Massachusetts Penalties for Cyber Bullying

The issue of bullying has become a hot topic all over the U.S in recent years. Tragic events such as victim suicides and violent assaults have turned the spotlight on the debate of exactly when and how bullying becomes a criminal act. At the forefront of this debate is the increasing trend of cyber bullying where often the bullies anonymously attack their victims online through fake profiles and social media accounts.

What is Cyber Bullying?
The Attorney General of the State of Massachusetts classifies Cyber Bullying as “electronically communicated threats and willful and malicious directing electronic communications at a specific person that seriously alarm that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.”

Children and Adults may be Charged with Cyber Bullying
Many feel that the problem with cyber bullying is that it does not end at the toll of the school bell or end of the work day. It continues every time the victim uses their smartphone, handheld device, or computer. This is why cyber bullying is considered an extreme form of harassment. The Massachusetts legislature has made laws regarding cyber bullying sweepingly severe, this means children to adults can be charged, convicted, and penalized for Cyber bullying crimes.

Ex-wife is in contempt and denying me visitation.

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: My ex-wife is denying me my holiday visitation this year. I’m a MA resident, living in West Boylston.   Every other year I get the kids for their Christmas vacation.  This year is “my” year and she’s already saying she is making other plans with them which is a clear violation of our Divorce Decree.  What steps should I take?  File a contempt motion in Worcester area court?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Contact me. The jurisdiction of the Court must be established. If the Judgment is from Worcester County Probate and Family Court, the Worcester Court has jurisdiction to issue a Contempt Judgment and may Order her to reimburse you for attorney’s fees and costs.  However, if the Court that issued the judgment is outside of Worcester County and your ex-wife still resides in that county, the Worcester County Probate and Family Court does not have jurisdiction. The original Court does.  If you both live outside the original county or state that issued the Judgment, jurisdiction may lie in the Court of the County or state where the child resides. In any event, a letter should be sent to your ex-wife explaining that you intend to file contempt proceedings against her should she deny you the kids on Christmas. This letter should be sent to her immediately as a precautionary measure to attempt to dissuade her from doing this. 

Can I stop paying child support once son graduates college?

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: One of my kids will graduate from college in the spring.   He says if he doesn’t get a job right out of school, he won’t be able to pay rent on his apartment in Shrewsbury.  Of course, I’m going to try to help him as much as possible. My question is, the Divorce Settlement Agreement says kids are emancipated upon completion of a four year degree. Can I stop paying the court ordered child support when he graduates or must I file something with the Worcester Courts?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Minor children principally dependent on the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent while attending college on a full time basis become emancipated upon graduating from college. However, if they have not graduated, they are considered legally emancipated on their 23rd birthday regardless of whether they graduate or not. You will no longer be legally liable to pay child support beyond graduation. Therefore, yes, you may stop paying child support upon your child graduating from college. 

How can I reconcile with my wife if there’s a restraining no contact order?

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: My wife and I live in Greater Worcester area and I’ve recently been served a restraining order which does not permit me to have any contact with her.  Is it a violation of the order to discuss matters with the protected party if others are present, like attorneys?  Or can I get an approved meeting for peaceful contact?  There are many things I we need to discuss, involving the children, reconciliation, therapy and counseling.  Do I need an attorney to do this?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

You will violate the Order if you meet with your wife (regardless of who is present) write her, call her, text her, Skype her or email her while the no contact provisions of the Abuse Prevention Order are in effect.  In fact, if any contact is made with her by third parties on your behalf this will also violate the Order. The only way you can speak with her without triggering a criminal violation is if the no contact provisions of the Abuse Prevention Order are either vacated or modified to allow you to do so. An attorney would certainly help you achieve this. 

I recently filed charges for domestic violence in Worcester.

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: There were two incidents about 2 weeks apart. My boyfriend hit me so hard I got a black eye and fracture in my cheekbone.  Besides filing the reports with the police, how do I protect myself and my daughter?  We rent an apartment in Worcester and I’ve notified my daughter’s school he is no longer permitted to pick her up.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

In addition to filing charges against your boyfriend for assault and battery, you should also go to either your local district court or probate & family Court to obtain an Abuse Protection Order against him under Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 209A. You will be asked to write an affidavit stating why you are in imminent fear of serious physical injury from him. You should have no problem obtaining such an order which will prevent him from contacting you and coming near you or risk criminal charges for violating the order. You can do this on the weekends if necessary by going to the local police department. There is a district court judge on call during the weekends for such situations. 

