Who Will Pay for College?

College Graduation

The well being of children is a major issue of concern during a divorce proceeding. Parties are often at odds over custody, visitation and child support for minor children. Another common issue though, is the matter of determining who takes on the financial responsibilities of a college aged child, one who is too old for custody disputes, but too young for independence. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, answering this question can be a challenging and complex process, further complicated by emotions and ill-feelings between the spouses. The potential for conflict can undermine the the importance of a child’s college education, making mediation a highly useful tool for settling this question.

In most states, child support obligations end when the child reaches the age of majority, which generally occurs between the ages of 18 and 21. This varies in some jurisdictions, depending on when the child finishes high school. Unless there are outstanding arrears due, payments to the custodial parent end, leaving non-custodial parents with no further financial obligations to the child. But, as anyone with a college student knows, the financial obligation of parenting is far from over when a child turns 18. Most college students cannot pursue their educations without some level of support from a parent.

What You Should Know

According to the Forbes article, there are several important issues that a divorcing parent must remember:

  • Parents are not legally obligated to pay for college, unless ordered by the court. There are no laws requiring either parent to pay college tuition or provide financial assistance to the college student in furtherance of his or her studies. Many divorcing parents are surprised to learn that their former spouse is not automatically forced to contribute to a child’s college education. It understandably seems unfair to the custodial parent, as well as the child, but this one of the harsh realities of divorce.

  • In Massachusetts, a judge can order a parent to pay for college. The court may look at various factors in making a determination, including the custody of all children and the income of each spouse. Debts and any previous payment arrangements may also be considered. If the judge makes a ruling about payment, it becomes a court order. The parent is required to pay and noncompliance is punishable by the courts.

  • A divorce settlement agreement is the best tool for addressing college tuition payments. No one can always predict what a judge will decide when presented with a divorce issue. For this reason, it is preferable for the parties to sit down together and mediate a mutually beneficial agreement about college tuition payments. A signed settlement agreement can also become an enforceable court order, once it is accepted by the judge.

Your child’s education is of great importance and its consideration deserves a serious, collaborative effort by both parties. There are no set rules for the settlement agreement. A couple can tailor the tuition payments in any way that is mutually comfortable. It can entail a lump sum payment in advance or a monthly payment obligation, similar to child support.

The Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC can assist you and your spouse in creating a collaborative separation agreement that includes college tuition payment terms. Call the office today at (781)285-8989 for a consultation.

Photo Credit: ralph and jenny via Compfight cc

Massachusetts Divorce Bill Gets Personal


A Massachusetts lawmaker recently proposed a bill that dives deep into the personal lives of divorcing couples. Republican State Senator Richard Ross proposed bill S787, which mandates that divorcing couples, who have a child or children, abstain from sexual intercourse or romantic interludes during a separation. According to a report in Kentucky Newsday, Ross created this bill at the request of a constituent. The bill states, in part:

‘In divorce, separation, or 209A proceedings involving children and a marital home, the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts.’

If the bill becomes law, divorcing parties, with children, will need to obtain permission from a judge before dating or having sexual relations within the marital home. This means that the spouse who remains in the martial house cannot bring any party into the home for romantic purposes. From the language of the bill, it appears that this provision even includes any romantic relations between the divorcing couple. Couples with no children would not be held to this requirement.

The senator has taken substantial criticism for the bill from the media and Massachusetts residents. He answers by asserting that he filed it solely at the request of a loyal voter. Ross explains that the constituent endured a very difficult divorce process and asked him to create this bill that would directly address this sensitive issue among separated couples. The physical bill contains the words “by request,” meaning that the senator is proposing the legislation, even though he disagrees with it himself.

Massachusetts Law About Separation

Currently, under Massachusetts divorce law, there is no prohibition on sexual relations, between a married couple, during the separation period. In some states, divorcing parties are required to give testimony and affirm that they are no longer living together or having sexual relations. If the court finds that the couple engaged in sex during the separation period, the divorce request may be possibly denied. Massachusetts divorce law does not include this mandate. If this new bill is passed, divorcing couples, with children, will not only have to notify the court of any plans for a sexual relationship, but wait for the judge to grant permission before carrying through with their plans. The bill gives no direction about enforcement, which is a substantial problem. Questions abound about how the spouse will request permission and how much information the court will require. In addition, what method of review will the judge utilize to make a determination on the issue?

