Frequently Asked Questions


I’ve been married for 32 years. My husband makes $137,000, and I’ve never really worked. I want to know if I’ll get alimony.

It’s always difficult to give an answer without having all of the financial information; however, assuming that you do not have a significant amount of assets that would enable you to live off of the interest and dividends, you would be entitled to alimony. The area for discussion would be how much support would you receive and for how long. Your mediator will help you and your husband look at this area in-depth, and will prepare a tax analysis as the tax issues become significant at your husband’s marginal tax rate.

What is the Massachusetts law on alimony?

The alimony law looks at two primary factors: length of marriage and income of the parties. The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 considers length of marriage as one of the primary factors when determining an alimony award. Marriage length is divided into four categories; less than five years, five to ten years, ten to fifteen years, and fifteen years or longer.

Another factor that the alimony law considers is the income of each party, especially the difference in income between the parties. There are many other factors used to determine alimony awards, and your mediator will fully explain the law and your choices.


My ex-husband is filing bankruptcy. Can he discharge his child support payments?

No, a parent cannot discharge child support payments.

Child Support

Will the mediator tell me how much child support I’m entitled to?

Yes, be assured your mediator will provide all information concerning child support, which includes the current amount of child support which you are entitled to. The probate court requires every parent with minor children to complete the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, and your mediator will prepare that document for both parents.

My husband moved out. Our children are 7 and 5 and they both live with me. My husband and I work, but he makes a lot more money than I do. He said he doesn’t have to pay child support because I had an affair. I need child support – doesn’t he have to pay me?

Yes, he has to pay child support. An affair doesn’t end the requirement to support one’s children.

How much child support will I have to pay?

Each state sets statutory requirements pertaining to child support. In Massachusetts, the Child Support Guidelines ( are used to determine the necessary amount of child support. These Guidelines take into account the income of each party, and the costs of health insurance, childcare costs, as well as the parenting plan. Your mediator will provide more detailed information regarding child support and tell you exactly how much the Guidelines are.

What do the Child Support Guidelines consider?

The Guidelines look at the income of each party, as well as the cost of health insurance, medical, dental, and vision premium costs, and child care. The Guidelines are also prepared according to whether or not the parties have joint physical custody or whether one party has primary physical custody. Your mediator will provide specific information based on your situation.

What if my income changes in the future? What happens to child support? Do I have to go back to court?

People who use attorneys are required to return to court to recalculate child support if the income of one or both parties changes. However, couples who use mediation are allowed to recalculate the amount of child support without the time and expense of returning to court, though they may go to court if they choose.

What do my child support payments cover?

Child support payments pay for a child’s basic expenses, which include food, shelter, and clothing. They usually provide the first $250 of a child’s uninsured medical and/or dental/vision expenses. Child support typically does not cover extraordinary expenses, such as orthodontist costs, or extracurricular expenses, such as camp or sports fees.

Complex Finances

Our financial situation is very complex. My friends have advised me not to use mediation because of my situation. Should I listen to them?

You are wise to be concerned. Complex assets can be difficult to understand and to fairly allocate to each party. By all means, you must have a professional who knowledgeable regarding such complex assets, and each mediator at Diane Neumann & Associates has years of experience dealing with these types of assets.

Cost of Mediation

How much does mediation cost?

Mediation rates vary greatly. In Eastern Massachusetts, the rates range from $250 to $600 an hour based on the expertise and location of the mediator. You can rest assured that the average mediation cost is significantly less than the cost for an attorney-assisted divorce.

If I use a mediator, will he or she tell me all that I need to know?

At Diane Neumann & Associates, we believe that clients need information to make good decisions, and we will provide that information or tell you how to get it (e.g., refer to a tax preparer for deductibility of support). This informed decision-making component is one reason mediated agreements have a high compliance rate.


My spouse and I have decided to divorce, but we haven’t yet filed with the court. If we both agree, is it okay for us to make changes to our accounts or assets, such as closing a joint bank account or transferring title to a vehicle?

In mediation, you are not restricted from making changes to your assets, however, you should not make any changes unless both parties agree. Your mediator will discuss this with you in the first session.