My husband has left me, I won’t have money for rent next month.

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: My husband has left me and changed the passwords to our checking and savings accounts. The accounts are in his name only so I can’t even get another debit card.  I am in a rented apartment in Westborough (lease under his name) and will not have enough money for rent next month.  Will I be evicted?  What should I do?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Immediately, hire a lawyer, me preferably, to file and serve your husband with a Complaint for Divorce. This will allow you to request Temporary Orders making him responsible for supporting you and maintaining any and all insurance (i.e. medical, dental etc.) for your benefit until a permanent resolution can take place. Filing and getting him served with a Complaint for Divorce will also impose an asset restraining order on him that will prevent him from taking, hiding and selling any and all marital assets until the matter can be resolved. 

Do we actually need to get divorced in Mass?

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: I left my husband 5 years ago and moved out of state (we were married and lived in Northborough, MA). When I moved, we just needed a break.  Can we remain separated indefinitely or do we eventually have to divorce?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

You may stay separated as long as you like but you will still be considered married. By not proceeding with and obtaining a divorce, he would have the ability to claim a share of your assets that you acquire post separation and he will have the right to claim a share of your estate should you pass away. 

I was assaulted by a customer at my business. Can I sue?

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: I was assaulted by a customer at my place of business and broke my jaw and nose.  I have witness statements and video of the incident. By the time Spencer police arrived, the customer had already left the premises. Can I sue him for my medical bills and injuries?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

If Spencer Police filed a criminal charge of Assault and Battery against this customer, you are entitled to restitution for medical bills resulting from your injuries. The assistant district attorney will be in touch with you regarding this. Otherwise, you are entitled to file your own criminal complaint for Assault and Battery with the District Court Clerk’s Office. Keep all documentation relative to your out of pocket expenses. In addition, you can sue the customer in civil court for further monetary damages as a result of your injuries (i.e. permanent injuries, pain and suffering). You will need a lawyer to do this effectively. 

Is there a criminal law against bullying in Massachusetts?

Posted by Michael Franklin
Additional Information: Hello. My daughter has had a difficult school year.  Her high school in Worcester has a bullying prevention and intervention plan but she continues to be bullied and cyber-bullied by other girls in her class. I’d like to address this so she can enjoy her summer.  Is there some criminal law against Cyberbullying in Massachusetts? Thank you for your help.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The recent horrific case in Hadley, Massachusetts has brought this issue to light not only in Massachusetts but nationally and consequently your daughter is receiving the benefits through her school bullying prevention program. In addition, there are several criminal laws in Massachusetts that could be invoked in your daughter’s situation which address bullying conduct as criminal with criminal penalties: (1) Mass. Gen. Laws C. 265 Section 43-Stalking, (2) Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 265 Section 43A-Criminal Harassment, (3) Mass. Gen. Laws C. 269 Section 14A-Annoying Telephone calls/or Electronic Communication. 

How does the new law affect determination of alimony in MA?

Additional Information:

I am getting a divorce.  My wife and I bought a home together in Leicester and she wants to keep the house.  The only thing is I don’t think she can afford it, even with alimony.  She thinks the new alimony law in MA will help her maintain the same lifestyle as during our marriage.  How does the new law affect determination of alimony?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Alimony is still determined by need and the ability of the payor to pay it. The new law doesn’t change that. What it does change is the length of time one must pay alimony. Prior to the new law, once alimony was established, judges had little discretion to limit the amount of time it was required. If a marriage was for 10 years as an example, a payor would be ordered to pay alimony for life. Now, the new law gives judges guidelines and discretion as to the length of time alimony is to be paid. Thus, in the example of a 10 year marriage, alimony once established would be ordered for a set number of years that would be less than the length of the marriage. 

We are getting divorced. Will I have any rights to my wife’s house?

Additional Information:

When I got married, I moved into my wife’s house in Grafton.  We never added my name to the deed.  We are now getting divorced and I want to keep the house. Do I have any rights to it?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Yes, any property real or personal acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name it is in, is considered marital property and is subject to division by the Court. Therefore, you do have rights to share in the equity of the real estate. 

