Legal Blog

Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Divorces

Massachusetts was a leader in its early recognition of same-sex marriages. Logic dictates that the Commonwealth will also have more experience with same-sex divorce and family law matters, including child custody and support issues in cases involving the dissolution of a same-sex marriage. Three Massachusetts cases do, in fact, reflect that experience.

In a 2006 same-sex divorce case (A.H. v M.P., 447 Mass. 828), one partner never adopted the child of her partner, although she was well aware of the importance of pursuing a formal adoption. Her former partner was the child’s primary caregiver. The court determined that she had no legal right to parenting time and had no support obligations as a “de facto” parent. The result in this case indicates how critical it is for one partner in a same-sex marriage to adopt the other partner’s biological child if the first partner desires to continue to have a parental relationship with that child in the event of a dissolution of a marriage.
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Child Custody in Massachusetts

Before you meet with an attorney to discuss your child custody situation, here are few pieces of information about child custody in Massachusetts that you’ll need to know in order to develop questions pertaining to your circumstances.

Two primary forms of child custody in Massachusetts

Physical custody determines where a child will live during certain periods of time.

Legal custody determines which parent has authority to make major decisions as in the doctor the child sees, the school the child attends, and even in which faith to raise the child.

Sole vs. shared custody
Sole physical custody means a child lives with one parent who is ultimately responsible for the child’s day-to-day supervision. The other parent is allowed reasonable visitation unless the court rules that this would not be in the child’s best interest.

Shared physical custody allows both parents a shared responsibility in raising the child while the child resides equally with both.

Sole legal custody gives one parent all rights and responsibilities to make major decisions in the child’s life. [Read more…]

Dealing with False Allegations During Child Custody & Divorce

It seems like everyone knows a story about false allegations during child custody and divorce. One spouse points the finger at the other and receives a restraining order from the court. The wife or husband recognizes that doing this will, almost by default, give them custody of the children and exclusive use of the family home. The accused parent then must defend themselves in court and prove these allegations false.

While false accusations are a legal mess, it is also terrible to have someone with whom you once shared a life make claims of either abuse or neglect. It is something no one is ever really prepared for. You may feel you should reach out to your soon to be ex-spouse, but this can actually make things worse for you. Additionally, trying to make contact could be used against you. It is not unheard of for there to be accusations of stalking, harassment, or violence when all you want to do is smooth things over. No matter how tempted, it is best to keep away, and, with a clear mind, take more appropriate actions.

1. Gather Evidence – If there is an accusation, reported against you, collect evidence that will prove differently. You need names, places, and dates that will show the charges are false. If your ex-spouse claims you physically threatened her/him, but you have a receipt proving you were eating at a restaurant, that would disprove those assertions. [Read more…]

Ways to Discover Hidden Assets

Most people enter the divorce process believing their soon to be ex-spouse is honest. However, this is not always the situation. The fact is dishonesty is a common reason for seeking a divorce. Even if you have no reason to suspect your spouse is hiding assets and misrepresenting their finances, it is prudent to vet their finances thoroughly.

Many people will do whatever it takes to conceal and hold on to what they believe is their money. Moreover, some will even create secret accounts, or perform other financial actions to conceal assets during the course of a marriage. It is possible to discover hidden assets in a divorce to ensure you receive a fair settlement.

The good news is an experienced divorce attorney has many tools at their disposal to discover hidden assets including but not limited to interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Depositions, accountants, forensic accountants, private investigators etc.

In today’s world, many couples have very complicated financial portfolios that may include retirement plans, stocks, vacation properties, and more. Hiding places for assets are often predictable. These are some of the more common: [Read more…]

Massachusetts Family Law Regarding Separation

If you and your spouse are thinking it is time for a separation, there are some factors you should consider in order to make sure this is not only the right step for your family but also done in accordance with the law. Before any decisions are made, it would be beneficial to consult with me to help you fully understand the legal consequences of your decision.

In the state of Massachusetts, there is no such status as a legal separation. However, if one spouse seeks support from another and does not want to file for divorce, he or she can file a Complaint For Separate Support. This would allow for child support and/or spousal support payments to be ordered. The process for filing for separate support can be a lengthy and complicated one. The method and burden of proving that the spouse should receive support is not always easy, and if a mistake is made, it could cost you and your family in the long run.

