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Drug and alcohol testing requirements in child custody agreements

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that over 24 million people are married to an alcoholic or drug addict. Many of these marriages, not surprisingly, cannot endure a spouse’s substance abuse. It’s estimated to be the cause of more than 7 percent of all divorces. When a couple has children, it’s essential to take steps during your divorce to ensure your children’s safety. Of course, in many cases, it’s preferable for children to maintain some type of relationship with the parent who’s an addict or alcoholic. Therefore, specific protections need to be included in the custody and visitation agreements to ensure that your children are not endangered emotionally or physically by that parent. A crucial element of any agreement involving an alcoholic or addict is mandated participation in a drug and alcohol testing program. A well-designed program can help reduce the chances of your ex drinking or using drugs when he or she is with the children. Companies like Health Street have testing programs specifically designed for custody and visitation agreements. The agreement can be written in any number of ways. It can mandate that the parent be tested prior to, during and/or after any visitations with the children. Results can be reported to the two parents, the attorneys, and/or the court. The agreement should also designate what can happen if a parent tests positive. He or she could lose visitation rights or potentially all parental rights if a pattern of continued use is found. Your

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Why you should hold off on romance until your divorce is final

Many people going through a divorce can’t even think about the possibility of dating again. However, what if you meet the person you truly believe could be the new love of your life? Even if you’re emotionally ready to become involved in a new relationship, doing so could harm your divorce and custody negotiations. If you begin a new relationship, your estranged spouse could become more difficult to deal with. Even if he or she too is seeing someone else, people’s feelings on these matters aren’t always rational. You’re risking making your negotiations regarding property division and spousal support more difficult. Speaking of spousal support, if you begin living with someone, you won’t be entitled to any. Even if you just have an occasional sleepover, why give your ex reason to argue that you and your new love are cohabitating? It’s important to know that Massachusetts maintains some of its puritanical laws from centuries past. Although it’s rarely prosecuted, adultery is considered a felony here. If you’re seeking a lump-sum settlement rather than payments over time, your spouse may be less willing to go along with that plan if he or she thinks that you’ll soon be cohabitating or remarrying. If you have kids, getting into a new relationship, or even casual dating, soon after a separation can be distressing and confusing for them. They need their parents now more than ever (even if they tell you otherwise). While it’s important to be personally happy and fulfilled, your focus should

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What courts consider marital property

Massachusetts law provides some specific guidelines for the court’s consideration regarding property division in a divorce proceeding. Since Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, the court is charged with facilitating a settlement that is deemed fair to both parties. This approach differs from a community property division in that “fair” may not necessarily mean “equal.” When a mutually satisfactory division of assets cannot be reached in a divorce proceeding, the court first must determine what assets and debts are to be considered marital property. It must then proceed with an appropriate valuation of that property. Once the property is valued, the court then issues a ruling setting forth a division of property deemed to be equitable. Several factors must be considered by the court in its decision. These factors are defined by Massachusetts statutes, including the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station and occupation of the parties, the amounts and sources of income, vocational skills and future earning capacities, employability, estate, the liabilities and needs of each party and the amount and duration of any alimony awarded. Additionally, the present and future needs of dependent children must be considered. The court may also consider each party’s contributions with regard to the respective estates, the contributions of each party as homemaker and other specific considerations such as health coverage. The stress of a divorce proceeding can be considerable. Seeking the advice of family law attorney, David M. Gabriel and Associates may

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Social media rants may affect alimony and child support

Social media, Facebook in particular, has become an integrated part of the lives of many Massachusetts residents. Some of us have become so accustomed to sharing our lives online that we update and post almost automatically, with very little thought given to what could happen to that information once it is out of our hands. However, when it comes to issues surrounding one’s divorce, posting is not the best policy, and can actually have serious ramifications for issues such as child support and alimony. Even if you think that your former partner does not or cannot see your Facebook activity, this is not the place to air your grievances about the marriage or divorce. If you make comments online that can be proven false, such as claiming that your ex is not meeting his or her child support obligations, the other party can sue you for libel. Also consider the long-term ramifications; if you post negative things about the other spouse and he or she loses a job because of it, their ability to pay child support or alimony could be severely limited, and they could approach the court to ask for a reduced amount. Another thing to remember is that Facebook is forever. What you write, can almost always be recovered and brought to the attention of a court, even if you have erased it from your news feed. That heightens the risk that a child may one day read the negative things you said about the other parent.

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Divorcing individuals in Massachusetts should examine their finances

Because couples in Massachusetts are not immune to potentially going through divorce, it is important to understand what separation could mean if such a decision is made. Financial needs will differ after a couple separates, and there will be many agreements that will need to be made in terms of alimony and other aspects. As a result, it is important for parties to understand their financial situation before divorce takes place. Bank accounts are one area that should be noted before separation. This examination will allow a party to understand how much money is in those accounts and what division of those funds could mean for their situation. If divorce has been decided upon, opening a bank account that is not shared with the other party is a wise step. Examining the debt that could be taken on after divorce is also an action that an individual may wish to carry out. Attempting to diffuse any accumulated debt before the separation would be ideal. However, many individuals know that it is not always easy to repay balances quickly, and therefore, preparing a payment plan for after divorce could be beneficial. Financial needs are important to assess at any time, but it can make a considerable difference when divorce is on the horizon. Understanding the current state of finances will help prepare for the future and how those funds will be impacted by alimony, child support and property division. Having the right information on such issues can play a role in

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Complex asset distribution in a divorce