Our daughter was arrested for shoplifting. How do we handle upcoming hearing?

Additional  Information:

Our 19 year old daughter was caught shoplifting a few weeks ago at a local drug store in Auburn. I was hoping the whole thing would go away as it was a $10 item, but we got a summons to appear for a hearing. Any recommendations on how to handle this? She has never been in any legal trouble before and I’d hate this to affect her for the rest of her life.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Hire a lawyer to handle it. It sounds like a situation where the matter can be dismissed for court costs. 

Is this considered assault under MA law? Now what do I do?

Additional Information:

My wife and I own our own home in Millbury and last Saturday at 10 AM I started power washing our house.  My neighbor charged out of his house and started screaming profanities at me while on my property about how I always wake him up.  The altercation didn’t get physical but at first he wouldn’t get off my property when I asked him to and he threatened me.  Is this considered assault under MA law and what can I do to protect ourselves and our home?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

A trespass occurred when he came onto your property and wouldn’t leave when you requested him to. If you reasonably believed he was going to cause you harm when he came onto the property and you believed he was capable of doing harm and this placed you in fear, an assault occurred. You should report this to the police immediately and request they keep an eye on the situation. 

With the new MA alimony law will I be entitled to anything?

Additional Information:

I have been married for two years and ready for divorce. We got married because I was pregnant with his child. We rent an apartment in Shrewsbury and I am a stay at home mom to our daughter.  He has money in savings, I do not.  With the new alimony law will I be entitled to anything?   I wouldn’t be able to stay at home to care for our daughter without his financial support.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

First of all if you are the primary caretaker of your daughter, you would be entitled to child support according to the Mass. Guidelines. This would be approximately 1/3 of his gross income tax free. Most noncustodial parents don’t have the ability to pay alimony in addition to their child support obligation because generally 1/3 of their income goes to paying taxes and they must live on the remaining third. However, on occasion, a high income earner may be assessed alimony in addition to child support. In such cases with the new law you would not be entitled to alimony for a period longer than your marriage of 2 years. 

We’re getting divorced and my wife is withdrawing and hiding cash.

Additional Information:

We are in the process of getting a divorce.  We have been married nearly 10 years, living a modest lifestyle and have a mortgage free home in Edgemere.  She has probably withdrawn over $200K from our accounts over the past year and I suspect has hidden the cash within her parents accounts.  What can I do?  How will my divorce attorney prove she has hidden this cash?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Your attorney can subpoena her parents’ accounts over the last year and take her deposition. She can be asked about the specific withdrawals (why she made them etc.) and about any corresponding deposits made into her parents’ accounts at the deposition where she would have to answer these questions under oath. 

My son was involved in a car accident now it seems the other driver is retaliating.

Additional Information:

My son just told me he was involved in a minor automobile accident in Northborough a few days ago.  He said the other driver was yelling at him and and threatening to beat him so he left.  He didn’t exchange info and he didn’t file a police report.  Then yesterday one of his car windows was broken and he suspects that the guy from the accident did it.  If that’s the case, then clearly the guy is unstable.  What can he do to protect himself?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Call the police in Northborough and report both incidents. The guy may be charged with malicious destruction of property if there is sufficient evidence that he broke the window.  The police could charge your son with leaving the scene of an accident if the other driver reported the accident and they don’t believe your son. A witness for your son could help to corroborate his story as to why he left the scene or at least that the guy broke the window. It sounds like he knows where your son is or at least where the car is parked. How would he find this information out? Did he follow your son? Did he get your son’s license plate? Did the guy report the accident to the police? If so, how soon after reporting the accident was your son’s window broken? 

I am being charged federally with unlawful gun possession.

Additional Information:

Hello. I was arrested in Worcester for gun possession without a firearm identification card. Now it seems like the federal prosecutor also wants to bring charges for the same thing based on the same arrest. What’s going on and what should I do?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Your use of the word “seems” is confusing. If a federal prosecution for gun charges will occur against you, it will either happen or it won’t. You really need to consult directly with an attorney in more detail for both matters. In such cases, the federal matter will take precedence and be prosecuted first if in fact you are charged federally. 

