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Showing posts from January, 2016

Income: What's In and What's Out when Calculating Child Support?

In Massachusetts, the Child Support Guidelines define the income that can be used when calculating child support.  The list is exhaustive and as a starting point almost all income is considered with very few exceptions (both for the payor and recipient).   We've created this handy tool for reference when trying to remember this guideline:

doesallmyincomecountwhencalculatingchildsupportinmassachusetts.com
What's In: 
In a recent case, Hoegen v. Hoegen, the Massachusetts Appeals Court indicated that even income from Restricted Stock Units that may have been waived in a property division should be included in the child support determination.  Here are some of the blog posts that beat us to an in depth look at that case:
Finn & Eaton, PC - Stock Option Income and Child Support: Hoegan v. Hoegan
Stevenson, Lynch & Owens, PC - Are RSUs “Income” in Massachusetts Child Support Calculation?
Law Office of David Burgess, PC - Divorcing Couple’s Agreement to Exclude Restricted Stock Un…

Guardianship - Who is a Legal Parent? Part 10

A Guardian is a person appointed by the court to make non-financial decisions for another person, such as personal welfare, medical, housing and educational decisions, in the same way that a parent can for their minor child. Guardians may be appointed for minor children, via Guardianship of a Minor, and for incapacitated persons, via Guardianship of an Incapacitated Person.

In either case, this is a guardianship for protection of the person only. In Massachusetts, Guardians do not have any power over the financial or business affairs of the Respondent. In order to protect the proper or business affairs of a respondent a Conservator is needed.

Guardians and Conservators do not have the same legal rights and obligations as other legally recognized parental roles, but similar to de facto parentsthey may have some of the same rights.

A Petition for Guardianship is essentially a request for a permanent guardianship. Permanent here is not the same as its usual definition, because a perman…

Grandparent Visitation Rights v. De Facto Parents - Who is a Legal Parent? Part 9

Our last post discussed the de facto parent standards in Massachusetts.  Grandparent visitation rights in Massachusetts are similar in some ways to de facto parent rights but also different.  They are similar in that the "best interest of the child" is supposed to be the highest priority in the court's determination.  However, there are many differences between these two types of parenting rights:

While de facto parenting rights are created by the equity powers of the court, there is a grandparent visitation statute in Massachusetts (MGL c.119, s.39D).  The statute applies specifically to children living in a separated parent household, which distinction was found to be constitutional by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Blixt v. Blixt.   In addition, the statute requires a "written finding that such visitation rights would be in the best interest of the said minor child" and the statute discusses visitation only, not custody.

Blixt and other cases h…

De Facto Parents - Who is a Legal Parent? Part 8

Our previous posts in this series have all addressed legal parental rights created or enabled by statute.  In some instances, though, the Probate and Family Court has extended legal parentage rights beyond the statutory rights.  The Massachusetts Appeals Court case E.N.O. v. L.L.M. defined a de facto parent as:
“one who has no biological relation to the child, but has participated in the child’s life as a member of the child’s family. The de facto parent resides with the child and, with the consent and encouragement of the legal parent, performs a share of caretaking functions at least as great as the legal parent.” E.N.O. v. L.L.M. (1999) The decision of the Appeals Court was not unanimous and the dissent raised questions about the boundaries of the "de facto parent" definition and standard.  However, the majority decision afforded great deference to a trial judge to discern the best interest of the child.  The best interest of the child was ultimately seen by the majority…

Three's Company - Who is a Legal Parent? Part 7

Post by Julie Tolek.  Julie is an Associate at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC and runs her own practice, Think Pink Law.  Julie's practice includes family law & divorce representation, firearms licensing & NFA trusts, estate planning & probate, and adoptions.

Three's Company: Three Parent Adoptions

When most people think of legal parenthood, they probably think of it as a single or joint endeavor with another person. An often overlooked but equally legal option is to have more than two legal parents. In situations in which there are more than two people who would like to care for a child and have legal parental rights, a three parent adoption can accomplish this and bring together three legal parents to create a larger loving and supportive family setup.

In Massachusetts, there are a several cases involving three parent adoptions, most of which have been handled by Joyce Kauffman, an attorney widely recognized for her work in assisted reproduction, adoption and th…

Co-Parent Adoption - Who is a Legal Parent? Part 6

Guest Post by Joyce Kauffman and Patience Crozier both of Kauffman Crozier LLP.  In addition to an extensive divorce and traditional family law practice, Joyce's practice focuses on issues impacting the LGBTQ community.  Patience is a principal of Kauffman Crozier LLP who focuses on all areas of family law, particularly adoption, divorce, dissolution, prenuptial agreements, domestic partnership agreements, assisted reproductive technology, paternity and guardianship.

Co-Parent Adoption
In 1993, the SJC determined that same-sex couples can jointly adopt children in Massachusetts. Adoption of Tammy.  Since then, thousands of children have been adopted by the adults raising them and enjoy the security that legal parentage brings.  Ten years after Tammy, in another groundbreaking decision, the SJC determined that same-sex couples have the right to marry in Massachusetts. Goodridge.  When married same-sex couples give birth to their children, Massachusetts will recognize both spouses …

The Worst Mistake People Make when Negotiating a Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements can be strong and useful planning tools that help couples plan their lives together.  Just like a properly done estate plan, a prenup can protect a families' most valuable assets and reduce tensions by setting out a simple outline for the future. When prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are created collaboratively families are strengthened because everyone has a voice and buy-in to a clear plan for their family.

However, many engaged couples don't hire collaboratively trained attorneys when negotiating a prenup because they haven't heard of collaborative law or they rely on a recommended lawyer without doing any research of their own.  Doing a little research before hiring an attorney is critical because the worst mistake you can make when negotiating a prenup is to hire an attorney who only knows litigation.  Litigation is an adversarial process that encourages people to withhold information unless directly requested.  Litigation …

Adoption - Who is a Legal Parent? Part 5

Post by Julie Tolek.  Julie is an Associate at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC and runs her own practice, Think Pink Law.  Julie's practice includes family law & divorce representation, firearms licensing & NFA trusts, estate planning & probate, and adoptions.

Adoption
Adoption is the process by which one person becomes a parent by legally agreeing to care for another person’s biological child and to raise the child as his or her own biological child.  The adoptive parent acquires the legal rights and obligations of parentage including the legal rights to make decision about every aspect of the child's health and happiness.

The Adoption Process in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, private adoption between individuals is not permitted without the involvement of either the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or an adoption agency. DCF is the state agency in charge of protecting children from bad circumstances such as abuse and neglect. A child’s birth parents may …