Skip to main content


Featured Post

The Case of Teddy Bear: A Legal Tug of War Over a Pomeranian

The Case of Teddy Bear: A Legal Tug of War Over a Pomeranian by Nathaniel Butzke   Photo by  Fred Moon  on  Unsplash     The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently made a notable decision in an intriguing legal battle involving former romantic partners and a Pomeranian named Teddy Bear. The case,  Lyman v. Lanser , takes us through the complexities of shared possession of a jointly owned pet. The heart of the dispute was whether the parties’ agreement to share Teddy Bear equally could be legally enforced, an agreement similar to custody arrangements that we typically see concerning children.      Lyman and Lanser's story began with a mutual decision to purchase Teddy Bear in 2018. They followed a pattern of shared pet ownership and agreement to share custody should they separate. When the relationship ended in 2021, they managed to share Teddy Bear amicably. The conflict escalated when Lanser ceased communication and denied Lyman access to Teddy Bear, prompting legal action.      The
Recent posts

April Showers Brought May Flowers: How the Openshaws Prepared for Rainy Days Ahead

April Showers Brought May Flowers: How the Openshaws Prepared for Rainy Days Ahead  by Nathaniel Butzke      Just in time for the rainy season, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court shed new light on what it means to "live" a certain lifestyle as a married couple and how those habits should be reflected in post-divorce alimony. The case, Openshaw v. Openshaw (2024) , revolved around a couple who, during their marriage, didn't just focus on living well but also on saving wisely. When their marriage came to an end, the question arose: should their habit of saving be considered part of their marital lifestyle for the purposes of determining the appropriate amount of alimony?      The court's answer was a resounding YES . In essence, the court argued that saving isn't just a financial strategy; it's a way of life. For the Openshaws, who enjoyed a generous annual income far exceeding their living expenses, setting money aside wasn't merely about preparing fo

Cavanagh v. Cavanagh - The Case, the Conundrum, & the Consequences

Cavanagh v. Cavanagh - The Case, the Conundrum, & the Consequences Introduction by Nathaniel Butzke More than a year after its release, the Massachusetts SJC decision in Cavanagh v. Cavanagh (2002) remains a topic of discussion at every Massachusetts family law and mediation conference.  The decision had many ripple effects, still being felt on the beachhead of every divorce case involving child support or alimony. Following is an in depth review of the case and some of those effects. Introduction: In divorce proceedings, determining alimony awards is a complex process that requires careful consideration of various factors. Judges tasked with making these decisions must weigh the financial circumstances of both parties, ensuring that the supported spouse can maintain a lifestyle similar to that before the divorce, and children have access to similar households in either parents' care. However, interpreting the law governing alimony can present practical challenges, especially

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines News - Minor Update in July 2023

On July 20, 2023, the Massachusetts Trial Court announced a change to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, that became effective on July 31, 2023.  Typically the guidelines are only revisited every four years (with the next update due in 2025), but in some instances interim updates are necessary.   In this case, the change was necessary to bring the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines in conformity with federal standards.  Specifically, the child support guidelines have been updated to “[p]rovide that incarceration may not be treated as voluntary unemployment in establishing or modifying child support orders.” 45 C.F.R. § 302.56 (c) (3). These amendments appear in the Preamble and in Section 1. E. 1, which now reads: E.  Attribution of Income 1.  Income may be attributed where a finding has been made that either parent is capable of working and is unemployed or underemployed. Incarceration may not be treated as voluntary unemployment in establishing or modifying child support

An Abundantly Awesome Announcement about Jennifer Hawthorne

Alliteration aside, we have a lot of exciting news to share about Jennifer Hawthorne 's role at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC and her contributions to the field of dispute resolution.   Since August 2016, Jen has been working with Skylark as a mediator and collaborative divorce professional.  Her role grew from an of counsel position to full time associate, and in 2022 Jen became a partner at Skylark.  Jen's skills as a mediator and her ability to lighten even the toughest conversations have elevated the work at Skylark.  Her laugh and the laughter of her clients still carries throughout the office when she has in person meetings. For the last year Jen has been overseeing Skylark's student interns from New England law, providing opportunities for future attorneys to truly understand what it means to be a well-rounded dispute resolution professional.  She intends to continue this mentorship and find ways in the future to expand on the opportunities available for potential

Test Negative & Stay Positive! Checking in on the Influence a Global Pandemic has on Divorce Mediation and the Mediators Themselves

Photo by Maxime on Unsplash Almost two years has passed since we wrote our first blog post about the havoc COVID-19 was causing in parenting plans ( Co-Parenting in a Crisis: COVID-19 and Beyond ).  Little did we know how long this crisis would persist and all the things that it would change.  We continue to contemplate how long we'll wear masks in public and whether we'll ever shake hands regularly again, and yet life goes on.  People get married and divorced, and they still need help figuring out how to navigate family conflict.   As we continue to help people with these major life decisions, we've noticed some of the potentially long-lasting effects of the pandemic.  Below is a list of what we've seen change about our practice, and we're interested to see the comments and if your experience has been similar or different: Video Killed the In-Person Star I spent my childhood (and 20s and 30s) wondering when we would regularly use video screens to communicate like

Probate and Family Court Standing Order 1-2022: Virtual Proceedings Highly Recommended amid escalating COVID-19 spread

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court has released Standing Order 1-2022 , temporarily overriding Standing Order 1-2021, regarding Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Order, effective 01/05/2022, requires that all cases be held remotely if the case can be changed from in-person to virtual without having to reschedule. The form to request an in-person hearing be changed to remote can be found here: Note: If all parties and attorneys do not agree to appear remotely, a Motion (CJD 400) form may need to be filed. According to the order, rescheduling of cases is discouraged and should only happen as a last resort. While the change to virtual proceedings is highly recommended, scheduled in-person hearings shall continue where staffing levels are adequate. In alignment with the shift to virtual proceeding