What is the process for a divorce modification?

Additional Information:

My ex-husband and I have been divorced for almost 6 years and he has been promoted so his income has changed.  Furthermore, rent for our Paxton apartment has increased significantly.  What is the process for a divorce modification for increased alimony and child support, and is it difficult?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

This depends on what you want to change. Generally, divorce judgments are not written in stone as to issues of custody, medical insurance, alimony, child support, visitation and issues related to the child or children such as college. These provisions can be modified with the first step being the filing of a Complaint for Modification. In order to obtain a modification of a divorce judgment, a substantial change in circumstances must be shown. This is achievable in most cases because the Court understands that things can change over time.

However, if you want to modify the terms of how property was divided, this tends to be extremely difficult to do. 

Will I have rights to my wife’s house in Leicester when we divorce?

Additional Information:

When I got married, I moved into my wife’s house in Leicester. We are now getting divorced after 15 years of marriage.  The house is only in her name, we never added my name to the deed.  I’ve done all of the maintenance and improvements and want to keep the house. Do have any rights to it?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Yes, you have a right or a claim to a share of the equity of this real estate regardless of whether your name is on the deed. Your marriage gave you this right. However, if you executed a prenuptial agreement which protected this real estate from any claims you may have, your rights to the real estate may be limited by its terms.

Am I legally required to tell the police about my ex-boyfriend who is dealing cocaine?

Additional Information:

I’ve was dating this guy for several months and he has been very respectful of me and kind to me. Then I found out he sometimes sells cocaine to friends and friends of friends in small amounts. He had asked me a couple of times to drive him to downtown Worcester to meet up with “a friend” but I said “no”.  I broke up with him last week because his drug dealing seemed to be turning into a full time thing. Do I legally have to tell the police what I know?  I don’t really want to get him in trouble but I want to do the right thing and I don’t want to get in trouble down the road.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

You have no privilege not to testify because you are not married to this man. If your ex-boyfriend has been charged and the Assistant District Attorney serves you with a summons to go to Court, you must go and testify if required. However, if your ex-boyfriend has not been charged you are not required to speak with the police or tell them anything if you choose not to. 

What’s the best outcome if I hire a criminal defense lawyer?

Additional Information:

I was at an outdoor event in Worcester, and my bad luck, I’m holding a beer in a plastic cup and a cop walks by.  He came over to ask me about it.  Then he asked me what was in my pocket and then patted me down and found a knife that he says is illegal.  So now I have to go to court for the knife and the beer. I’ve never gotten into trouble with the law. What’s the best possible outcome for me if I hire a criminal defense lawyer?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Counsel could file a Motion To Suppress to prevent the knife from coming into evidence and therefore, that charge, presumably carrying a dangerous weapon, could be dismissed. In regards to the beer, I’m not sure what you have been charged with. It could be a Minor under 21 in Possession of Alcohol. The beer was in plain sight even though it was in a plastic cup and the officer probably could smell it which gave him/her probable cause to charge you. This matter may be dismissed with court costs with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney.

What are the requirements for an annulment in MA?

Additional Information:

We have been married for 8 months, and have a 10 month old daughter. I just found out that my husband has a criminal background and has been using a fake name since I have known him.   What are the requirements for an annulment in MA?  How should I proceed?   I’d like sole custody of our daughter.  Does his deception affect his parental rights?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

In order to obtain an annulment you have to show that the marriage was based on fraud. It sounds like you would qualify for an annulment in your situation. However, your husband is still the child’s father and as such would still be granted some parenting time. If you are the primary caretaker of the child, there is no reason why this would not continue to be the case. Certainly, the Court would consider your husband’s criminal background and the reasons he thought it necessary to use a name other than his own in awarding custody and visitation rights. The Court will consider what is in the child’s best interests in making such a determination. 

Can my ex-wife get custody of my son?

Additional Information:

My wife and I got divorced two years ago and I got sole custody of our 5 year-old son.  She was put on probation for 5 years for hitting him and I’m not sure if she really wants to be part of his life or not.  My question is if I put it in my will that my brother will take care of my son if I die, will that happen or can my wife get custody if she wants? Thanks.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Your brother will have to obtain a permanent guardianship of your son should you pass away. The child’s mother may file a Complaint for Modification seeking custody after your death. The Court will always review what is in the child’s best interests when considering either your brother or the child’s mother as his caretaker. Go ahead and make your will naming your brother as custodian. Your brother can use this for the Court to consider in this situation. 