These issues may explain why the Bill S787 is not seeing much success in the Massachusetts legislature. It was originally proposed in early 2013, but it was not until last week that it was first discussed in Senate hearings. On March, 20, 2014, the bill was granted an extension for consideration until June 30, according to reports. Ross has not expressed much enthusiasm for the success of the bill, stating it is “going nowhere is the legislature.”

Separation and divorce are complex issues. If you and your spouse are considering divorce, call the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC at (781)285-8989 for collaborative representation through the complexities of the divorce process.

Photo Credit: SalFalko via Compfight cc

Preparing Your Finances for a Collaborative Divorce

Wedding Hands

A recent report by ABC News discusses the economics of divorce. The end of a marriage can prove financially and emotionally devastating for both parties, especially when the spouses are communicating with one another in a negative and uncooperative manner. A collaborative divorce is one where the parties come to a mutual agreement, without interference from the court system. According to the ABC News report, advanced planning can help make the divorce process easier for all involved.

Separation of Assets

The report advises parties to divide their shared assets by closing joint bank accounts and credit cards. Disagreements about shared debts can quickly derail an amicable separation. Establish personal accounts to protect your own personal assets.

The article also suggests that separated parties monitor their credit reports for any suspicious or unauthorized activity because spouses typically have access to the Social Security number of the other spouse. You want to make sure that your spouse is not opening accounts in your name.

Learn About Your Financial Options

The article points out the importance of financial management during the divorce process. Review the status of all bank accounts and debts with your attorney to establish a clear picture of your situation. Your attorney can assist you with identifying your options and deciding which alternative is best. If you are mediating an amicable divorce, your lawyer may only need to talk with your spouse to make some mutual decisions. If the two of you are unable to reach an agreement, a third party mediator is of valuable assistance during this stage in the process.

CBS Money Watch recently published a similar article to advise consumers about divorce and financial planning. The article discusses the challenges of a divorce and how stress sometimes influences parties to make quick, knee-jerk financial decisions in hopes of promptly ending the marriage. However, settling without a well-thought plan can reportedly lead to financial ruin in the months or years following a divorce. To avoid this conclusion, the CBS money article also provides several planning tips:

Seek Help to Answer the “What If” Questions

According to the article, a certified divorce financial analyst can help you consider the status of your finances under various possible scenarios. The article advises that these professionals are specifically trained to “help you see in black and white what your finances and life will look like under different scenarios.” The analyst can provide your attorney with valuable information to assist in the collaborative process.

Don’t Let the Divorce Consume You

Parties to a divorce tend to become completely consumed by the process and the feelings involved. Particularly in a contentious divorce, negative thoughts and emotions can smother one’s well being. The article suggests that parties continue to participate in activities that they enjoy throughout the divorce process. “Whatever it is that gave you joy and fulfillment, add it back to your schedule,” advises the author. Maintaining a healthy balance can be beneficial to the process as well. High emotions and stress can lead to irrational and non productive encounters between you and your soon to be ex-spouse. When both parties are emotionally and mentally balanced, a collaborative process can be beneficial to everyone.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, call the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC. With mediation services and collaborative representation, the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC stands apart from other divorce firms. Contact the office at (781) 285-8989 for a consultation today.

Photo Credit: morak faxe via Compfight cc

Paltrow’s “Conscious Uncoupling” May Benefit Children of Divorce

Gwyneth Paltrow

Earlier this week, actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced that she and musician husband, Chris Martin, are separating after ten years of marriage. While the tabloids excitedly reported about the break up announcement, her words to describe the separation caused even more of a stir. In a joint statement on her lifestyle website, Paltrow and her husband stated, “We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.”  It is the phrase “consciously uncouple” that is at the center of the controversy.

According to a CBS News report, “conscious uncoupling” is a term created by Los Angeles family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. The relationship author is the creator of a website that purports to provide a five step program for couples to consciously uncouple from one another. Thomas states that she has never counseled Paltrow and Martin. However, she applauds the couple’s commitment to an “honorable ending” of their marriage. Though news outlets are buzzing with criticism of Paltrow’s statement and Thomas’ theories, numerous studies support the value of the message that they are sending.

