What to do when your ex refuses to comply with your parenting schedule?

Once you’ve completed the process of going through a divorce, settling on child support, and agreeing to a parenting schedule, you’d think you can finally move forward and start your new life. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

When you’re facing the frustrating reality that your ex simply won’t comply with your legally binding agreements, whether that be alimony payments or a parenting schedule, you have options. Massachusetts residents can file a complaint for contempt to address non-compliance with temporary orders and final judgments.

Understanding the ins and out of contempt proceedings is an essential part of litigation in the Probate and Family Court, which is why working with an attorney is vital. Anyone found violating a court order, such as failing to pay child support, denying parenting time, etc., may be considered to be in contempt of court.

The court can enforce a defendant to comply with the order(s) in violation by filing a contempt order. To begin the process, a Complaint for Contempt must be filed through the Probate and Family Court that issued the order being violated. Next, a court clerk provides a Contempt Summons—a court order that instructs the defendant when they are expected in court. A deputy sheriff or constable will then serve the defendant with the original summons.

The burden of proof in contempt actions falls to the plaintiff. For help understanding your options when your ex, or soon to be ex, fails to comply with a court order, contact our law office today.

Massachusetts Grandparents, Know Your Rights Regarding Visitation and Custody of Your Grandchildren

When it comes to grandparents’ rights, Massachusetts laws can be tricky to navigate. However, grandparents do have financial, visitation, and custody rights under certain circumstances. To utilize such rights, legal assistance might be necessary to help you take action.

Grandparents today are frequently faced with decisions about what is best for their grandchildren under challenging situations. Whether seeking visitation or custody, grandparents can take legal recourse when it is in the best interest of the child/children.

Visitation Rights

Grandparents who are denied visitation with their grandchildren have a legal right to petition the court. However, grandparents are required to prove that such visitation is in the child/children’s best interests.

Under Massachusetts law, grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation if the parents are divorced, living apart with a court-ordered separation, or are deceased. Additionally, if the parents never married, are living apart, and there is a court judgment acknowledging parentage, grandparents can file for visitation rights. Maternal grandparents can also request visitation if the parents were never married, and the father is not recognized as a legal parent.

Visitation may be granted if the grandparents can show it is in the child/children’s best interest, have a prior relationship with the child/children, and denying visitation may be harmful to the child/children’s health, safety, or welfare.

When petitioning the Probate and Family Court for visitation, grandparents are instructed to include a written affidavit. This statement is used to outline the grandparent-grandchild relationship and describe why contact has been changed. The affidavit is also where grandparents can convey to the court how a child’s health, safety, or welfare may be at risk if visitation is not granted.

Getting Custody

Any grandparent who feels the safety and well-being of their grandchildren is at risk has the right to petition for custody. Depending on the status of the parents, there are two different routes for filing a custody request.

Temporary guardianship or permanent custody may be requested through the Probate and Family Court when custody is necessary for a child’s safety. In the event children are orphaned due to the death of their biological parents, the Department of Children and Families steps in to arrange care. Grandparents can present their case to argue they are suitable guardians.

Financial Aid

For grandparents on strict budgets, financial programs offer relief when acting as surrogate parents for their grandchildren. Some options include:

  • food assistance through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for children age five and under.
  • grantee relative benefits at the Department of Transitional Assistance.
  • survivor benefits from Social Security if one or both of the parents are deceased.
  • MassHealth insurance, which also assists in childcare.

If you are struggling with visitation or custody rights as a grandparent, you need a knowledgeable family law attorney to exercise your rights and help you navigate tricky Massachusetts laws. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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 judgements. 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 judgement” is something of a misnomer. “Final” does not mean that the judgement can never be altered again. A child support final judgement 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. [Read more…]

My ex is refusing to pay court-ordered support. What can I do?

When a divorce is finalized, a divorce decree outlines essential information about the court’s decision. A divorce decree is an enforceable order by the court that both parties are legally mandated to follow.

Items outlined can include payment of child support or spousal support, a transfer of property, or specific visitation schedules. Unfortunately, too often, parties neglect or elect to ignore the outlined orders. This can greatly harm the spouse, who is dependent on support. While the penalties to the offending party for these transgressions can be severe, the spouse being affected is required to file a claim to make the court aware of the transgression. [Read more…]

Divorcing During COVID-19

When your relationship is already strained, living under quarantine conditions can quickly shed light on a troubled marriage. Whether you’ve been contemplating divorce for a while or the stress of recent events has become the straw to break the camel’s back, so to speak, our attorneys can help you understand the divorce process and your options.

During these unprecedented times, we are all taking a look at our lives and examining our relationships. Perhaps the tiny cracks in your relationship have turned into irreparable gaping holes. With a newfound outlook on how we see our futures, some couples may decide to part ways.

If you’re among those wondering if you can file for divorce during the covid crisis, the answer is yes. While we do not know when the Court will reopen to petition your divorce officially, we can get the ball rolling. [Read more…]

What is a ‘gray divorce’ and how is it different from the typical divorce?

A ‘gray divorce’ refers to a split that happens between an older husband and wife, often after many years of marriage. The ‘gray’ in ‘gray divorce’ refers to the color of the divorcing couple’s hair. With more and more couples over fifty, or even over sixty-five, choosing to part ways, the phenomenon has also earned the names of ‘silver splitter’ and ‘diamond divorces.’ While it might be unsettling to think that forty years of marriage is no guarantee for many more, it is necessary to think about the particular issues that arise when senior citizens divorce.

Contrary to what the media would have you believe, gray divorces do not typically come about as part of a man’s midlife crisis. Rather, they are an outgrowth of advancements in medicine and changes in society. With people living longer than ever before, it is getting harder to “grin and bear it” in a lackluster marriage, and people are less tied to ideas of how senior citizens “should” spend their retirement.

With children grown and living on their own, gray divorces do not involve acrimonious custody disputes. However, for well-established couples, there will be extra concern for the division of property and alimony awards. With couples approaching retirement, or already retired, issues of income and savings are critical to both parties’ well-being.

If you or someone you love are involved in a ‘gray divorce’ situation, call our office today to speak with skilled family law attorneys about the best course of action.

My soon-to-be-ex-spouse is a bad influence on our children.

How can I get full custody of my children?

A judge will be unlikely to respond to the argument “My ex is a bad influence” or “My ex doesn’t know what is best for the children.” Judges hear these arguments all day, every day, during acrimonious divorce proceedings. What a parent needs to prove the former partner is not a fit parent is plenty of evidence.

The aim of divorce courts in deciding custody arrangements is to further the best interest of the child or children. For young children, this might mean keeping them with their primary caregiver. Otherwise, the court looks for a parent’s involvement with children, ability to provide financially, and ability to provide a stable environment for children. The more involved you are with your children, and the more ‘upstanding’ you are as a citizen, the more likely you are to receive at least some custody.

Importantly, courts will also consider the circumstances of the divorce. Massachusetts allows for both no-fault (no grounds) and at-fault (on grounds) divorces. The grounds for divorce in Massachusetts include, among others, adultery, total abandonment of a spouse, cruel and abusive behavior, and criminal conviction with a sentence of five years or more.

If you have evidence of disturbing patterns of behavior towards yourself and/or your children at the hands of your (soon-to-be) ex-spouse, this could form the grounds for an at-fault divorce or for you to receive primary custody.

Whatever the circumstances, if you are considering divorce, or are currently undergoing a divorce without a lawyer, call our office to discuss your options.

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…]

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