How does our divorce agreement get filed with the court?

At Diane Neumann & Associates, the mediator will prepare the necessary documentation that needs to be filed with the Probate and Family Court. These documents include your divorce agreement, which is called a Separation Agreement in Massachusetts, each person’s financial statement, and all court documents. These documents will be provided at your final session. Each mediator is a Massachusetts notary, as the documents require notarization. There is no additional fee for our notarization service.

How much does it cost to file our divorce agreement with the court?

The fee for a no-fault uncontested divorce filing is $215.00, by cash, bank check, or money order (personal checks are not accepted).

Which divorce court do we go to?

Divorce is based on the county you last lived together as spouses, as long as one of you still resides in that county. Your mediator will explain the technicalities.

Will I need to go to court in order to have my divorce agreement approved?

Yes, once you have filed the required paperwork with the Probate and Family Court, you will receive a notice from the court with your hearing date.

What happens at the divorce hearing?

On the day of your hearing, you should dress in business casual (no jeans). The judge will call your case and you will stand before the judge and answer a few questions. If the judge is satisfied with your answers, your agreement will be approved. The hearing is usually no longer than 10 minutes.

Once the hearing is over, how long will it take for my divorce to be final?

After the hearing, once the judge has approved your agreement, you will receive a notice in thirty (30) days, which is the judgment of divorce nisi. This is not your divorce. Ninety (90) days from the date of the judgment of divorce nisi, your divorce will be final, which makes for a total of four (4) months from the hearing date for a no-fault, uncontested divorce.

Will I receive a copy of my divorce judgment once the divorce is final?

The court will not automatically send you a copy of your final judgment of divorce. You must request a copy directly from the court, and the current fee is $20.00.

Credit Cards

My divorce agreement says I’m not responsible for our credit card debt and that my ex-husband is solely responsible, but the credit card company says I am. Who is right?

If it’s a joint credit card on which you signed a contract with the credit card company, then you are liable. However, since your divorce agreement states your ex-husband is responsible, you would have a cause of action against him in court.


I just found out I’m pregnant and I’ve already filed for divorce. I still want the divorce to go through. Will I be divorced when the baby is born?

This depends on the divorce filing and waiting requirements in your state. Each state publishes this information and you can look on line for the final divorce in your state. The time you filed for divorce is the critical point, as well as the type of divorce you filed; whether fault or no-fault, contested or uncontested. For most Massachusetts divorces, there is a waiting period of 90-120 days after your court hearing. The hearing date depends on the backlog of hearings, trials, and other work before the Family and Probate Court. Of course, the time will increase considerably based on whether or not you are able to reach a divorce settlement with your husband. You may want to consider using a mediator to reach a settlement.

What Massachusetts cities does Diane Neumann & Associates serve?

Diane Neumann is one of a select group of mediators to be approved by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. Our mediators specialize in working with people from the following counties and towns in Massachusetts:

Barnstable County

Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich, Truro, Wellfleet, Yarmouth

Bristol County

Acushnet, Attleboro, Berkley, Dartmouth, Dighton, Easton, Fairhaven, Fall River, Freetown, Mansfield, New Bedford, North Attleborough, Norton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea, Taunton, Westport

Essex County

Amesbury, Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Danvers, Essex, Georgetown, Gloucester, Groveland, Hamilton, Haverhill, Ipswich, Lawrence, Lynn, Lynnfield, Manchester-By-The-Sea, Marblehead, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Nahant, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Peabody, Rockport, Rowley, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wenham, West Newbury
Franklin County Ashfield, Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Hawley, Heath, Leverett, Leyden, Monroe, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Rowe, Shelburne, Shutesbury, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell, Whately

Hamden County

Agawam, Blandford, Brimfield, Chester, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Granville, Hampden, Holland, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Montgomery, Murrayfield, Palmer, Russell, Southwick, Springfield, Tolland, Wales, West Springfield, Westfield, Wilbraham
Middlesex County Acton, Arlington, Ashby, Ashland, Ayer, Bedford, Belmont, Billerica, Boxborough, Burlington, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Dracut, Dunstable, Everett, Framingham, Groton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Maynard, Medford, Melrose, Natick, Newton, North, Reading, Pepperell, Reading, Sherborn, Shirley, Somerville, Stoneham, Stow, Sudbury, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Westford, Weston, Wilmington, Winchester, Woburn