Can we just tell Auburn police we don’t want to press charges?

Additional Information:

I am 18 years old and was involved in a fight with a former friend who is 17.  Now we’re both charged with assault but neither one of us wants to press charges. So, can we just tell the Auburn police that we don’t want to press charges so the case goes away? We don’t get along any more (duh) but neither one of us wants to press charges.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Since you have cross claims of assault and battery against the other, you, your former friend and both your attorneys may tell the assistant district attorneys handling the cases of your wishes not to proceed against the other. An agreement to dismiss the charges against both you and your former friend should result. The only problem that could occur is if the District Attorney’s Office has an independent witness or witnesses that saw the fight. In such a case, the D.A.’s Office could utilize them to testify against both of you if they chose to proceed with prosecuting the charges. This scenario is unlikely if neither you nor your friend have a significant past history of criminal charges.

Will I be liable for half of my ex-wife’s school loan?

Additional  Information:

My wife and I are getting divorced.  She took out a loan so she could attend a college in Worcester. She said she would use her degree to get a job, but she hasn’t finished the program so technically the “community” hasn’t benefited from her going to school.   I suspect she really went back to school because she was bored being a stay at home mom.  Will I be liable for half of the loan?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

No, since she gets the benefit of the education, the responsibility to pay the loan should remain with your wife. However, if you cosigned the loan, you will be jointly and severally liable to the lender. You can get a divorce judgment that requires her to reimburse you any amounts you are called upon to pay in that case.

Can I keep him from getting personal bank account records?

Additional  Information:

My husband and I are getting divorced after a 7 year marriage.  Can I stop him from getting a subpoena for my personal bank records for accounts that were opened as a single individual after we separated?  Our Worcester home is in both our names, as are our bank accounts.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

No, he has a right to see what is in those accounts. Anything purchased, collected, earned, saved and accrued during the marriage by either party is subject to division and therefore, both parties must disclose and have a duty to disclose these assets to the other.

I was involved in a fight in Shrewsbury, Mass.

Additional Information:

A couple of months ago I plead no contest to an assault charge and was placed on probation by the judge. Then last week I was involved in a fight at a bar in Shrewsbury, MA that wasn’t my fault at all and now I’m charged with another assault case. If I get a lawyer and he gets me off on the second assault charge what will happen with my probation?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

A hearing on whether you violated your probation will automatically be set because you simply had a new charge brought against you while you are on probation. This violates the conditions of your probation. It doesn’t matter if the charge has merit or not. However, if a lawyer can convince your probation officer to continue the hearing until after you are found not guilty or the charges are dismissed, you may not be found in violation of your probation if your probation officer withdraws the violation as a result. If you have a good relationship with your probation officer this would help. Otherwise, you will be required to move forward with the violation of probation hearing and you would have to convince the judge that you were not criminally responsible for the fight (i.e. you were attacked and you had no choice but to defend yourself or you were misidentified as being involved etc.). It would be a similar defense to the assault charge. However, the standard of proof for a violation of probation hearing is a lesser standard than for a criminal charge. In a criminal proceeding for an offense, the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a difficult standard to meet. Alternatively, in proceedings involving a violation of probation, the government only has to show that you are guilty based on the preponderance of the evidence or that it is more likely than not that you violated your probation, a much easier standard to meet. The bottom line is that it is possible and likely that a lawyer will be able to either have your violation withdrawn or get you reprobated, a term indicating that you would not face any additional penalties should you be found in violation of your probation.

My daughter was involved in a hit and run in Worcester, MA.

