Pets and Divorce. Custody or Property?

Do you think worrying about what happens to a dog or cat, when there is a divorce, is silly? Probably not if you are a pet lover.

When a couple decides to divorce, the question of who gets the pets is very common. Pet lovers do not buy an animal, they adopt a family member. However, while the law focuses on the best interests of human children, it sees pets as personal property. Therefore, courts tend to work under this strict interpretation.

Courts will typically start by deciding if the pet belongs to the couple or an individual. If the pet was acquired or shared during a marriage, then it is ordinarily considered marital property. The court then goes through the same steps as it would other property, such as assigning a value.

As reported by the Official Blog of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, “…legally, pets are still property. And overburdened courts are unlikely to take on the challenge of supervising how divorcing couples deal with their pets…. [D]on’t for a minute think that court is a good place to resolve your disagreements about who gets the dog….[C]ourts do not treat custody battles over pets like they do child custody cases; they will not consider the ‘best interests of the pet’.” [Read more…]

Dealing with False Allegations During Child Custody & Divorce

It seems like everyone knows a story about false allegations during child custody and divorce. One party points the finger at the other and receives a restraining order from the court believing that by doing so will, almost by default, give them custody of the children and exclusive use of the family home. The accused party then must defend themselves in court and prove these allegations false.

While false accusations are a legal mess, it is also terrible to have someone who you once shared a life make claims of either abuse or neglect. It is something no one is ever really prepared for. You may feel you should reach out to your soon to be ex-spouse, but this can actually make things worse for you. Additionally, trying to make contact could be used against you. It is not unheard of for there to be accusations of stalking, harassment, or violence when all you want to do is smooth things over. No matter how tempted, it is best to keep away, and, with a clear mind, take more appropriate actions. [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.

In today’s world, many couples have very complicated and difficult to understand financial portfolios that may include retirement plans, stocks, vacation properties, and more. Regardless, deception is often easily discoverable. The hiding places are predictable. These are some of the more common:

1. Family and Friends – Your ex-spouse may conspire with family or good friends. This is often done by making payments for imaginary items or services, then getting reimbursed after the divorce. An experienced attorney will scrutinize payments made by both personal and business accounts.

2. Fake Employees – Having a fake employee on the payroll is a common technique for concealing the money generated by a business. While your ex-spouse may think they are being slick, an audit of their payroll will uncover the truth. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Family Law Regarding Separation

If you and your spouse are thinking it is time for a separation, there are some factors you should consider in order to make sure this is not only the right step for your family but also done in accordance of the law. Before any decisions are made, it would be beneficial to consult a divorce and family law attorney to help you fully understand the legal implications and consequences of filing any official documentation to separate assets.

In the state of Massachusetts, there is no judgement for a true legal separation. However, if one spouse seeks support from another spouse and does not want to file for divorce, he or she can file for a judgement of separate support. This would allow for child support payments to begin as well as alimony.

Because Massachusetts does not provide a way for a legal separation, the process for filing for separate support can be a lengthy and complicated one. The method and burden of proving that the spouse should receive support is not always easy, and if a mistake is made, it could cost you and your family in the long run.

Before deciding that a separation of any kind is in order, both spouses should be confident that this is the right thing to do for the family. Some couples choose marital counseling in order to try everything possible to save the marriage.

If no resolution can be reached to remain together, the next legal step could be a mediation process in order to reach a legal and binding agreement for support. Mediation is often a preferred option as it typically costs less than a court proceeding, and the participants have more options to settle disputes in a respectable way. However, if mediation is chosen, it is a good idea to seek legal representation to protect your interests and your rights.

If you have questions or would like to consider a separation with your spouse, please call our law office to schedule a consultation.

Divorce Mediation- An Effective Way To Move Forward

Mediation is a popular option for couples in Massachusetts when they have decided to divorce.

A couple who has agreed that their marriage has reached a point of “irretrievable breakdown” according to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208, due to no particular fault of either party, may want to consider mediation. Mediation may be more affordable for some and take less time than a contested, litigated divorce.

Sitting down with a trained and experienced mediator, often an attorney or retired judge, provides the divorcing couple an opportunity to develop a fair and equitable memorandum of understanding covering all of the requirements of ending their marriage contract and dividing their assets. Mediators are able to help agreeable couples through simple or complex financial situations including child support and child custody agreements. [Read more…]

Divorce Mediation For Small Business Owners In Massachusetts

Divorce is never easy, and it gets more complicated when a couple begins a successful business after their marriage. There are very few people who divorce and then are able to manage working together on a daily basis, so splitting the company or leaving it is generally best for one spouse. Using mediation rather than going to court is an effective way of ensuring both parties continue to profit from the successful business.