Middlesex County

Acton, Arlington, Ashland, Bedford, Belmont, Billerica, Burlington, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Framingham, Groton, Holliston, Lexington, Lincoln, Natick, Reading, Sherborn, Stoneham, Stow, Sudbury, Wakefield, Wayland, Westford, Weston, Wilmington, Winchester

Norfolk County

Avon, Bellingham, Braintree, Brookline, Canton, Cohasset, Dedham, Dover, Foxborough, Franklin, Holbrook, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Milton, Needham, Norfolk, Norwood, Plainville, Quincy, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, Wellesley, Westwood, Weymouth, Wrentham

Plymouth County

Abington, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carver, Duxbury, East, Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Hull, Kingston, Lakeville, Marion, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, Middleborough, Norwell, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rochester, Rockland, Scituate, Wareham, West Bridgewater, Whitman

Suffolk County

Boston (Allston, Brighton, Chestnut Hill, Charlestown, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Roslindale, Roxbury, West Roxbury), Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop

Worcester County

Ashburnham, Athol, Auburn, Barre, Berlin, Blackstone, Bolton, Boylston, Brookfield, Charlton, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley, East, Brookfield, Fitchburg, Gardner, Grafton, Hardwick, Harvard, Holden, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Leicester, Leominster, Lunenburg, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, New, Braintree, North Brookfield, Northborough, Northbridge, Oakham, Oxford, Paxton, Petersham, Phillipston, Princeton, Royalston, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Sutton, Templeton, Upton, Uxbridge, Warren, Webster, West Boylston, West Brookfield, Westborough, Westminster, Winchendon, Worcester

My wife told me that she wants a divorce. Do I have to give her one?

The short answer is “yes”. If one spouse wants a divorce in Massachusetts, the judge will grant a divorce regardless of the other spouse’s feelings or behavior. The spouse who does not want the divorce may prolong the time that it takes to get the divorce, and can certainly make the divorce more expensive for both parties, but one spouse cannot stop the divorce.


Can we do our own divorce? We have 3 young children and don’t have a lot of money to spend on lawyers.

Unless you know Massachusetts law, you probably need to hire a mediator or two attorneys in order to understand the legal and filing issues of a divorce action. Mediation is efficient and much less expensive than using two divorce attorneys.


How much contact should I have with my ex-spouse after divorce?

If children are involved, your role as parents will inevitably require you to work together, and you will probably need to talk at least once a week.

If there is a problem after divorce, will we have to go back to court in order to solve our disagreement?

Because judges are busy, they encourage parties to resolve post-divorce disputes with the assistance of a mediator, and, if that fails, with two attorneys.

Going to Court

Will I get a better settlement if I have a trial rather than use mediation?

The reality of a divorce trial is that most people walk out of the courtroom feeling as if they have been run over by a truck. Even the winner may find his or her enthusiasm dampened by their lawyer’s warning “We should probably get ready for the next round. I know that lawyer; they’re bound to come back.” The soon-to-be ex-spouse will appeal the Judge’s decision.

The answer is “no”. Most of the time, you will not receive as good a settlement as the one you create with the help of a mediator. Clients in mediation typically have better settlements than court-ordered settlements.

When should I use mediation?

As early as possible. Many clients begin mediation while they are still living together, and find it extremely helpful. A better separation paves the way for a better divorce.

Any time couples begin mediation is certainly better than not using the process.

Health Insurance

My spouse is the one who carries my health insurance. What happens to my coverage once we’re divorced?

It depends on your spouse’s employer. There is a Massachusetts health insurance law that allows a spouse to remain on the insured spouse’s employer-sponsored group plan after divorce. Coverage ends when the dependent spouse remarries. In mediation, the two of you may agree to continued coverage in the event the insured remarries. Health insurance coverage may not be available after divorce if the employer is self-insured, which means the employer does not purchase coverage from an insurance carrier, rather, the employer bears the financial risk of employee medical claims. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) exempts self-insured employer group health plans from state insurance laws, including eligibility for continued health insurance coverage for a former spouse. Your mediator will assist you to determine health insurance coverage. If you do not qualify for continued coverage under state law, you may qualify for continued coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA).