If you have brought considerable assets into your marriage, or your marriage has lasted long enough for you to accumulate substantial wealth and material possessions, the ending of the marriage by divorce can be an even more stress-filled endeavor than it is ordinarily. It is not just accurately assessing the dollar value that can be problematic; you can also have a contentious experience with your soon-to-be ex-spouse as to who is entitled to what. You may have a nice home, considerable liquid assets in a variety of accounts, a substantial investment portfolio, real estate holdings other than your home, pensions and other retirement accounts, and so on. If you have worked closely with an accountant to protect your assets, you might also have structured your holdings to minimize your tax consequences, but in an asset division this can add to your potential headaches. Helping our clients to understand equitable distribution in Massachusetts, particularly with high-value assets on the line, is something that we at David M. Gabriel & Associates have extensive experience with. We can help you to carefully assess each asset’s actual value, and to navigate specific circumstances like assets connected to a business or properly determining whether an asset is a marital or a separate one. Your divorce may be amicable, but complex asset division can still become a source of friction when it comes to reaching a fair settlement. You will want a law firm to represent you that diligently represents your interests. To learn more about

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Financial planning during separation is essential

While finances are an integral part of most divorce settlements, the process of divorce can take some time. Meanwhile, if you and your spouse are living apart, your finances are in limbo. This includes everything from joint bank accounts to mortgage payments and other household expenses to your kids’ needs. Even if you and your estranged spouse are getting along well enough to work out these things between yourselves, it’s a good idea to have your Massachusetts family law attorney help you work out a formal agreement — particularly if only one person is the wage earner or has a significantly higher income than the other. That way you have some assurance that necessary expenses will be covered even if the divorce turns rancorous. This agreement can also help as you determine what type of settlement to seek in the divorce. This involves some budget planning. If you’re going to be living separately during the divorce proceedings, as most people do, you each need to create separate budgets to cover your housing, food and utilities. Unfortunately, some couples need to stay together under one roof for a while because they simply can’t afford two households. However, if that situation is untenable, it’s best to work out a way to manage two homes, even if it means cutting back on other spending. It’s best to start separating your bank accounts as well as your credit cards and other debt. As long as your name is on a credit card, he or

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How do you know if it’s time to find a new therapist?

If you seek the help of a therapist while going through a divorce, it can make a significant difference in how successful you are in moving on with your life. However, not all therapists, no matter how prestigious their alma maters and how many best-selling books they’ve written, are necessarily good at one-on-one counseling. If you’ve never been “in therapy,” it can be hard to know what you should and shouldn’t accept from a therapist. One psychotherapist notes some important “red flags” that people should look out for. — Critical: A good therapist will help you see things about yourself that you should change to have healthier relationships and a happier life. Sometimes that involves a little “tough love.” However, that criticism should never be unkind or insulting. — Self-absorbed: While some therapists will share their own experiences if they believe it’s helpful to their patients, that should be done sparingly. You’re not paying to hear about their lives. Your sessions should focus on you — not your therapist. — Distracted: You should be the sole focus of your therapist during your session. If your therapist is checking emails, sending texts, taking phone calls or even watching the clock, call him or her out on it. You’re paying for that person’s time and expertise. — Inappropriate: Unfortunately, some therapists don’t understand the appropriate boundaries of their professions. While a hug or comforting pat may be welcome and needed, if your therapist’s physical contact moves beyond that or if he or

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Same-sex couples still face divorce, child custody issues

Two women who was legally married here in Massachusetts in 2009 are now embroiled in a custody dispute as they go through a divorce in Mississippi. It’s a not-uncommon dilemma for gay couples who faced a patchwork of state laws regarding same-sex marriage prior to its national legalization. Same-sex marriage didn’t become legal in Mississippi until the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision. It was still being battled in the courts until the following month. Although all states now have to legally recognize the rights of gay couples to marry, when it comes to getting divorced, particularly when there are children involved, many find themselves in a legal quagmire. The two women who returned to their home state of Mississippi after marrying in Massachusetts have two children — one adopted and one conceived through in vitro fertilization. However, only one of the women is considered the children’s legal parent. The woman who is not listed as the older child’s adoptive mother and is not the birth mother of the younger child says that the couple raised the children together, but now she has no parental rights, even for visitation. The women separated in 2013, before their marriage was recognized in Mississippi. One served the other with divorce papers in the summer of 2015, after their marriage became legally recognized. As with many divorcing couples, the relationship deteriorated into accusations and counter-accusations. However, unlike many custody disputes, one spouse isn’t recognized under the law as a parent of the children involved.

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Many couples don’t talk about retirement funds

When heading to divorce, one of the most important things to do is to list out all of your assets and your spouse’s assets. To know what a fair split of your property will look like, you need to know exactly what property is there. This is something that sounds easy on the outside. Wouldn’t both people naturally know how much money was in the bank, how much was saved for retirement and how much was invested? You hear stories about spouses hiding money, but they seem curious if you assume that couples talk about money and know what should be there. Well, a new study showed that couples don’t actually talk about this as much as you may think. Couples were asked if they knew how much their partner had saved up for retirement. They weren’t even asked to give an exact figure, but just to give a ballpark number — $10,000, for example, or $200,000. In 21 percent of the cases, they simply couldn’t do it. Experts note that there could be a distinct decision not to disclose these amounts. People may feel that financial information is personal and they’re not interested in opening up all aspects of their lives, even after marriage. However, they do admit that, for some couples, the question just never came up and was never addressed. Regardless, though, this shows how difficult property division can be. It doesn’t matter why you don’t know what your partner has; it just matters that you don’t.

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