Effects of a Contentious Divorce on Children

Divorces are notoriously characterized as contentious and messy. It is a situation where two people, who once loved each other enough to exchange vows, are now pitted against one another in a heated battle, each trying to gain leverage over the other. The website, TwoOfUs.org, is a project of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC). According to a report published on the site, parental behavior during a divorce greatly influences the effects of divorce on the children. Often, the only positive aspect of a divorce, from a child’s perspective, is the end of an embattled household. If negative interactions continue during the divorce process, the children continue to be affected by the parents’ bad behaviors, instead of being freed from the negativity of the marriage. The “honorable ending” promoted by Katherine Woodward Thomas is seemingly advantageous for the children of divorce. According to the NHMRC report, the development of a respectful co-parenting relationship is vital to a child’s well being and emotional health.

Mediating an “Honorable Ending”

Divorcing individuals can promote a positive post-marital relationship by starting the divorce process with a respectful and collaborative approach. Mediation can be an effective tool during the dissolution of a marriage. The process includes the parties and a neutral mediator who works to create a mutual agreement between the parties, negating the need for intervention by the courts. Mediation provides a valuable opportunity for divorcing parents to show their children how to resolve disputes in a respectful and cooperative manner.

If you and your spouse aspire to have a respectful and peaceful divorce, let the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC guide you through the process. Offering mediation services and collaborative representation, the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC stands apart from other divorce attorneys by offering its clients cost-effective representation. Contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC at (781) 285-8989 for a free consultation today.

Photo Credit: yausser via Compfight cc

Cohabitation Does Not Lead to Divorce

Recent research by the Wedding RingCouncil on Contemporary Families, a nonpartisan family research organization, suggests that premarital cohabitation is not an accurate predictor of divorce, without additional considerations. According to the report, there has been a long held perception among social scientists that living together before marriage increases the likelihood of divorce in the future. Despite the continuous increase in cohabitation, many relationship experts have relentlessly warned couples against “shacking up,” claiming that the practice will most likely result in a broken marriage. Researchers are now finding that the age of a cohabiting couple is a better indicator of marital longevity.

Professor Arielle Kuperburg of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, was one of the lead researchers on the study. She asserts that the best predictor of divorce is the age at which a couple begins living together. Couples who move in together prior to the age of 23 years old are more likely to divorce in the future. This reportedly holds true whether they begin cohabiting before or after marriage. Kuperburg explains that the lower maturity levels and economic instability of younger people contribute to this result. Alternatively, older couples who live together, before or after marriage, have a significantly higher chance at a long lasting marriage. Additionally, the study indicated that the longer a couple waits before cohabiting, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage.

To explain the years of reportedly inaccurate information, Kuperberg explains that couples who live together before marriage tend to be younger and that little research has been completed with a controlled age variable. Therefore, studies suggested a direct correlation between cohabitation and divorce rates. The Council on Contemporary Families was the first to study cohabitation trends, with a controlled age variable, and thus the results were significantly different. Other independent studies also dispute the correlation between cohabitation and divorce. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control released a study that supported the notion that living together during an engagement does not increase the chances of divorce.

Massachusetts’ Consideration of Cohabitation

In the state of Massachusetts, cohabiting individuals are not given the same protections or rights as married couples. However, cohabitation is considered in Massachusetts domestic law. In the divorce case, Moriarty vs. Stone, 41 Mass. App. Ct. 151, the court noted that a family court judge may consider the “circumstances [of the parties] prior to the marriage and, more specifically, the parties’ contributions during a period of cohabitation in fashioning an equitable division.” This means that, if you are in the midst of a divorce and you cohabited with your partner prior to marriage, your premarital contributions to the relationship may be considered by the judge when making a determination about property distribution.

Hire an Experienced Family Law Attorney

An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether your financial contributions during cohabitation should be considered for property distribution. The Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC stands apart from other divorce attorneys by offering its clients skilled and cost-effective representation. Contact the Law Offices of Martin Murphy LLC at (781) 285-8989 for a free consultation today.
Photo Credit: Toby Keller / Burnblue via Compfight cc