How much is the Homestead Protection on a home?

It is currently $500,000 on a primary residence.


We’ve been married for 19 years, and suddenly my wife tells me she is “coming out”. Are we still appropriate for mediation?

Mediation is a good place for this issue, as it is private setting, whereas a court is a public place.


How does divorce mediation work?

Mediation is an efficient and inexpensive procedure for reaching fair decisions. An impartial mediator assists two individuals to make fair and equitable agreements.

The vast majority of divorcing people do not know about the financial and legal aspects of divorce. Your mediator will ensure that you receive the financial and legal information necessary to create the best possible settlement suited to your individual needs.

At the end of the mediation, the mediator prepares the Divorce Agreement, which is filed with the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.

What are the benefits of using a mediator?

The benefits of using a Diane Neumann & Associates mediator for your divorce include:

  • A mediator who will look out for your best interests
  • Significant cost savings and reduced tax liabilities
  • An explanation of finances and legal issues, so that each person fully understands the consequences of each decision
  • The ability to negotiate a settlement within a cooperative setting
  • Greater control over your decisions
  • Protection of the rights and interests of each individual
  • Privacy as you work out an agreement
  • Assistance in keeping emotions from financial decisions
  • A procedure for gathering the required legal information
  • Agreements that are understood by each person and will continue throughout the life of the agreement
  • Mediation gives you the option to privately negotiate a settlement without the large investment of time, money, and emotion that adversarial divorces almost always require.

When is a good time to start mediation?

You may use our services before or after you separate.

We recommend that you start divorce mediation prior to your separation, in order for the mediator to help you to make good decisions and to avoid mistakes. For example, your mediator will create the best temporary parenting arrangement for you and your children; your mediator will determine the correct amount of child support according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines; and your mediator will assist in determining responsibility for rent and mortgage payments, as well as all other expenses.

How long does mediation take?

Several factors influence how long it will take to reach a final divorce settlement:

  • The number and complexity of assets and liabilities
  • Each person’s understanding of choices and options for assets, liabilities, insurances and support
  • The way you each view legal custody and parenting issues
  • The ability of you and your spouse to agree on each issue

The length of time is determined by the divorcing couple. The Probate and Family Court will not intervene in a private mediation, rather, the court will review the final settlement at the court hearing. Once finalized, your agreements regarding assets and liabilities are lasting and final, and your agreements regarding support may be modified without a requirement to return to divorce court.

In every case, a mediated divorce settlement is reached in less time and with less acrimony than an attorney-controlled collaborative or adversarial negotiations.

By comparison, an adversarial divorce can easily take two or more years before the final settlement is hammered out, and even once finalized, the unfair results often create a situation in which one or both parties return to the Probate and Family Court to modify the terms of their settlement.

Are sessions confidential?

All mediation sessions are fully confidential, according to Massachusetts State Law, Chapter 233, Section 23c, which provides for the mediator/client legal privilege.

Massachusetts State Law, Chapter 233, Section 23c
“All memoranda, and other work product prepared by a mediator and a mediator’s case files shall be confidential and not subject to disclosure in any judicial or administrative proceeding involving any of the parties to any mediation to which such materials apply. Any communication made in the course of and relating to the subject matter of any mediation and which is made in the presence of such mediator by any participant, mediator or other person shall be a confidential communication and not subject to disclosure in any judicial or administrative proceeding; provided, however, that the provisions of this section shall not apply to the mediation of labor disputes.

“For the purposes of this section a “mediator” shall mean a person not a party to a dispute who enters into a written agreement with the parties to assist them in resolving their disputes and has completed at least thirty hours of training in mediation and who either has four years of professional experience as a mediator or is accountable to a dispute resolution organization which has been in existence for at least three years or one who has been appointed to mediate by a judicial or governmental body.”

Does the firm of Diane Neumann & Associates require a retainer?

