family law

Can my 14-year-old decide to live with my ex?

As a divorcing parent battling over custody, there is always the fear that your child will decide they would rather live with the other parent. Even once custody has been determined, parents worry as children get older, they will want to move in with the other parent. Rest assured that minor children can’t make legal decisions, such as where they want to live. It is a common misconception that once a child reaches a certain age, they can decide which parent to live with. In truth, those responsible for determining custody are the parents or a judge if the parents can’t agree. Any child under the age of 18 does not have the final say in where they will live. While a judge may consider an older child’s wishes, a child’s opinion is only one factor. Ultimately a judge will be guided by what is in the best interest of the children involved. Some factors considered may include: each parent’s preference each parent’s ability to provide the child with food, clothing, and a safe home the health and mental wellness of each parent and the child adverse effects a child’s present or past living conditions may have had on the child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health When determining custody, neither parent begins with any greater right to custody than the other. The final decision is guided by the children’s welfare and happiness. Minor children cannot override an agreement made between parents or by a judge.

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Get a Grip on Legal Jargon: Divorce Terms Explained

When facing divorce, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the legal jargon used throughout the process. Add this frustration to the mounting stress and heightened emotion, and you may be left making poor decisions. While our firm is here to help guide you through the process and answer any questions you have, this guide can help clarify some of the legal jargon you may encounter. Types of Divorce Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage This cause for divorce stipulates that neither party is at fault and that both spouses agree that their marriage is broken. No-Fault Divorce vs. Fault In Massachusetts, a spouse can seek a “no-fault” divorce or a “fault” divorce. A no-fault divorce is filed when there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This type of divorce is generally a more straightforward process. A fault divorce, on the other hand, can be filed when one party feels the other is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Massachusetts law recognizes several reasons for an at-fault divorce, such as adultery, desertion, and cruel and abusive treatment, to name a few. Common Forms Used in Divorce Proceedings Complaint for Divorce The first form filed to begin a civil case through the court is called a complaint. This form indicates the reason for starting a claim, and the person filing is referred to as the plaintiff. Answer Following the filing of a complaint, the other spouse becomes the defendant. The defendant-spouse can file a response to the divorce complaint, which

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Out of State Child Support Modification

Child Support and Out-of-State Issues Whether one parent is living just over the Massachusetts border in New Hampshire but still commutes to Boston every day, or whether the one parent is living on the West Coast while the children live with the other on the South Shore, issues of state jurisdiction may come into play when seeking to modify a Massachusetts child support agreement. Changing Circumstances, Modifying Orders In Massachusetts, child support is governed either by temporary orders or by final judgments. Temporary orders govern the terms of child support while there is still open legal action in process to establish a final judgement. The term “final judgment” is something of a misnomer. “Final” does not mean that the judgement can never be altered again. A child support final judgment may be renegotiated in the future. This can be done with the agreement of both parents, or one parent may file a complaint for modification if certain conditions are met. The conditions under which one parent can file a complaint for modification to a child support final judgement include: • Changes to the gross income of either or both parents • Unavailability of previously ordered health coverage, either because of job loss or unduly burdensome cost increases • New availability of health care coverage through a parent • Any other material and substantial change in circumstances What to Do When One Parent Lives in a Different State When one parent lives out of state, modifying and enforcing a child support judgment

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Divorce When Only One Partner Lives in Massachusetts

Many married couples live separately, even across state lines, for reasons which have nothing to do with the health of their marriage. However, when living across state lines from each other, couples may find their marriage at a crossroads and begin considering divorce. Perhaps distance has created serious problem in the relationship or laid bare preexisting problems. Perhaps one partner has moved away, even across state lines, as part of a trial separation. Or perhaps a history of domestic violence and a need for safety has compelled one spouse to put considerable distance between his or her person and the other spouse. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life, some people may find themselves stymied by closed courts, recommendations against travel, and derailed moving plans. Many are wondering how to file for divorce in Massachusetts. Whatever the circumstances that have led to divorce, if one member of a couple lives in Massachusetts and the other does not, there are certain requirements that need to be met before filing for divorce. Divorce in Massachusetts: An Overview First, it is helpful to review the types of divorce available in Massachusetts, as these rules can have an impact on whether a spouse is able to file for divorce in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, divorce may be either uncontested or contested: In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree to a divorce and work out the terms before filing for divorce. This type of divorce is always no-fault (See below for the discussion of fault)

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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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My Kids Hate the Custody Arrangement – What Can I Do to Make Their Voices Heard?

