Massachusetts Cases Provides Guidance for Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Divorces

Massachusetts was a leader in its early recognition of same-sex marriages. Logic dictates that the Commonwealth will also have more experience with same-sex divorce and family law matters, including child custody and support issues in cases involving the dissolution of a same-sex marriage. Three Massachusetts cases do, in fact, reflect that experience.In a 2006 same-sex divorce case (A.H. v M.P., 447 Mass. 828), one partner never adopted the child of her partner, although she was well aware of the importance of pursuing a formal adoption. Her former partner was the child’s primary caregiver. The court determined that she had no legal right to parenting time and had no support obligations as a “de facto” parent. The result in this case indicates how critical it is for one partner in a same-sex marriage to adopt the other partner’s biological child if the first partner desires to continue to have a parental relationship with that child in the event of a dissolution of a marriage.

A Massachusetts court had previously considered the rights and responsibilities of a “de facto” parent. In a 1999 case (E.N.O. v. L.L.M., 429 Mass. 824), the court determined that an adult who has no biological relation to a child, but who has participated in the child’s life as a member of his family, may be entitled to parenting time and visitation rights following dissolution of the relationship. The “de facto” parenting standard is thus a function of the facts of each specific case. A same-sex parent who does not actively participate in a child’s upbringing while a marriage is intact will have little opportunity to continue any relationship with that child after the marriage dissolves.

A more positive result came in a 2012 case (Della Corte v. Ramirez, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 906), in which the court verified that a child born within a same-sex marriage is the legitimate child of both partners. At least under Massachusetts law, adoption is not required to confer legal parentage on the non-biological parent. Other states might treat this situation differently, however, and formal adoption is still a failsafe approach to ensure both partners’ rights to a legal parental relationship with a child.

Child custody and support issues in dissolutions of same-sex marriages will likely evolve over the next several years. Partners who expect to have a continuing relationship with their children in the event of a divorce should not assume, however, that the law will favor their rights. The best course of action is to consult with an experienced family law attorney to verify that both partners’ parental rights are in their strongest position early in the relationship. If you have questions about child custody in a same-sex divorce, please call our office to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

[Read more…]

Ways to Discover Hidden Assets During a Divorce

Despite complications to the marriage, most people enter the divorce process believing their soon to be ex-spouse is an honest person. However, this is not always the situation. The fact is, dishonesty is a common reason for seeking a divorce. Regardless, even if you have no reason to suspect your former partner is a liar, there is still good cause to be curious and concerned about their finances heading into a divorce.

Once a divorce begins, many people will do whatever it takes to conceal and hold on to what they believe is their money. Moreover, some will even create secret accounts, or perform other financial actions, during the course of the whole marriage. Discovering these hidden assets, during a divorce, is the only way to ensure you receive a fair settlement.

You should never rely entirely on your spouse’s financial affidavit. The good news is an experienced divorce attorney has many tools at their disposal often including a forensic accountant or other investigators and can uncover most everything during the discovery process. [Read more…]

Child Custody Laws in Massachusetts – What You Need To Know.

Divorce is described as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Add children to the mix, coupled with questions of custody, support, and visitation, and emotions and stress can reach a breaking point. Wading through this difficult time calls for the help of a professional such as a divorce & family law attorney who also understands laws specific to Massachusetts.

Before you meet with an attorney, here are few pieces of information about child custody in Massachusetts that you’ll need to know in order to develop questions pertaining to your situation.

Two primary forms of child custody in Massachusetts

Physical custody determines where a child will live during certain periods of time.

Legal custody determines which parent has authority to make major decisions as in the doctor the child sees, the school the child attends, and even in which faith to raise the child. [Read more…]

The Best Interests of the Child in a Divorce

When you’re going through the divorce process and managing the child support and custody issues, you’ll hear the term “best interests of the child.” Generally, the court will consider the new family lifestyle after a divorce and where the court feels the child will best be able to adapt to the new changes. It is possible for you and your spouse to ease into your new family dynamic in order to make the transition easier on your child.

