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Showing posts from October, 2010

Most "Non-Custodial" Parents can still be significantly Involved in their Childrens' Lives

Many parents facing the prospect of a divorce or break-up where children are involved place a great deal of importance on obtaining "sole physical custody" or "joint physical custody" of the child or children. Parents are often devastated to find out that their former significant other is seeking sole physical custody, as if that phrase automatically means that there is an intent to preclude one parent from the child's life. These phrases have unfortunately taken on pop culture definitions that more often than not vary from reality.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. If a child lives primarily at one place, usually thought to be about two-thirds of the time or more at the same residence, that child is considered to be in the "sole physical custody" of the parent who shares that address. Usually, children who are living in the sole physical custody of one parent have some sort of "visitation" schedule with the "non-cust…

Should I bring my new Significant Other or my Children to Family Court with me?

In most cases bringing your new significant other or your children to court with you is a bad idea.

Bringing a Significant Other:

In most cases having a third party in the courthouse (especially a significant other) inflames the other party and makes settlement less likely. While this is not always the case, the risk of making settlement more difficult is usually not worth the benefit of having a third party there.

Also, court is relatively boring. Your significant other will be able to wait with you in the courthouse but he/she will not be able to attend any family service meetings (i.e. required mediation prior to the court hearing). Court involves a lot of waiting around and there is usually something better that people can be doing with their time. For these reasons I usually recommend that clients come alone to court, but in the end it is your call.

Bringing your Children:

Whether or not the hearing involves your children bringing them to court with you is a bad idea for …

Do I have to Disclose My Residential Address in a Divorce?

Where you reside can affect whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over your case as discussed in a previous post: Where you get Divorced matters! - British woman loses rights to £1.2 Million Pension.

Assuming that Massachusetts has jurisdiction, you still need to disclose your address pursuant to Massachusetts Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 11 which states in pertinent part: "A party who is not represented by an attorney shall sign his pleadings and state his address, telephone number, and e-mail address if any." The Court needs to know your address so that the Judge can verify that jurisdiction is proper and in the event the court needs to send you Notice of any hearings or other matters. Likewise the opposing party needs your address in order to send you proper notice of pleadings pursuant to Massachusetts Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 5(b) and a P.O. Box is not considered sufficient.

It is possible to withhold your address from a party to a divorce case if you…

New Divorce law in New York includes Temporary Spousal Support Guidelines

UPDATE: There is pending legislation for major changes to the alimony statute in Massachusetts. The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 was filed on January 18, 2011 and you can learn more about the Act at MassAlimonyFormula.com or in our recent blog post highlighting the differences between the bill and the current law.

In March of 2010 Attorney Justin Kelsey of Kelsey & Trask, P.C. was contacted by the NYS Law Revision Commission because of his involvement in co-authoring the Divorce Spousal Support Calculator. The NYS Law Revision Commission was asked by a member of the New York State Assembly to investigate how other states were addressing the issue of alimony formulas. Attorney Kelsey discussed the issues at length during a telephone conversation with the executive director of the Commission and expressed his opinion (as described in a past blog post) that a formula at least has the advantage of treating everyone the same and offering consistency to the treatment of alimony by differ…

Why does the Texas GOP want to rescind No-Fault Divorce?

The Texas GOP in releasing their 2010 State Republican Party Platform have raised considerable amount of controversy over their ultra-conservative positions on criminalizing gay marriage, regulating school teaching of alternate theories to evolution, banning pornography, and other issues.

Included in the Platform is also an "urging" that the Texas legislature rescind no-fault divorce laws stating "We believe in the sanctity of marriage and that the integrity of this institution should be protected at all levels of government." Not surprisingly, the Texas GOP has joined the Catholic Church here by claiming that no-fault divorce is an attack on the "sanctity of marriage."

The Catholic Church recently claimed that allowing no-fault divorce in New York would raise the divorce rates in New York. Interestingly, the divorce rates in New York, though low compared to all 50 states (ranking 33rd), are still higher than a state like Massachusetts where No-Fault…

What happens to my case if I move out of state?

What happens to your case when you move out of state, depends on the type of case, and what stage your case is currently in.

