Author Archives: Tiffany Haines, Esq.

Electronic Communication Tips When Filing For Divorce – Massachusetts

4 Tips for Handling Electronic Communication During Divorce

During a divorce, we must pay special attention to how we use various forms of technology and electronic communication. All too often, an unsuspecting spouse will find their emails and social media posts front and center in their divorce trial. Due to the pervasiveness of electronic media in our society, it is crucial that you take steps to protect yourself in thdivorce-lawyer-custody sme event of divorce. The following four tips are a good starting point for protecting yourself from the risks associated with electronic communication.

1. Change your passwords.
In many instances, spouses know each other’s email passwords or even share a joint account. You will be well advised to set up a new email account for personal communications during the pendency of your divorce. Assume that your spouse will be monitoring your emails and take steps to protect your private communications. You do not want your spouse to view discussions with your attorney, your accountant or even your new partner (the perils of dating during divorce will be the subject of a separate post).

2. Limit electronic communication.

During a divorce, all of your electronic communications will be scrutinized. You must assume that all of your emails and text messages will be submitted to the Court and used as evidence. If you communicate with your spouse via email or text message, choose your words carefully and keep your communications civil and professional. While it may be tempting to send your spouse a lengthy email airing all of your grievances, resist the urge to denigrate your spouse in writing. And do not assume that hitting delete will solve the problem. Many companies keep emails and text messages for a certain period of time, and your spouse may be able to subpoena these records.

3. Monitor your social media presence.

Your old high school classmates are not the only ones searching for you on Facebook. You can be assured that your spouse’s attorney is reviewing your social media presence and will use this information against you in order to gain an advantage in the divorce. This also applies to websites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest. While you may not see any harm in posting the photo of you and your buddies out drinking, the posting will come back to haunt you. And do not rule out the potential to be found on online dating sites. Even though you think your Match.com profile is innocuous, your spouse could use your profile to undermine your argument that you were a devoted parent or spouse.

4. Do not record phone calls.

Though it may be tempting, avoid the urge to record your spouse without his or her knowledge. In Massachusetts, recording phone calls without the other person’s knowledge is illegal and you can quickly find yourself dealing with a criminal case in addition to your divorce. If you need to memorialize the phone conversation, record your thoughts in a journal or summarize the discussion in an email (following the above guidelines of course). On the other hand, voicemails may be used as evidence in Court since the person is aware

that he or she is being recorded. Just as with emails and text messages, be cautious when leaving a message on your spouse’s voicemail while your divorce is pending.

If you are facing a divorce and have questions about the impact of technology and electronic communication, contact the family law attorneys of Shapiro Law Group, PC. Their team of experienced and knowledgeable professionals will help guide you through the process while protecting your interests.

The Night Circus and the Division of Future Royalty Payments – Massachusetts

In her debut novel, artist and writer Erin Morgenstern constructed a fantastical tale set in Victorian London involving a magical circus and a pair of dueling lovers. Coming on the heels of the success of the Harry Potter series, The Night Circus received hype as the next literary phenomenon and was highly profitable for Ms. Morgenstern.Thompsons Law 5

Despite the seemingly endless constructs of her imagination, Ms. Morgenstern likely did not conceive that her best-selling novel would be at the forefront of her 2013 divorce case and subsequent appeal, which articulated how future income derived from present contractual rights should be divided.

Ms. Morgenstern married Peter Casinius, a chemical engineer in 2006. Mr. Casinius worked long hours in order to support the household while Ms. Morgenstern focused solely on her artistic endeavors. Ms. Morgenstern wrote The Night Circus during the marriage and by 2010 she had found a publisher for the book. The parties separated in 2011, less than five years after they married. By the time of trial, the wife had sold both the publishing and movie rights to The Night Circus, which had grossed over $3 million in royalties.

The Night Circus was the parties’ most valuable marital asset and became a highly contested issue during trial. The trial judge acknowledged that Mr. Casinius had contributed to The Night Circus by supporting the wife emotionally and financially. However, he found that Ms. Morgenstern’s contractual rights to receive future payments from her best-selling novel were too speculative to include in the marital estate.

The Appeals Court Disagreed

Under M.G.L. Chapter 208, Section 34 the Court may assign to either husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other. While some interests are so uncertain that they are not subject to division, the Appeals Court differentiated between mere expectancies, such as increased earning potential due to a degree or patents of uncertain value, and the contractual right to receive future royalty payments.

At the time of their divorce, Ms. Morgenstern had enforceable contractual rights to receive future payments from The Night Circus. Since the value of the future payments could not yet be ascertained, the Appeals Court endorsed dividing the asset on an “if and when received” basis.

This case demonstrates that courts are inclined to take an expansive view of what constitutes marital property. Future royalties were added to a growing list of property interests that are subject to division during divorce, including pensions, interests in trusts, and stock options.

The Court recognized that dividing future interests present special challenges. In this case, future earnings from The Night Circus may be enhanced by Ms. Morgenstern’s promotional efforts or by her authoring a subsequent work that generates renewed interest in The Night Circus. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to limit the percentage or duration of the payments to the recipient spouse.

Division of property rights upon divorce requires the expertise and analysis of an attorney that specializes in complex asset division. If you are facing a divorce and have questions about which propriety rights are subject to division, contact Shapiro Law Group, PC to have your questions answered by their team of seasoned attorneys.