Between a rock and a heart place

From time-to-time we have guest bloggers post on our site. The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author(s) alone, and do not represent those of the Levitt Law Group.

When a marriage is over each member of the couple is often left with complicated feelings ranging from sadness and loss to anger and frustration. Yet the process a couple chooses for a divorce can set the stage for their future relationship. Out of court processes such as Mediation and Collaborative Law offer clients a supportive opportunity to work together, communicating their needs, interests, and goals in a clear and open manner.

As a person is contemplating the future, it is essential to feel financially and emotionally secure. Yet as each person works to protect his or her own interests and achieve what is “fair,” trust may break down as the couple feels overwhelmed and emotionally torn. These are the times when a person can feel stuck between a “rock and a heart place”―trapped between practical legal decisions and the desire to do what “feels right” by protecting oneself and those one loves and cares about.

hear rockThese competing interests can leave a person feeling conflicted about standing firm or giving in to the needs or expectations of a partner. Family and friends, in an effort to be supportive, can also add pressure when they have strong opinions.

If the couple shares children, other complex feelings and issues may arise. Despite the end of the marriage, the role of a parent does not end with a divorce decree. Continuing to parent children post-divorce involves good communication, openness, and flexibility― the very elements of a relationship that often break down at the end of a marriage. Here is another place where there are complex needs that may leave a person feeling unsettled.

Mediation and Collaborative Law offer helpful ways to handle these difficult moments by encouraging clients to navigate legal issues while attending to emotional concerns as well. When clients have a sense of control over the outcome of their negotiations, they no longer feel stuck between a “rock and a heart place.” By using a process that comes to a close with dignity and respect, there can be an experience of peace and hope for the next chapter in each person’s life.

About the Author
Gina Arons, Psy.D is a clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience working with children, adults, couples and families. Dr. Arons is a Collaborative Law Coach and mediator, as well as a consultant to attorneys, mediators and their clients. She serves on the board of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council and is a member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Dr. Arons maintains a private practice in Lincoln, MA and can be contacted at ginaarons@gmail.com

Alimony Durational Limits — How Long Will I have to Pay?

When spouses divorce, a very real concern on both sides is often: how long will alimony last?

Over the years a lot of time and money has been spent in divorce cases fighting over how long alimony should last.  The Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011 has provided us with some guidelines for just how long alimony is payable, and it is based almost entirely on the length of the marriage.  Basically, the longer the marriage, the longer alimony may be payable.   Specifically, the time limits are as follows:

Marriage Length

Alimony Duration

Less than 5 years No more than 50% of the # of months of marriage
Between 5 and 10 years No more than 60% of the # of months of marriage
Between 10 and 15 years No more than 70% of the # of months of marriage
Between 15 to 20 years No more than 80% of the # of months of marriage
More than 20 years No specific durational limit – can be indefinite

For example, if the marriage lasted four years, or 48 months, alimony should be awarded for no more than 2 years or 24 months. However, it should be noted that these durational limits are in place in cases where there is the traditional general term alimony. If there is another type of alimony being paid other than general term alimony, there is most likely going to be a different time limit on alimony.

Different Types of Alimony

In addition to general term alimony, the alimony reform law provides for other categories of alimony as well such as rehabilitative, transitional, and reimbursement alimony.  For rehabilitative alimony, the limit is five years, for transitional alimony, the limit is three years, and for reimbursement alimony, there will be a set date or event that will terminate alimony.

It is important to know which type of alimony applies in your case, and to learn about their differences.  Occasionally, alimony can be extended beyond the durational limits, but this is highly dependent upon the particular circumstances of your case.  Alimony is also based not just upon the length of the marriage, but upon need and ability to pay.   The new alimony reform act is a complicated law with many nuances, and consultation with a lawyer can help a client better understand how the new law applies to his or her case regardless of whether the client is the payor or recipient of alimony.

Divorce A-Morphosis

Transition or metamorphosis is the passage from one state, subject, or place to the next. Going through a divorce is a life transition for everyone involved. Clients are moving from a state of conflict where they were questioning many things in their lives to a state of transition which will lead, hopefully, to a life with less conflict, more stability, and greater happiness.

The transition process often starts before a party has even decided on divorce. Clients often report when they seek the advice of a divorce attorney, that there was a shift in their relationship with their spouse sometime years earlier, which they may not have fully understood then, but which had a profound effect on the family. Life’s passages may not always lead directly to divorce; many clients seek counseling for themselves or together with their spouse to try to understand what is happening, why they feel a “sea change” in their relationship, and how to improve and maintain that relationship. Some parties may stay together, but others begin to say the word “Divorce.”

We have seen in our office, all types of people going through divorce, or experiencing other family law problems, in “metamorphosis”. Clients experiencing conflict, sadness and anxiety may have many complex – and at times confusing – feelings about how they are going to transition through divorce. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every wall is a door.” Divorce clients don’t always know what is on the other side of the wall, but they know they have to find the door to the other side, and as part of their divorce walk through that door to their new life.

Piercing through that barrier is no easy task; the process of divorce can take up to a year for some couples. It forces participants to think about these transitions and do some serious soul-searching. Hopefully, as things begin to fall into place, the parties will transition from those feelings of sadness, conflict and anxiety to feeling more empowered to make positive changes in their lives, and those of their family.

Once the dust settles and the papers are signed, a newly divorced couple must then face the task of making their post-divorce lives work. This can be challenging, especially if they have children. A good family law attorney will have a professional network of experienced professionals to recommend to clients, from life coaches to psychologists to advisors or other professionals, contacts that may be useful not just during the divorce process, but also post-divorce.

I have personally witnessed the effects of half-realized or poorly planned transitions in divorces, and when those happen parties are more likely to continue to have conflict post-divorce or end up in court – which runs contrary to most people’s goal of finding more lasting resolutions and staying out of court. There are many resources for clients to help them with the transitions that come with divorce and clients should not hesitate to ask their attorney for help in achieving legal solutions that will stand the test of time.