Divorce law trends are moving in a direction of equality and structure. Divorce may seem like a modern issue. That is, it sometimes seems like one of those problems with society that’s far worse now than it used to be. Perhaps that’s because it’s the type of thing that nobody seems to discuss until it’s happening to them, especially not in a tight community like Newburyport. Or maybe because it is consistently ranked as one of the greatest challenges one may face in his or her lifetime. Who wants to talk about that?
Actually, despite it not being talked about much, it’s been an important and impactful part of society since shortly after the existence of marriage. Its prevalence has fluctuated over the thousands of years of recorded history and the trend has largely followed the influence of religion on government and society generally.
While there is disparity around the world as to the popularity of divorce, it is clear that in Massachusetts, like most states, the law is trending from what we would consider traditional to a system of equality and structure. Here’s how the main issues in divorce are treated in Massachusetts and are trending nationally today.
“Child custody” is still the terminology used in Massachusetts, but many states have done away with it, instead opting for more neutral terms such as “time sharing”, reflecting a growing national view of co-parenting that makes it a point to not characterize children as property or either parent as the “primary” one. While most divorces with children still result in one parent having about a third of the time and the other having two thirds, there are more judgments granting equal time between parents than ever. Family Law Judges in Massachusetts continue to have broad discretion in fashioning parenting schedules, so putting the relevant facts about ones case into evidence is just as critical as ever.
Child support is treated as a statutory calculation, considering the income of the parties, the parenting schedule, employment-related child care, and health insurance in nearly every state. While there is not much movement nationally on this issue, every state periodically adjusts the guidelines figures, so the amount set for child support tends to go up over time.
Alimony is perhaps the most inconsistently treated issue across the country, recently having been overhauled in Massachusetts in 2011. While some states have actually done away with permanent alimony altogether, Massachusetts has added more structure and limitation into the law. Permanent alimony is now generally only available in Massachusetts when the marriage lasted over 20 years, with shorter term types of alimony are more tailored to the situation. Generally, the longer you’ve been married, the longer the alimony is likely available, if available at all.
Property division is unique in Massachusetts, with judges having more discretion than in most other states. That’s because in Massachusetts all property is part of the marital estate subject to division by the court including premarital property, gifts, and inheritances. Many states carve these types of assets out of the marital estate, but in Massachusetts we give judge’s more authority to determine an equitable or fair result.
Massachusetts divorce law is quite sophisticated. We live in a community of highly intelligent, hardworking, family-focused individuals who for many can’t avoid the realty of the breakdown of a marriage. There will always be an element of loss associated with divorce and that comes with a grieving period. But, when properly educated on divorce law and with the right counsel and support, more parties can and do move on to a better life. So, if you’re facing divorce and living in our community, don’t be afraid of the issues. While you may not want to discuss it over drinks at your favorite local restaurant or while the kids circle you at the candy shop, there are plenty of Newburyport divorce lawyers, including me, who will help you through the process.