Unlike other mediators and divorce attorneys, Diane Neumann & Associates does not require a retainer from our clients. Instead, payments for mediation are due after the service has been provided, avoiding prohibitive upfront costs. Not having to pay a retainer allows you to have maximum control over your costs.

How much does mediation cost?

Mediation costs are based on an hourly fee. The per hour charge is the fee for both of you. Because you are hiring one professional instead of two, and because the process is direct and efficient, the cost of a mediated divorce will be substantially less than hiring two divorce lawyers. The mediator’s goal is to help you save time and money.

We are the only divorce mediation firm in Massachusetts which has a sliding scale hourly rate.

The time involved in reaching a fully-informed legal divorce settlement depends on several factors. Please call to speak with a mediator (617-926-9100), who will further explain our firms reasonable costs.

If we use a mediator at Diane Neumann & Associates, do we still need another lawyer?

If you use a mediator at Diane Neumann & Associates, you do not need another attorney, as the mediators at Diane Neumann & Associates are attorneys. Although you are always free to hire another lawyer, you do not need to do so.

May I consult with a lawyer during the mediation process?

Yes, every client has the opportunity to consult with a lawyer of his or her choosing at any point during the mediation.

What happens if my spouse and I are unable to reach an agreement during mediation?

Our mediators expertise is in assisting disagreeing couples to reach a fair agreement. In the unlikely event of not being able to reach an agreement during mediation, a couple may file a contested action with the Probate and Family Court. A judge will have the authority to order support and divide the couple’s assets at his or her discretion.

If I start the divorce litigation process, can I still use mediation?

Yes, even if you have already filed for divorce with the court, you can still use mediation. The court will require you and your spouse to attend hearings at the court; however, it usually takes several months for a hearing date to be scheduled, during which time you and your spouse may reach agreements in mediation. Even if you are required to attend a hearing before you have reached a settlement, you can simply inform the judge that you are using mediation. The court is extremely amenable to couples reaching their own agreements, as long as those agreements are fair and reasonable.

My spouse is dragging his feet in mediation, should I file for divorce to get him motivated?

This is a difficult question, as you will need to balance your desire to progress forward in the case with the consequences of filing a divorce action. You cannot predict how your spouse will respond; it may not necessarily motivate him or her to progress with mediation – instead, your spouse may choose to litigate, in which case the judge will dictate the terms of your separation, and which will be expensive for both you and your spouse. A better tactic is to speak with your mediator and see if that professional can assist with the process.

If I have a restraining order against my spouse, can I still use mediation?

Yes, but only under specific rules. You must choose a mediator who has expertise in this area, as do the mediators at Diane Neumann & Associates, as these situations require safety rules.

Once we’ve made a decision regarding all of the issues, who will write up our agreement?

At Diane Neumann & Associates, your mediator will write the legal divorce settlement. Most mediators will only write a Memorandum of Understanding.

What documentation will I be required to produce during mediation?

You will need to provide your 4 most recent paystubs, or if self-employed, up to date income and expenses. Clients need to bring in their last 3 years of tax returns, all life insurance policy information and beneficiary designations, and documentation regarding all assets, including deeds, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, retirement accounts, pension plans, bank and investment accounts, stocks, options, trusts, vehicles, credit cards, personal loans, education loans, credit reports, and all other assets and liabilities that are in your name or in joint names of you and your spouse.


Will the mediator take sides?

No, a good mediator does not take sides. The ability to be impartial is the number one skill of a mediator. Instead of taking one side, the mediator will support each of your sides.

Are Massachusetts mediators licensed?

The mediators at Diane Neumann & Associates are licensed as attorneys. Unfortunately, a person does NOT need a license to practice as a mediator in Massachusetts, in fact, there are no required credentials or training. It is critical that you determine the qualifications of any mediator you are considering. Each mediator at Diane Neumann & Associates is a licensed Massachusetts attorney and each has the requisite expertise.

Why do we need a mediator? Can’t we do it ourselves?

It is important that you have a professional to assist you with important legal events. There are two main reasons you will need a mediator:

First, most individuals do not have the specific knowledge necessary for making fully informed decisions about the financial and legal aspects of divorce. The mediators at Diane Neumann & Associates have all of the knowledge that is required to reach the best settlement.

