BOSTON (CBS) – I have never met a non-warring couple when it comes to a divorce. If there is money involved people behave poorly!
Before you start this process educate yourself about Massachusetts’ divorce laws. The internet is a great place to do research. Type in “Massachusetts’ divorce laws” for lots of information at your fingertips. Head to the library or bookstore as well.
The only people who gain in a nasty divorce are the lawyers. Try being civil and working it out.
With some divorces the couple is splitting up debt, with others there could be a sizable chunk of assets to divide. The divorce should be fair and equitable and you may very well start out thinking it will be but then things change as each party decides what’s important and what’s fair and equitable.
List all of your debt. Whose debt is it? If you brought debt into the marriage and you still have school loans at the time of your divorce they are yours and not communal debt.
List all of your assets. It’s important to have a value next to everything on the list. Now what did each of you bring into the marriage? Antiques from your grandmother’s house? Those are yours and not community property.
Now what appears to be equal may very well not be. For example, on the asset list is the house; worth $300,000 with a $200,000 mortgage. So the net value is $100,000. Further down the list are the retirement plans worth $100,000. Same dollar amount and at first glance equal. Which one should you take? Or should you split them.
As painful as it may be it may be better to split the assets, sell the house, and use the proceeds to buy a new place and take one half of the 401(k) and roll it into an IRA. There will need to be a QDRO, a qualified domestic-relations order, to receive half of the pension plan.
The custodial parent usually wants to keep the family home. The house, in order to retain its value, will need to be maintained. And the mortgage, insurance, and taxes will need to be paid.
Spend some time working on your budget. What can you afford on your own? If you need to rely on the child support payments to make the mortgage payments each month this may not be a good idea. Also, real estate is an illiquid investment, meaning you can’t easily sell when you want to.
You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.
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