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Financial Statement Drafting Lessons from recent Massachusetts Appellate Decisions

We recently posted a lengthy review of the the Massachusetts SJC decision in Cavanagh v. Cavanagh (2002)  and a similar overview of the subsequent SJC decision Openshaw v. Openshaw (2024) .  Both of these cases had significant rulings that should be reviewed in child support and alimony cases in Massachusetts.  Here, though, we want to focus on just one area these decisions have affected: how best to complete the court form Financial Statement in divorce cases. When completing the income section of the Financial Statement, people often struggle with how to deal with variable income and how to accurately address deductions from income.   The Financial Statement includes spaces for many times of income but it assumes the number is static.  For bonus, commissions, or second job income (which was an issue in Cavanagh), the income is often variable over time.  This is where we encourage our clients to use endnotes to explain any variability or expected changes in income.  The Financial Stat
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Massachusetts Family Court Financial Statement - Instructions & Best Practices

During a divorce, or other case in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court that involves your finances, such as a child support case, you will likely be required to file a court form Financial Statement.  In Massachusetts there are two versions of this form: a "short form" if your income is under $75,000 and a "long form" if your income is $75,000 or more.  Many people find these forms confusing and we've compiled a list of helpful information for filling them out. First , to access the forms, the court has provided pdf or online versions here: Massachusetts Rule 401 Short Form Financial Statement (pdf) Massachusetts Rule 401 Long Form Financial Statement (pdf) There are also some basic instructions provided by the court explaining the sections of the forms and providing access to a Schedule A (for self-employed people) and Schedule B (for rental income): Massachusetts Rule 401 Short Form Financial Statement Basic Instructions Massachusetts Rule 401 Long F

Co-Parenting Coordinator Agreements - What They Can Do and How to Draft Them

Photo by Marcelo Silva on Unsplash Conflict between parents negatively affects children but for some parents it's hard to avoid conflict when separating or divorcing.  Loss, grief, and anger all make it difficult to co-parent and some parents need help overcoming those barriers. One of the professionals that can help parents reduce conflict by assisting them in making the necessary co-parenting decisions is a Co-Parenting Coordinator.  The duties of a Co-Parenting Coordinator can vary but often include assisting parents with decision making around: changes or clarifications of the existing parenting plan; exchanges of the child or children including date, time, place, means of and responsibilities for transportation; education or daycare including school choice, tutoring, summer school, before and after school care, participation in special education testing and programs, or other educational decisions; enrichment and extracurricular activities including camps and jobs; the child

Updating your Divorce Agreement Template - More Lessons from Cavanagh v. Cavanagh

We recently posted a lengthy review of the the Massachusetts SJC decision in Cavanagh v. Cavanagh (2002)  which included some recommendations for drafting divorce agreements, also typically called Separation Agreements.  The Cavanagh case is best known for it's clarification of how the courts should evaluate support calculations when a case may have both alimony and child support.  However, the case also contained numerous rulings that should make practitioners review their Separation Agreement templates and change some of the ways in which they may have previously drafted certain sections. In this post we'll share actual language from the Gray Jay Endeavors, LLC form Separation Agreement template which addresses each of the issues raised by the Cavanagh decision.  If you are a professional interested in purchasing the full Separation Agreement template, check out Gray Jay's  forms subscription which includes editable Massachusetts court forms and financial statements as

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

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