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family law

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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Mistakes to Avoid During Alimony Negotiations

As a Massachusetts resident going through a divorce, you’re not alone. No matter your reason for divorce, one of the most contentious issues that arise in any divorce is the subject of alimony. Alimony payments—also known in some states as “spousal support” or “maintenance” is the legal obligation that a supporting spouse pay to the supported spouse. Massachusetts courts generally award alimony to the lower-earning spouse so that spouse can maintain a reasonable standard of living during and after divorce. In the commonwealth of Massachusetts, several types of alimony can be awarded. They are called rehabilitative, reimbursement, transitional, and general alimony. When a spouse is in need of additional education or job training to become financially independent, rehabilitative alimony can be awarded for up to five years. Reimbursement alimony may be ordered as compensation to a spouse who financially supported the family while completing an education or job training during the marriage. For short-term marriages, those lasting less than five years, the court may award transitional alimony to help the recipient spouse adjust to a new lifestyle or location. General alimony may be ordered by the court, depending on the length of your marriage. More times than not, one spouse will have to pay the other a set amount of money, at least temporarily. Both parties should be aware of the following mistakes. Mistake #1 Many people are under the false assumption that if they spend a lot of money before going to court, they will have to pay less.

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Is it legal to videotape my spouse behaving badly (verbal or physical abuse, infidelity, etc) as evidence in a divorce case?

As thoughts turn towards divorce, tempers can flare and people may behave in ways they normally would not be proud of, even in a relatively amicable situation. Of course, the bad behavior of a spouse—ranging from neglect of household duties to infidelity to abusive actions—may well have begun long before the divorce, and may well be the reason for it. In seeking a favorable divorce settlement, one that compensates you for violations of the marriage contract and shields you from your spouse’s ongoing bad behavior, you will want to have evidence to bolster your claims. In a world of smart phones, where everyone has both a video camera and a broadcasting station in their pockets, you may be tempted to record your spouse’s bad behavior. In a word: don’t. Massachusetts laws on recording interactions between persons are possibly the strictest in the nation. While many states have “two-party consent” laws, meaning that both (or all) people on a recording must know they are being recorded and consent to it, the Commonwealth takes it a step further. Recording private conversations falls under Massachusetts statute chapter 272, section 99, also known as the wiretap statute. Explicitly instituted as a measure against organized crime, the statute is of theoretical interest to law students because it addresses both police and civilian conduct with regard to recording in the same law. For civilians, there is an explicit ban on recording wire communications (i.e. phone conversations) and a ban on any audio recording by other means

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What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?

Courts primarily base their decision on what is in the child’s best interest, using the Child’s Best Interest Standard. Factors vary from state to state, but the overall goal is to make a decision that promotes the health and wellbeing of the child. Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement on matters of child custody and visitation to submit to the court. However, if the judge finds the settlement agreement is not in the child’s best interest, it can be rejected. Courts will generally determine the stability of each parent’s home environment and their interest and commitment to caring for the child. Other factors include the health of each parent, both physical and mental; the special needs of the child, if any; the child’s own wishes if they are old enough to say so; whether there is evidence of illicit drug use, or drug/alcohol abuse; and adjustment to the community, such as where they go to school, proximity to other caretakers, etc. In Massachusetts, the best interests of the child are the overriding guiding principle for judges making custody decisions. State law also says that the child’s “happiness and welfare” are paramount and that the parents’ rights are equal unless a parent has been found to be currently unfit. Child custody cases can be complicated and always require extensive knowledge of family law. When facing a child custody issue, you will probably have several questions. Please call our office for experienced advice regarding your family law concerns.

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What is the difference between a fault and no-fault divorce?

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the grounds for divorce depends on whether you decide on a no-fault or fault divorce. A no-fault divorce does not require parties to prove blame for the breakdown of the marriage. Either or both parties can file to begin the process for a no-fault divorce merely pleading that the marriage is beyond repair, and it is time to move on. The ground for this action is “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. A fault divorce is more involved. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you have the option of filing for divorce and claiming one person is to blame for the failure of the marriage. Common grounds for a fault divorce include cruelty and abuse, desertion for one year or more, adultery, impotence, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, failure to provide support or maintenance, and sentences of five years or more in a penal institution. Proving a fault divorce can be difficult. It is recommended the accusing party have solid proof of any fault grounds. Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any divorce action to understand your options. Contact our office to have your questions answered today.

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