Second, even in the best of circumstances, the end of a significant relationship involves such intense emotions that it is difficult for two people to resolve issues on their own. Your mediator is a professional who can allow each person to have their feelings, without those feelings spilling over and jeopardizing your ability to reach fair agreements.

A frequent observation is that mediation is similar to a do-it-yourself divorce in that you and your spouse make the final decisions, but have the security of a professional who will look out for your best interests.

The danger in drafting your own divorce agreement is that the divorce court judge will almost certainly reject the document, unless you happen to be familiar with the rules and regulations of the court. Your mediator will draft a divorce agreement that is acceptable to the court, and insure that your interests and goals are reflected in that settlement.

Mediation Versus Litigation

Won’t I get a better settlement if I go to trial?

A divorcing woman asked me, “Won’t I get the entire house if I go to court and tell the judge what my husband did?” At another time, a divorcing man asked me, “Wouldn’t the judge see that it is unfair that the State would make me pay that much child support to my ex-wife?”

Men and women who ask these questions have never appeared in divorce court. The evidence allowed in divorce court is limited to legal standards. The court decision is usually decided by a statute that is incomprehensible to those not versed in the law. The goals of the judge often differ radically from yours.

The reality of a divorce court trial is that most litigants walk out of the courtroom feeling as if they have just been run over by a truck. The winner often finds his or her enthusiasm dampened by the warning they hear from their lawyer to prepare for the next legal round, when their soon-to-be-ex-spouse will appeal the judge’s decision. An appeal means another trial, more money, and, of course, the emotional trauma that seems to have no end.

In my over 30 years of being in practice, and having talked with thousands of divorced men and women, I have yet to meet one person who thought that they got a better settlement by spending the time, the money, and the emotional trauma of a divorce trial. Mediation offers a common-sense, less expensive, and less traumatic way to reach the best divorce settlement possible.


What if our mortgage balance is more than our house is? How do we divorce if we can’t sell it?

Unfortunately, some real estate that has gone down in value. This is a serious problem, and, unfortunately, makes financial decisions more difficult. Depending on the specific facts of the case, possible decisions include:

  • Continued joint ownership, where you share the ongoing mortgage payment and arrange for a sale or buyout at a future date.
  • Joint ownership – with one party assuming responsibility for the ongoing mortgage note as part of the divorce settlement.
  • A sale of the marital residence, whereby one or both people take responsibility for a portion or all of the mortgage debt.
  • A short sale of the martial residence, where the full amount of the mortgage note is the sale price.

There may be significant tax consequences to each of these decisions and your mediator will help you understand such consequences. Your mediator will assist you with these complex choices.

Negotiating a Divorce

How can we successfully negotiate a divorce if we couldn’t successfully negotiate our marriage?

Often, couples consider this question when deciding between retaining separate attorneys or hiring one mediator. Some couples feel it is easier to hire an attorney to fight for them and do not realize that a mediator has the skills to help both people communicate – even those who have not been able to. Mediation is especially advantageous when children are involved, and a more cooperative parenting arrangement can be negotiated when couples choose mediation.

Pension & Retirement

My wife has a 401(k) through her employer. We’ve been married for 14 years, and she says that the money in the plan is all hers and it can’t be transferred because it’s in her name. Is this true?

In Massachusetts, whatever a couple acquires during the marriage is a marital asset with the possible exception of gifts and inheritance. It sounds as though some or all of the 401(k) is a marital asset. Under ERISA, the retirement and pension plan are not transferable, however, upon a divorce judgment with a special court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”), such plans may be transferred between divorcing spouses without a tax penalty, as it is not a taxable event. The mediators at Diane Neumann & Associates have extensive experience with retirement and pension transfers and will guide you through this complex area.

My husband has a pension and he told me that it would cost more to have it valued than it’s worth. He’s usually an honest person, but my neighbor told me not to believe him. What should I do?

Pensions range from very valuable to not very valuable, and without further information, it is impossible to give advice, other than to say that one should not waive their right to any asset without an understanding of the value. The mediators at Diane Neumann & Associates are well-versed in the intricacies of pension plans, which are often extremely complicated and require a qualified domestic relations order for a spousal transfer.

