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 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…]

Massachusetts Law Regarding Domestic Violence

In the state of Massachusetts, domestic violence laws include physical harm or the intent to physically harm, the infliction of fear of physical harm, and involuntary sexual relationship against a family or other household member. This crime is especially serious if the victim was violated by the suspect while a protective order was in place.

Definition of a household member:

• people who are or have once been married
• individuals that have children together
• individuals that are related through marriage or by blood
• individuals who live together are have lived together, such as roommates

Assault can range from actual physical harm or the intent to commit physical harm against another individual. This means that even a serious threat to commit physical harm can be considered assault. Simple assault is in itself a crime, but in Massachusetts, assault against a family or household member is considered a much more serious offense. [Read more…]

Alternatives to Massachusetts Family Court

Family law disputes such as divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal support are often emotional and can be stressful. When two parties cannot agree, they may believe taking their case to court is the only option. However, litigation is expensive and can be a very lengthy process. Additionally, the courtroom environment empowers the judge to make decisions instead of allowing the two parties involved to decide what is best.

There are viable alternatives to litigation and these options often allow the parties involved to determine what works best. Consider these effective alternatives.

1.    Use a Mediator. Mediation is a productive way for each party to discuss, debate and decide for themselves the issues that are important to them, including child custody, financial support and property division. A professional mediator is a neutral facilitator. Through a series of meetings, the mediator will draft a document outlining what was agreed upon. That document will then be submitted to the court for approval. It is not a legally binding document until approved by a judge. Since a mediator cannot give legal advice, it’s often recommended that both parties consult an attorney to discuss their individual rights and the consequences of certain decisions within the agreement drafted by the mediator.  [Read more…]

Understanding the Annulment Process in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, anyone who is no longer happy in their marriage can get a divorce for just about any reason. However, there are some cases where the marriage should not be legally recognized in the first place. In these situations, an annulment may be the best option. Understanding the annulment process in Massachusetts can help determine if this is an option for you to consider.

Who Qualifies
In general terms, couples qualify for an annulment in Massachusetts based on social or religious reasons. Some of the most common reasons for granting an annulment over a divorce include:

  • Marrying a close relative.
  • Fraud.
  • Impotence in one party.
  • Mental incompetence.
  • Presence of a hidden contagious disease.
  • One party is already married.
  • One party is underage and unable to consent.
  • Coercion.