Additional Information:

My 22-year old daughter hit a parked car at a strip mall in Worcester, MA.  She doesn’t know if she caused damage to the parked car she hit.  She left the parking lot without leaving her contact information and now she’s wondering what she should do.  Can you please explain the law in this situation and her legal responsibilities?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The Worcester police may not know the identity of the owner of the vehicle if the owner did not report it. In this case, charges may not be brought.  The right thing to do would be to go the Worcester Police Department and report the incident. If your daughter is identified by a witness or a surveillance camera as the person who caused the damage, she could be charged with leaving the scene of property damage, a misdemeanor.  However, in the scheme of things, she most likely would be treated quite favorably based on her cooperation and voluntarily coming forward to report the incident. Alternatively, the police may not charge her at all and simply give her an Operator’s Report to fill out and request her to describe what happened. This would at least give the alleged victim an opportunity to file a claim with the insurer of the automobile your daughter was operating at the time of the accident. The victim may not have reported it at all but at least your daughter would be protecting herself against any potential criminal liability that could arise if witnesses were able to identify her or the license plate of the vehicle she was operating at the time of the incident. A good lawyer could probably negotiate a dismissal of any criminal charges that may arise in the worst case scenario if she voluntarily reported the incident. Honesty is always the best policy

In a divorce, am I entitled to 50% of my wife’s inheritance?

Additional Information:

My wife and I live in Shrewsbury MA and are going through a  divorce. I’ve financially supported her for 21 years of marriage.  She was a stay at home mom for all but 1 year of our marriage.  She just received an inheritance of over $200,000.  Am I entitled to 50%?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Yes, you are entitled to a share of the inheritance because the inheritance is considered part of the marital estate to be divided. Whether your share is 50% must be discussed in more depth through a private consultation with your lawyer.

How can I get a divorce if I have no contact with my husband?

Additional Information:

I separated from husband in 2008 and moved to Westborough, MA from NY. How can I get divorce if we have no contact? We did not have any children from marriage but I do have a ten year old from previous. We parted on bad terms.  I have no way of contacting this man as I do not know where he moved after I left. How hard is it to get a divorce in the State of Massachusetts?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

You may file for divorce in Westborough MA and request the Court to notify your husband through publication in a local newspaper that serves his last known address. This is routinely done for parties who have lost touch with each other.

My nephew was arrested in Westboro MA, is his arrest considered armed robbery?

Additional Information:

My nephew was involved in some sort of an altercation in Westboro, MA which he was allegedly trying to rob a man of his watch. The boy (he’s 19) has had drug problems and I assume this issue was in play. He used a bat to threaten the man and to take the watch. He was arrested the next day because the man recognized him. So, is this an armed robbery even if he didn’t hit him and what would the penalty be?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Yes it is considered armed robbery, and in addition he could be charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. The penalty would depend on his prior criminal history and whether he has served time previously. He certainly could be placed on probation or face jail time.

If the battery charge is dismissed will the resisting arrest charge automatically be dismissed, too?

Additional Information:

I was arrested for hitting someone and also charged with resisting arrest by Shrewsbury PD.  If I hire an attorney and he gets the battery charge dismissed will the resisting arrest charge automatically be dismissed, too?  If the charge sticks, what’s the worst that can happen?  Thank you.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:
No, because the police officer will testify against you regardless of whether the alleged victim has a change of heart. Assault and Battery carries a maximum prison sentence of 2 1/2 years in the House of Correction. If you’re convicted of resisting arrest too, you could receive time for another 1 to 2 1/2 years. This is the worst case scenario. Your actual sentence will depend on your prior criminal history, the extent of the injuries of the victim, whether you have served time previously etc.

In Massachusetts, is there a waiting period before you can file for divorce?

Additional Information:

We got married and we realized quickly afterward that it was a mistake.  In Massachusetts is there a waiting period before you can file papers for an uncontested divorce?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

No, you may file for a divorce or an annulment after the marriage with no waiting period. It sounds like you may want to consider an annulment because of your quick realization that the marriage was a mistake.

Will the prior New Jersey conviction count as a prior offense now that I’ve been charged in MA?

Additional Information:

Seven years ago, while I was living in NJ, I was convicted of possession of a controlled substance. I’m in grad school now in Worcester, Massachusetts and was arrested on similar charges. I did some research and found that the possession law in Massachusetts has stiffer penalties for those convicted of a second offense. For possession of a Class B substance, maximum of 2 years in jail vs. only one year for a first offense. Will the New Jersey conviction count as a first or prior offense for me? Thanks for any help.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:
The answer to your question depends on how you were charged here in Worcester, Massachusetts. If you were charged as a repeat offender, the answer is yes. If not, and the prosecutor does not check your record in New Jersey, the answer is no.