Before deciding that a separation of any kind is in order, both spouses should be confident that this is the right thing to do for the family. Some couples choose marital counseling in order to try everything possible to save the marriage.

If no resolution can be reached to remain together, the next step could be mediation in order to reach a legal and binding agreement for support. Mediation is often a preferred option as it typically is less adversarial than the traditional litigation process. If mediation is chosen, it is a good idea to seek legal representation to protect your interests and your rights.

If you have questions or would like to consider a separation with your spouse, please call my office to schedule a consultation.

What to Do if You Aren’t Getting Visitation (Parenting Time) with Your Child

If you are the non-custodial parent, not being able to spend time with your child on a daily basis can be painful. Regular visitation should help but if the other parent is not cooperative or if you have not been granted visitation, you could be wondering what steps you need to take in order to spend more time with your child. I am experienced in Massachusetts divorce and family law and I can help.

If you don’t have a parenting schedule with your children then you will need to go to court to get one.

On the other hand, if a judge has ordered a parenting schedule but the custodial parent is not cooperating, you will need to file a complaint for contempt to enforce it. It can be challenging to deal with a custodial parent who is not willing to budge but it is important to follow the proper legal procedure in order to obtain your desired outcome.

You have the right to see your children on a consistent basis. Whether you need help with a parenting schedule or other aspects of your case, I can help. Please call my office to schedule a consultation.

Preparing For Divorce Mediation

Divorce is always a painful process. Splitting assets for its cash value is often a difficult end to a relationship that did not work out. Emotions run high, even in an amicable divorce. Being prepared is the best way to ensure both parties receive their fair share of the marital assets and debts. Listing shared properties of value, dividing properties with written evaluations by a neutral party and listing all goals for your divorce are important to avoid costly mistakes and a satisfactory outcome.

List All Items of Value
Every couple has items of value. A family home is a piece of real property. Vehicles, jewelry, family heirlooms and furniture may all have monetary value. Family businesses or savings and retirement accounts are part of the marital assets as well. Credit card or loan debt is part of the equation too. These items are all part of the marital estate. Having a list of all valued property makes division easier and ensures both parties receive their fair share. [Read more…]

Divorce Mediation For Small Business Owners

Divorce is never easy, and it gets more complicated when a couple begins a successful business after their marriage. Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state which means the business equity is held marital in nature even if only one person does the work. There are very few people who divorce and then are able to manage working together on a daily basis, so splitting the company or leaving it is generally best for one spouse. Using mediation rather than going to court is an effective way of ensuring both parties continue to profit from the successful business, and it is the best way to ensure future alimony payments through divorce and family law court.

Splitting the Business Down the Middle
There are some businesses where splitting a company is relatively easy, and each person has their own territory. Mediation helps to decide which partner gets a particular territory, and this is usually done when both people enter an agreement willingly. Each partner retains their own share of business, and they negotiate physical territories so they do not steal each other’s customers. This is acceptable under Massachusetts law, and most judges deem it as a reasonable distribution of a family business.
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The Best Interests of the Child in a Massachusetts Divorce

When you’re going through the divorce process and managing the child support and custody issues, you’ll hear the term “best interests of the child.” Generally, the court will consider the new family lifestyle after a divorce and where the court feels the child will best be able to adapt to the new changes. It is possible for you and your spouse to ease into your new family dynamic in order to make the transition easier on your child.

Amicable Relationship
In order for you and your spouse to best help your child through the divorce process, you should maintain an amicable relationship. While that may not be easy, especially at first, this is beneficial in helping your child’s transition into this new way of life. It’s best to avoid contentious debates about visitation, child support, visitation and other child-rearing issues. [Read more…]

Divorce Agreement Modification

Having the provisions of a judgment of divorce or modification modified under Massachusetts law is possible, based on the language of the Judgment and the circumstances bringing about the request for a modification. Before bringing your modification complaint to the court, you need to consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

The first thing to realize is that there must be a material change in circumstances to request a modification, such as an employment change, a significant change of residence, or change in income. These changes can affect custody agreements and spousal and child support.

When drafting a separation agreement, there are two types of provisions addressed in the judgment: surviving and merging. Merging provisions are open to modification. Merging provisions are generally child specific issues like custody arrangements, support, and health insurance. Sometimes alimony can be a merging provision. Surviving provisions are generally not open to modification. An example of a surviving provision is the division of property. [Read more…]