the income of the recipient. The
same is true of alimony paid under a divorce or separation agreement executed before 2019 and
modified after 2018, if the modification expressly states that the alimony isn’t deductible to the payer or
includible in the income of the recipient.
What should I do after my divorce?
Be sure to make a new will. You will also want to see to it that aspects of the divorce judgment are fully
effectuated through deeds, qualified domestic relations orders, and life insurance beneficiary
designations, if applicable.