Get the Facts About Parental Rights, Paternity Testing, and Child Support

As far as the Massachusetts courts are concerned, both mothers and fathers have legal rights and obligations when it comes to children. However, a child born to unmarried parents doesn’t automatically have a legal father. The mother is given sole legal and physical custody until paternity is established. For married couples, the husband is presumed to be the biological father and is responsible for financial obligations. As a presumed father, if you believe you are not the biological father, meeting with an attorney to rebut presumed paternity is a time-sensitive matter and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. In order for an unmarried biological father to be determined to be the father of a child, paternity must be acknowledged. This can be done in writing if both parents sign a form known as a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage.” In many cases, this form is signed at the child’s birth. If the biological father is not present at the birth or unaware of the child’s existence, paternity testing may be required to establish parental rights or enforce obligations later on. DNA Testing The legal process used by the court to determine paternity is called genetic marker tests. These are simple medical tests to show paternal biological relationships. Two types of tests can be performed, a cotton swab with DNA from the mouth or a blood test. Samples are taken from the child, the biological mother, and the father in question. The tests are considered very accurate when it comes to

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If my ex purchased our marital home before we were married, can I request the house as part of my divorce settlement?

In an ideal situation, you’d work with your ex to divide up assets fairly. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Many couples hire attorneys to negotiate divorce terms on their behalf. Some couples even go to court and ask a judge to divide the marital estate. So the simple answer is yes, you can request the marital home as part of your divorce settlement. A property owned by one spouse at the time of the marriage can become considered marital property by the court and be subject to division as part of the marital estate.  The court may consider factors that include both spouses paying the mortgage or other expenses, or contributing toward significant improvements to the property. Divorcing couples may request specific assets during the division of property, but that doesn’t mean their request will be awarded. Massachusetts law requires the division of property in a divorce to be equitable. This means property division must be fair, though not necessarily equal. Massachusetts law allows a judge to divide all property regardless of when it was acquired or which spouse actually owns it. When dividing assets, such as property, a judge will consider the length of the marriage, the present and future needs of any dependent children, each spouse’s income and contribution, and much more. Monetary value will be assigned to the house, along with other assets for a judge to consider. Many couples opt to sell property in order to divide their assets, however, if one spouse wishes to keep the house, they may choose to forfeit other assets

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Co-parenting in the Face of Coronavirus

Amid the spread of COVID-19, we are all facing unprecedented times. As this pandemic continues, regulations regarding safe practices change daily. One thing on the mind of parents sharing custody is whether or not their court order is enforceable. Rest assured, custody, visitation, and placement are in effect and continue to be enforceable during this period of time. Court-ordered arrangements remain obligatory and should be followed accordingly. Any parent planning to use the pandemic as a reason to deny access to another parent can expect the courts to come down hard on parent agreement violations. Many judges view time of crisis to be particularly critical times for children to maintain some form of normality. In cases where parents are willing to work together, they should consider the following: which parent has better resources for the child to complete distance learning, if one parent has a high-risk job, the health of family members, social distancing rules, etc. In the unfortunate event that a parent is required to self-quarantine or is restricted from having contact with others, efforts should be made to allow for parenting time by video conference or telephone. A critical aspect of co-parenting that may be affected is where the exchange of children takes place. For some parents, the changeover occurs at school. However, if the school is no longer in session, a new location and time will need to be agreed upon. If the exchange is not possible from someone’s home, it’s suggested to find a public place

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Alimony Modification

Representing the Husband.  Defending against an increase in alimony.  The parties with three children were divorced after 23 years of marriage.  The Husband re-married.    Some years later, upon emancipation of the youngest child, the child support ceased and the Wife commenced receiving a fixed amount of alimony pursuant to the terms of the divorce judgment.  Thereafter, she filed a Complaint for Modification seeking an increase in alimony claiming that Husband’s income had increased substantially since the divorce.   Husband’s income had increased substantially from $2700.00 weekly to $6300.00 weekly, however, Wife’s income had increased as well, and her financial circumstances improved.   The matter proceeded to trial.  After trial, the court found that Wife’s expenses were inflated and that her income far exceeded the expenses required to maintain the modest lifestyle enjoyed by the parties during the marriage.  Wife’s counsel was repeatedly prevented over objection by Husband’s counsel from introducing evidence and testimony during the course of trial.  Wife’s complaint for modification was dismissed based upon a lack of material or substantial change in circumstances.

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Motion to Vacate Restraining Order

Representing the defendant.  The defendant was alleged to have assaulted and threatened a relative with physical harm resulting in the issuance of a 1 year restraining order.  Defendant was not represented by counsel.  Defendant retained our office.  A motion to vacate the restraining order with extensive memorandum and supporting case law, was filed and allowed, resulting in the restraining order being vacated.

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Underemployed Husband At Time Of Divorce

Representing the Wife.   The parties were married for over 22 years at the commencement of the action and had two children, ages 15 and 11, with special needs.  The matter was tried.  The court found that the Husband dissipated marital assets including retirement funds and was underemployed at the time of the divorce.  The Husband demonstrated little if any interest in the children.  The Wife received a substantially greater share of the marital estate and was granted sole legal and physical custody of the minor children, after trial.

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Prenuptial Agreements: What They Are And Who Needs One

Prenuptial agreements might have a bad reputation from tabloid accounts of celebrity divorces, but these important legal arrangements are for more than the rich and famous. Nor are prenuptial agreements a statement that a couple plans to divorce or otherwise wants an exit strategy. When done right, a prenuptial agreement can help a couple take stock of their assets and set the stage for efficient and open communication about joint finances, thus strengthening the marriage. In essence, a prenuptial agreement enumerates one or both of the partners’ assets and stipulates which of these assets will not become jointly held upon marriage but instead remain individual property. While one of the most common reasons, and the most notorious in pop culture, is to protect an individual’s assets in case of divorce. This is especially important when a couple’s assets are imbalanced; if one partner makes or owns ten times the other’s worth, the assumption of each partner being entitled to half the property at divorce is not fair. Prenuptial agreements, however, have many other uses and can serve the needs of many kinds of people. For instance, a prenuptial agreement can protect one spouse’s assets from the other’s liability. For example, if a woman is a doctor, and her husband owns his own business, they may have a prenuptial agreement as part of an asset protection plan. If the wife is sued for malpractice, her husband’s business is not counted as part of her property, limiting her potential payout amount and

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Motion to Dismiss Husband’s Complaint for Modification of Custody

Representing former Wife.  Husband filed action concerning care and custody of minor child three years earlier.   Wife previously moved out of state with court permission.   Father failed to prosecute action.  Mother filed a motion to dismiss Father’s complaint under the Massachusetts Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (Chapter 209B §7) and Forum non conveniens (M.G.L. Chapter 223A § 5).   Mother alleged that the action was no longer properly before the Massachusetts, despite having been brought at a time when the parties were living in Massachusetts.  Mother alleged that such an action should proceed in the child’s home state.  The court agreed and the matter was dismissed.

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