Welcome to my Boston metro and Massachusetts website about all things divorce related.
I help people through bad family situations and to rebuild their lives. My hope with this site is to provide useful information to people who might be considering divorce in the Boston area and who needs help navigating the process.
There will be new posts underneath this one on a regular basis so check back often or subscribe via a RSS reader via the Subscribe link at the upper left hand corner. You will also find useful free resources located on the navigation menu right above, along with a short bio about me and a list of questions I’ve answered for people who might be in a similar situation as yourself. Also above, you will see a tab to calculate child support (coming soon).
Feel free to check out My Other Blogs where I talk about wills and trusts, prenuptial agreements and bankruptcy issues. Lastly, you might want to know about the basics of divorce by exploring the selected posts on Divorce Basics on the right hand side.
If you have questions or issues that this site cannot answer, feel free to contact me, either at the number listed on the left or using the Contact Me tab above.
In order to modify a current order of custody or a parenting plan that’s in place, you have to start a separate action with the Probate and Family Court called a Complaint for Modification. Before considering filing such an action, there are a few things you should be considering.
Have you spoken with the other parent about it?
Nothing makes the relationship between two parents more contentious than getting served with papers from a lawyer or the court. So before you file, it’s usually a good idea to speak with the other parent about whether or not you two can come together and agree to modify your current parenting arrangement. If you two can agree, then you can make sure it’s in writing and go through the process to get it approved by the Court.
There are certainly situations when you might not want to confront the other parent first. One of those reasons could be that the relationship between you two are so strained that you already know you won’t be able to discuss it without the help of a lawyer or going to court. Another reason could be that you are afraid that the other parent might do something unexpected such as leaving the state or country with the child.
Do you qualify to get a Modification of your order from the Court?
The standard that exists for a court to even consider hearing an action for Modification is that there has to be a material or substantial change in circumstances from the last Order or Judgment of the Court. If there has been no change, and you simply want to change things for its own sake, then your action will be dismissed. Whoever files a Modification must show there’s a change in either of the parties or the child’s circumstances.
Can you do it yourself?
Many people choose to file for a Modification themselves but do eventually end up hiring a lawyer. Issues having to do with custody and parenting plans can be complicated and very emotionally charged. It is better to have a lawyer advise you from the beginning on what you should be doing and how to do it right. Sometimes a lawyer cannot fix what you have already done wrong in the case and by then, it might be too late.
I get a lot of calls from people who want to hire us after they have already filed a case themselves. In many of these cases, they’ve already tried to navigate the court system for a while and they’re now contacting an attorney because they’ve reached a brick wall or they know they’ve screwed up somewhere and they’re looking for someone to fix it.
Here’s an example:
Father calls about a custody case that he’s litigating with the Mother. The child spends equal time with both Father and Mother even though the Father and Mother have separated and live in separate households. The Father has already filed a case on his own and been to court once. The first time he’s in court, he doesn’t understand the process and doesn’t understand his rights. They send him to the Probation department and the Mother claims that the Father has a criminal history so he should be denied parenting rights. The Probation officer relays this message from the Mother to Father and because Father doesn’t know who the Probation officer is and that the Probation Officer does not have the right to force Father to sign anything – Father signs an agreement saying that Mother has full custody. Several weeks later, he realizes he might have made a mistake and calls a lawyer.
The problem is, there’s not much I can do for the Father when he calls. He’s already signed a full agreement and there’s no real appeal because he agreed to it. He didn’t understand that he didn’t have to sign everything that’s placed in front of him and that if he didn’t understand, he could hire an attorney to represent him.
But an attorney can only do so much. Sometimes we can’t turn back the hands of time and fix something that was already done in a case.
The moral of the story is that if there is a lot at stake (divorce, property division, children, alimony, etc), contact a family law attorney to help from the start so that your case can be done right from the start. Sometimes, there are no second chances.
Parenting Coordinators are usually mental health professionals (such as therapists, counselors, psychologists) that help parents resolve conflicts. Parenting Coordinators (PCs) can also be family law attorneys as well.
A PC is mutually agreed upon by the parties in a divorce or custody case. Both parents must agree to use a PC since the court does not have the power to appoint one. Once a PC has been chosen and is incorporated into an agreement signed by both parties, then a judge can enforce those provisions.
A PC can be very useful in situations where there is a high level of conflict between parents. If parents have trouble co-parenting or making joint decisions in the best interest of their children, then a PC can be called upon to help resolve the conflict or impasse. The level of involvement a PC has depends on what the parents originally empowered the PC to do. The powers of the PC can be as broad as making a substitute decision for the parents if they can’t agree and it can be as limited as simply offering an opinion to the parents.
PCs are paid by the parties and the cost is also apportioned depending on what the parents originally agreed upon. In many cases, the parents are both equally responsible for the cost of the PC. In other situations where the parents have differing levels of income, then one parent might be responsible for payment of greater than 1/2 of the PC.
In my practice, we often encourage our clients to agree to the services of a PC in high conflict cases. We also encourage the parents to give the PC wide powers to break impasses between the parents. If the provisions are written correctly and in detail, and when the parties use the PC appropriately, PCs are very useful and ideally would allow both parents to avoid going back to the court to seek further remedies.
As of August 1, 2013, the Child Support Guidelines have been revised in Massachusetts. Our iPad and iPhone app has also been updated to reflect the new changes in the Guidelines.
MA Child Support App
The Child Support portion of our app has been completely redesigned and some of these features are unique to our app alone. Most of the “math” is now hidden so that it simply displays the amount that the Payor needs to pay. If you want to see the math, then you simply hit the button next to the support amount and a full worksheet of the Guidelines will show up for you to see, download, mail or link to your dropbox.
The major change in this app is the ability to see the new calculations mandated by the guidelines all in one screenshot. Depending on the amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent has, changes the child support amount. You can now see all 3 calculations at once and the difference in how the guidelines changes.
To download the app, you can click on this link or go to the App Store and search for “MA Divorce” or update your app from a previous version directly from the App Store.
Even though the Supreme Court overturned a key portion of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) yesterday, a significant part of DOMA still exists. Section 2 of DOMA states that states who do not have same-sex marriage do not have to recognize same-sex marriages from states that allow it. Why is this important and discriminatory?
Let’s take for example a heterosexual couple – Nancy and Joe. They are married in New York and subsequently move to Alabama. Their marriage is valid in New York and it will be valid in Alabama. In fact, it will be valid everywhere in the United States and abroad.
Let’s take another example of a same-sex couple – Nancy and Diane. They are married in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal. They subsequently move to Alabama where same-sex marriage is not allowed. They are considered married in Massachusetts and in the other 12 states and the District of Columbia but they are not considered married anywhere else in the United States.
In terms of divorce, this has a big impact on Nancy and Diane. Since they both live in Alabama where their marriage isn’t legal, they therefore cannot get a divorce in Alabama. They also cannot get a divorce in Massachusetts or in any of the other 12 states and D.C. because all states require that you reside in that state in order to obtain a divorce. So even though Nancy and Diane got married in Massachusetts, they cannot divorce here. In fact, they cannot divorce anywhere. They are forced to stay married together. They cannot get remarried to anyone else – same sex or otherwise, because it would be considered bigamy depending on where they would live.
I have no doubt that Section 2 of DOMA is also unconstitutional and it is only a matter of time before it gets repeals by Congress or through another Supreme Court decision. When that day comes, all 50 states will have to recognize same-sex marriage. It doesn’t mean however, that they must give out same-sex marriage licenses. They simply have to recognize them from other states.