Amicable Relationship

In order for you and your spouse to best help your child through the divorce process, they should maintain an amicable relationship. While that may not be easy, especially at first, this is beneficial in helping your child’s transition into this new way of life. It’s best to avoid contentious debates about visitation, child support, visitation and other child-rearing issues. [Read more…]

What Can Be Modified in a Divorce Agreement

Having the provisions of a divorce agreement modified under Massachusetts law is possible, based on how the separation agreement was written and the circumstances bringing about the request for a modification. Before bringing your modification request to the court, you need to consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

The first thing to realize is that there must be a material change in circumstances to request a modification, such as an employment change, a significant change of residence, or change in income. These changes can affect custody agreements and spousal and child support.

When drafting a separation agreement, there are two types of provisions addressed in the agreement: surviving and merging. Merging provisions are open to modification. Merging provisions are generally child specific issues like custody arrangements, support, and health insurance. Sometimes alimony can be a merging provision. Surviving provisions are generally not open to modification. An example of surviving provision is the division of property. [Read more…]

Divorce Mediation- An Effective Way To Move Forward

Mediation is a popular option for couples in Massachusetts when they have decided to divorce.

A couple who has agreed that their marriage has reached a point of “irretrievable breakdown” according to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208, due to no particular fault of either party, may want to seriously consider mediation. This is a “no fault” divorce in Massachusetts. A contested divorce is expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Mediation is often more affordable and takes less time than a contested, litigated divorce.

Sitting down with a trained and experienced mediator, often an attorney, provides the divorcing couple an opportunity to develop a fair and equitable memorandum of understanding covering all of the requirements of ending their marriage contract and dividing their assets. Mediators are able to help agreeable couples through simple or complex financial situations including child support and child custody agreements. [Read more…]

Divorce and The Length of Your Marriage

When considering divorce, there are many things to consider like property division, child custody, alimony and more, but one important consideration that many couples overlook is the date. In Massachusetts the amount of time you were married might matter in a variety of ways. Here are just a few examples:

Dividing Assets

Figuring out exactly when a marriage is over can be complicated as some states look at the date of separation, but Massachusetts courts generally refer to the date of divorce. Assets acquired during the marriage through the date of divorce are joint property, so a bonus one spouse receives at a job might be divisible between both parties if it was earned before the date of divorce. [Read more…]

Divorce in Massachusetts: How to Get Started

Deciding to end a marriage is a difficult and stressful decision. But, the decision is only the first step in ending a marriage. Once you have decided that divorce is best for you and your spouse, the next step is finding an attorney. A law firm well-versed in Massachusetts law pertaining to divorce can help make the dissolution of your marriage as painless and smooth as possible.

When you begin looking for representation, it is important that you understand exactly what your needs are to choose an attorney best-suited for your situation. Below are a few basic things you should look for in a divorce attorney. [Read more…]

The Massachusetts Divorce Process

No one enters a marriage with the idea that it is going to end in divorce. However, for many couples a divorce is the only solution for an unhappy situation.

If you’re considering filing for divorce in Massachusetts, make sure you understand the two types of dissolutions available to you.

Uncontested Massachusetts Divorce

In an uncontested divorce (sometimes referred to as 1A) you and your spouse file a joint petition for divorce along with a separation agreement.

The separation agreement, usually drafted with the assistance of an attorney, reviews the equitable division of property, assets, debt, businesses, and inheritances, and clarifies issues surrounding child custody and support.

Additionally, where there are minor children involved, the parents must attend a parenting class.

The court may request other documents as well. These may include a financial statement, the marriage certificate, and written statements about the reason for dissolution. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Child Custody and Visitation Laws

Divorce is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements for children. In Massachusetts, the top priority of the courts is to determine arrangements that are “in the best interests of the child”, but that may not always be as straightforward as it seems. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead, the assistance of an experienced family law attorney/mediator will help.

Massachusetts recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody and sole physical custody. When a couple files for divorce, the court will issue temporary orders regarding custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. During what can be contentious times, differing ideas about many aspects concerning the child including schooling and or religious upbringing of children may surface. Having an experienced family law attorney/mediator can make sure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law. [Read more…]