Power Imbalance

My husband makes a good income, and I have basically been a stay-at-home mom. I am very worried that my husband will get a better deal in mediation because he knows more about money.

That is a very realistic concern. A good mediator will not let that happen, and will assist both parties to a fair resolution.

All through our marriage, my husband has handled our money. I am very worried that he will take advantage of me when we’re in mediation. Will the mediator protect me?

Your mediator will write a fair agreement – one that is fair to both, not just one person.

My ex-husband and I have been separated for over a year. My ex told my daughter that I had an affair and that’s why we’re getting divorced. My daughter is 11 and lives with me. We had agreed not to tell her, but he got mad at me and told her anyway. He said he’s sorry, but now my daughter is so mad at me she wants to live with him. He thinks it’s a good idea, but I don’t want her to go. What should I do?

Rarely do I tell people what they absolutely should or should not do, but in this situation, I will say that your husband should not have told your daughter about an affair. That being said, it did happen. The question now is what to do about it. Your child – any child – does not need to know the sexual activity of a parent. I’ll make that a stronger statement – a child should not know the details of their parents’ sex lives.

If the affair is going to come out, it is best if the parent who has had the affair tell the child. It’s too late for you to be the one to tell your daughter, but you can bring it up. You might explain that a parent needs to be honest with their child about much in life, but not the parent’s sexual activity. Let her know that you understand why she is angry, but do not volunteer information.

Pre-adolescents and young teens tend to be extremely judgmental, and often express anger at a parent who has had an affair. It is common for them to side with the parent they believe is the “innocent” one. There are many factors which lead to a divorce; psychotherapists believe that an affair is almost always a symptom of a problem in a marriage rather than the cause of the divorce. Talk with your ex and try to find a way to avoid expensive and destructive litigation. Consider mediation – it’s the best place to discuss children’s issues.

Social Security

I was married for 11 years. Can I collect on my ex-wife’s Social Security?

You may collect on your ex-wife’s Social Security if the following applies: you were married at least 10 years to your ex-wife, and you are not married when you apply, you meet the age requirements, and you are collecting on her Social Security rather than your own.

Are Social Security benefits part of our marital assets?

In Massachusetts, Social Security benefits are not a marital asset subject to a property division; however, the judge may consider the future benefits.


Last night my husband told me that he’s in love with another woman. I’ve heard that if I divorce him because of adultery, I will get a greater share of our assets. Is this true?

No, this is generally not true. If a spouse has committed adultery, judges typically do not view this as a reason to award a greater share of assets to one party. Adultery is one of the fault grounds for divorce, the grounds must be proven in court and are actually difficult to prove. Please note that a divorce agreement is a public record and, as such, may be viewed by the public.

Seven years ago, my wife had an affair with a friend of ours. We’ve worked hard to keep our marriage together, but now I think she’s seeing somebody else. Can I still divorce her for adultery, even if she’s not yet sleeping with this current person?

In order to divorce someone for adultery, the act would have to be fairly recent and not seven years ago.

I know people won’t believe this, but one night my ex-wife seduced me. Now, she’s threatening to tell my girlfriend if I don’t pay for my daughter’s camp. It’s a more expensive camp than my ex has ever signed her up for, and I feel like I’m being blackmailed. What should I do?

“Blackmailed” may be a strong word, yet I understand that’s what it feels like to you. Let me assure you that you are not the only person to engage in sexual relations with your ex-spouse. It’s also not unusual to hide this information from a new lover; however, this behavior has consequences – often exactly of the kind you are experiencing. The issue that must be decided is whether or not YOU want to tell your girlfriend about spending the night with your ex. I emphasize “you” because if anyone tells your girlfriend – it should be you rather than your ex-wife. If your ex is serious about telling your girlfriend, you have to make a choice “between the frying pan and the fire”. Your two choices are paying for an expensive camp or telling your girlfriend. The choice is up to you, but one way to look at it – and you may not like this comment – is that it cost you the price of an expensive camp to sleep with your ex.

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