Even in the best of circumstances, divorce can be difficult for children. Children are often resistant to change: adapting to new schedules and surroundings, learning to live with one parent at a time, and getting along with possible new stepsiblings or half-siblings are all big changes, ones which can challenge a child’s developing social skills and coping mechanisms. However, many, if not most, children with divorced parents eventually adapt and thrive, growing into healthy and well-adjusted adults. There are cases, however, where a child’s discomfort with a custody arrangement goes beyond natural resistance to change, beyond the fairly standard complaints of “I don’t like it here” or “I like dad’s house better.” Perhaps there is serious, ongoing, and frequent conflict between the child and one of the custodial parents, a conflict that makes living with that parent a deeply anxious situation for the child. Perhaps the conflict is with a stepparent or stepsibling and a child’s grades are dropping as a result of the distress. Conflict and negative situations are not the only reason to consider modifying a custody agreement, however. Perhaps, at the other end of the spectrum, a mom can now spend more time with her children because of a promotion that allows her more control over her schedule. Or perhaps a ten-year-old custody agreement no longer works for a fledgling teenager because she prefers to live at her mom’s house as it is considerably closer to her new high school than dad’s, allowing her to participate in

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Common Myths in Massachusetts Family Law Every Parent Should Know

When it comes to divorcing and family law, things get complicated quickly. It’s essential to know your rights regarding your children. Presented here are some common myths every parent should be made aware of during divorce or custody proceedings. Myth: A parent’s failure to pay child support can result in the parent being kept from seeing the children Only a judge can determine visitation rights. If a parent fails to pay child support, the other parent is not automatically given the right to withhold visitation. The Court’s orders for visitation cannot be ignored simply because the child support account is two months or even two years delinquent. Myth: If a parent doesn’t agree with the court orders, they can move the kids out of state Once an action involving custody of children (divorce, domestic abuse, guardianship, etc.) is filed in Massachusetts, neither party can remove a child from the state without permission from the other parent or a judge. This act of moving a child out of state without permission can result in criminal charges. A modification with a compelling reason to move with the children, such as once-in-a-lifetime education, family, or work opportunity, must be filed to remove children from the state legally. Myth: He/She cheated on me, so I should get everything Infidelity is grounds for divorce in Massachusetts, however, in a divorce, a judge must consider many factors in making a decision, including all conduct of the parties during the entire marriage, good and bad. It is

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How to Get a Protective Order Against an Abusive Partner or Spouse

Domestic abuse is a serious and even life-threatening situation—and there are legal remedies to help survivors protect themselves, their children, and their property as they make the brave decision to escape an abusive situation and begin moving forward with their lives. One of the most important tools available to victims of domestic abuse is the restraining order. In Massachusetts, a restraining order is known as a an “Abuse Prevention Order” or a “209A Order.” This name refers to Chapter 209A of the Massachusetts legal code, entitled the Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Act, which defines domestic abuse. According to Chapter 209A, domestic abuse may be: 1. Physical violence 2. Attempts to harm with physical violence 3. Causing another person credible fear of serious harm 4. Coercing another person into sexual relations through physical force, the threat of force, or duress Acts of physical violence are themselves criminal offenses subject to prosecution in Massachusetts. While emotional and verbal abuse are not defined as crimes under Massachusetts law, they are recognized as common features of abusive situations and relationships. Financial abuse—the withholding of or control over a partner’s financial or material resources—is another feature of abusive situations. A 209A protective order may be filed for at any Massachusetts court—superior, general, or probate and family. A protective order can require an abuser to cease abusive behavior, to avoid all contact with the protected party, to vacate a shared household, and/or to surrender firearms licenses and weapons. As mentioned above, probate and family courts can award

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