What Issues Need to Be Decided in a Divorce?
The big ticket issues in every divorce case are, number one, the division of the marital estate. How do we divide up all the property and the accounts and retirement that the parties have? An issue can arise as to whether there should be an alimony obligation if one spouse makes considerably more than the other spouse and the other spouse needs some support to be able to maintain close to the quality of life that they had during the marriage. If there are children, obviously, there are issues of custody. There are two types of custody. Physical custody just pertains to who do the children live with primarily? Sometimes it’s split 50-50 these days. Other times, they have more of a traditional arrangement where one person is the primary physical custodian, and one person has some visitation parenting time.
When you have children involved, there is typically a child support component where the noncustodial parent will be required to pay child support. There’s a formula in Massachusetts that is, in most case, the starting point for the judges to consider what that child support obligation is going to be. When you have kids, you also have to deal with the other expenses, the extracurricular, health insurance. Who’s paying for the health insurance and the uninsured medical expenses? Depending on the ages of the children, you’re going to have to address college contribution. If you’re divorced when you’re really young, typically that’s left up in the air because neither the parties nor the judge really know the financial circumstances at the time they’re entering college, but if you have kids that are getting close to that college age, then that ought to be something that’s addressed at the time you get divorced.
Who’s going to continue to maintain the health insurance is also an issue. Who’s going to claim children as dependents for tax purposes? Who’s going to get the different benefits from the taxes, if the parties are going to be able to file for married for the last year of their marriage, and life insurance, whether there ought to be a life insurance obligation to secure the alimony and/or the child support? The answer to who decides that is it’s the judge. In the event that the parties can’t get on the same page and agree, the judge makes all those decisions. In most cases, the parties are able to through counsel negotiate a settlement on all those issues.