Divorce Cases:

If your Divorce case has not been filed yet and you or your spouse move to another state, that state may gain jurisdiction over your case after a certain period of residency. For persons moving into Massachusetts from other states, Massachusetts gains jurisdiction over your case after 1 year of residency (or in other unique circumstances) and you can then file for Divorce in Massachusetts. If you want to file in another state you will have to meet their residency requirement before you can file there. In addition, another state may not be able to take full control over your entire case if you have left children or property behind in Massachusetts. You should consult with an attorney in both states if you are in this situation to make sure you choose the appropriate forum for your case.

If your Divorce case has already been filed in Massachusetts a…

What is Parental Alienation?

Put simply, Parental Alienation is the term used to describe when one parent turns a child against the other parent. However, Parental Alienation is anything but simple.

Even the issue of how to define Parental Alienation is hotly contested. As reported in a recent AP article, Psychiatric experts asses parental alienation, the American Psychiatric Association is debating whether or not to include "parental alienation syndrome" as a mental disorder in its updated catalog of disorders. The debate centers around whether the concept is real and all to common or whether it is overused. For example, according to some domestic violence advocates parental alienation is a concept used by abusers to place blame on the other parent and take focus off the abuse.

Regardless of whether you believe parental alienation should be recognized as a mental disorder, it is obvious that any activity intended to turn your child against their other parent is not in the best interest of the chi…

Are there any provisions of a Separation Agreement then must Merge?

For an explanation of the difference between merger and survival of Separation Agreement provisions read our past post on this question.

There are two types of provisions that cannot survive a Judgment of Divorce but must be merged. These are provisions relating to child custody/visitation and child support.

The Court retains jurisdiction over provisions relating to child custody/visitation to protect the children. For example, in the event one party becomes unfit to parent the children it would be detrimental to the children to have that provision survive and be unchangeable. Although there is another method by which a parent can give up their parental rights permanently (through a Waiver of Parental Rights), there is not any way that a party can guarantee they will keep their rights forever. The right to be custodial parent will always be subject to your continued fitness to parent your children.

Although typically paid to the custodial parent, child support is also for the be…

What is the difference between Merger and Survival?

One of the most important legal distinctions for clients to understand when signing a Divorce Agreement (also commonly called a Separation Agreement) is the difference between merger and survival. The distinction between these two designations could mean all the difference in whether an Agreement is fair and reasonable or not. It can affect whether or not you will have to return to court in the future, and could determine issues as important as whether or not alimony can be changed (increased, decreased, added, or eliminated) in the future.

Unfortunately, most pro se parties who prepare Separation Agreements on their own do not understand what this language means. Oftentimes I have also found that parties who used a mediator, but did not review their Agreement with a lawyer, do not fully understand what they've agreed to when it comes to the merger/survival clause. This clause is so important that spending a few hundred dollars to at least review your proposed Agreement with a…

Restraining Orders are not Force Fields

In tonight's episode of Community ("The Psychology of Letting Go" on NBC) one character treats his Restraining order like a force field. By moving towards the defendant, he forces the defendant of the restraining order to move away so that the defendant can stay at least 25 feet away.

In reality, restraining orders are not force fields. Although, a plaintiff cannot technically violate their own restraining order, a Judge will likely vacate the restraining order if they find out that the plaintiff has been contacting or approaching the defendant. That type of behavior demonstrates that the plaintiff is not in fear of the defendant.

In Massachusetts, M.G.L. ch. 209A provides that a plaintiff can obtain an abuse prevention order (commonly referred to as a restraining order) if there is attempted or actual physical harm or "placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm." If a plaintiff is able to approach or contact the defendant then that is strong e…

Free One Day Seminar on Coping with Divorce

A group of researchers at Skidmore College will be sponsoring free one-day educational workshops this Fall in the Boston area for parents coping with divorce. At the workshop, you will have a chance to connect with other divorced parents. You will learn strategies for letting go of anger toward an ex-spouse and for moving toward a more peaceful, forgiving perspective. You will also learn strategies for reducing conflict with your ex- over parenting issues.

For more information and to sign up for our FREE coping with divorce workshop and research study: www.tinyurl.com/copingwithdivorce or email: divorce@skidmore.edu or call: (518) 580-8123