In Massachusetts, can we ask the judge to stop the prosecution if my son agrees to do drug counseling?

Additional Information:

My son was arrested on a drug possession case in Worcester and is awaiting trial. He has a court appointed lawyer but the lawyer hasn’t talked too much to my son about it and hasn’t advised him on what he should do. I read somewhere that a person can ask the judge to stop the prosecution if he agrees to do drug counseling. Is that true and can you tell me about that law?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

There is such a law but your son’s lawyer must have already submitted a petition informing the court he is a drug dependent person willing to submit to treatment not just counseling. Realistically, it is never utilized by defense counsel because the requirements are too rigid and impractical to be followed by the drug dependent person. When Probation informed my client what he had to do, he realized he was unable to meet the requirements and there was a more practical and better solution elsewhere.

Can an order for child support be modified without going to court?

Additional Information:

My ex and I have agreed to lowered payments and we have drawn up a new agreement which we both signed. The problem is that every time she gets angry she threatens to take me to court for back child support based on the previous amount in the divorce decree, reneging on our new signed agreement. Is what we did legally binding or can she sue me for back child support?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Unless your agreement is approved by the Court, it is not considered a valid Modification of the prior Court Judgment or Order. You may find that you owe the difference between what you paid in support and what the previous Court Order or Judgment required you to pay.

Can my soon to be ex-wife claim monies from my new business venture?

Additional Information:

My wife and I have been separated for over a year. I am living with a new partner and considering starting my own business. Will she have any claim on the monies when we go through the divorce?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Any assets acquired during the marriage are subject to division regardless of separation. However, judges may use their discretion pursuant to the factors enumerated in Mass. Gen. Laws C 208 Sect. 34 in deciding how assets are to be divided. Your question refers to monies from your business. If you are referring to income instead of assets. The monies that your new business is earning reflects your earning capacity and earning potential and would be included in determining child support if children are involved. Your income from the business may also be used in calculating alimony if it is determined that your wife has a need for spousal support and that you have the ability to pay alimony.

Our son was arrested in Worcester for possession of cocaine.

Additional Information:

Our son, a freshman at a Worcester college, was recently arrested while carrying a small amount of cocaine. My wife and I are wondering if we should spend our money (which we can afford) to hire an attorney to defend him in this charge. Is it going to make any difference or will he end up with the same type of plea bargain? Thanks.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

You should hire an attorney for your son.  If your son is convicted of the charge of Possession of Cocaine (a class C substance) it carries a jail sentence.   He may not actually receive a  jail sentence.  He could be placed on criminal probation.  Nevertheless, a criminal conviction could detrimentally effect his chances for obtaining employment in the future as employers may inquire about convictions and check if he has a criminal record.  A conviction would cause him to lose his license to operate a motor vehicle in Massachusetts for 1 year or more.  Clients with attorneys almost always come back with better results than if they represent themselves.

Can a judge order my husband to sell his stock?

Additional Information:

We are currently 3 months behind on our mortgage payments and have been separated for 6 months. My husband is refusing to cash in $70K in stock to help pay the monthly mortgage. Can a judge order him to sell his stock?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

A judge may order your husband to pay the mortgage in divorce proceedings by liquidating the stock. This may be done as a temporary measure to preserve the equity in the marital real estate. More information is needed to see whether a judge would do this. For example, if the home is worth less than what you owe on the mortgage, a more practical solution may be to have a short sale for the real estate. This would preserve the stock with a positive value for division. Alternatively, if the real estate has equity that could be lost to foreclosure, liquidating the stock to pay the mortgage makes sense if there is no other asset to liquidate, or source of income available, to pay the mortgage. You need to consult with an attorney to develop a strategy that works best for you.

What are the guidelines for divorce in Massachusetts?

Additional Information:
I left my husband in 1997 and we have been separated since. Do I still have to file for divorce after so many years?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:
You still must file for a divorce. You may file for a divorce based on an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. This is also known as a “no fault” divorce. You may also file for a grounds based divorce depending on specific reasons pertaining to your personal circumstances such as cruel and abusive treatment, abandonment, gross intoxication, imprisonment or adultery. You need to speak with an attorney to discuss your case in more detail.