Splitting the Business Down the Middle
There are some businesses where splitting a company is relatively easy, and each person has their own territory. Mediation helps to decide which partner gets a particular territory, and this is usually done when both people enter an agreement willingly. Each partner retains their own share of business, and they negotiate physical territories so they do not steal each other’s customers. This is acceptable under Massachusetts law, and most judges deem it as a reasonable distribution of a family business. [Read more…]

What Can Be Modified in a Massachusetts Divorce Agreement

Having the provisions of a divorce agreement modified under Massachusetts law is possible, based on how the separation agreement was written and the circumstances bringing about the request for a modification. Before bringing your modification request to the court, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

The first thing to realize is that there must be a material change in circumstances to request a modification, such as an employment change or a significant change in income.

When drafting a separation agreement, there are two types of provisions addressed in the agreement: surviving and merging. Merging provisions are open to modification. Merging provisions are generally child specific issues like custody arrangements, support, and health insurance. Sometimes alimony can be a merging provision. Surviving provisions are generally not open to modification. An example of surviving provision is the division of property. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Divorce and Separation Agreements

Divorce is a complicated and emotional ordeal. Divorcing parents with young children have additional considerations over childless couples. The many complexities involved in reaching a desired outcome during a divorce, are weighed according to a number of different factors. In some cases, it can be helpful to ask an attorney to draw up a Separation Agreement.

A Separation Agreement is a written document that determines how the divorcing parties will handle matters relating to the end of the marriage. This Agreement can serve to clarify and simplify the overall divorce process. Normally, the agreement deals with child custody issues, parental access, child support, alimony and division of assets and similar issues. The Agreement is only good if both parties agree to its terms and sign it freely, voluntarily, knowingly and without duress or intimidation. The Separation Agreement usually becomes part of the final divorce judgment. It should be noted that a judge can refuse to accept a Separation Agreement if he or she deems it unfair according to the circumstances under which it is presented.

If you are considering divorce and would like to discuss the importance of a Separation Agreement, please contact our office to schedule your consultation with an attorney.

Preparing For Divorce Mediation

Divorce is always a painful process. Splitting assets for its cash value is often a difficult end to a relationship that did not work out. Emotions run high, even in an amicable divorce. Being prepared is the best way to ensure both parties receive their fair share of the marital assets and debts. Listing shared properties of value, dividing properties with written evaluations by a neutral party and listing all goals for the divorce mediation are important to avoid costly mistakes.

List All Items of Value
Every couple has items of value. A family home is a piece of real property. Vehicles, jewelry, family heirlooms and furniture may all have monetary value. Family businesses or savings and retirement accounts are part of the marital assets as well. Credit card or loan debt is part of the equation too. These items are all part of the property settlement for the divorce. Dividing them equitably between the partners is the goal of mediation. Having a list of all valued property makes division easier and ensures both parties receive their fair share.

Evaluating the Property
Written evaluations by a neutral third-party can be extremely useful to the mediation. This helps establish actual values and equity of the property. It keeps the mediation on a successful track for both parties.

Bring a Written List of Goals
Mediation is a form of negotiation. It is important for each person to know their goals. Writing them down gives a person the opportunity to ensure they reach their goals. It is difficult to make changes once a mediation agreement is complete. Referring to a list of properties being split and their value ensures nothing is forgotten in the final mediation agreement.

Mediation is often a cost-effective way for couples to divide their assets without the cost of litigation. Being prepared for the mediation is the best way to achieve a fair settlement in a timely fashion for both parties. If you are considering divorce mediation, please call our office to learn more.

How Child Custody Is Determined Under Massachusetts Law

In Massachusetts, several factors are used to determine child custody between two parents seeking divorce or between unmarried couples who cannot come to custody terms following separation.

Massachusetts law recognizes four different types of custody:

• Sole legal custody
• Shared legal custody
• Sole physical custody
• Shared physical custody

In the first and third statuses, only one parent has the right and responsibility regarding the child’s welfare, including education, medical care, and emotional, moral and religious development. Shared custody allows both parents to make decisions. Physical custody status goes one step further by determining whether children will live with only one or spend time living with both parents in addition to determining who will be responsible for their welfare. [Read more…]