How Are Child Custody and Visitation Established?

If you are going through a divorce and have children, child custody is arguably the most important matter you will have to deal with during the divorce proceedings. Although custody arrangements can be reviewed and modified until the child turns 18, it is very rare for custody to be changed from one parent to the other after the initial order has been established. This is why it is important to understand how custody and visitation (more often referred to as parenting time) will be determined.

There are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. The parents may share both legal and physical custody, share legal custody but give one parent sole physical custody, or have one parent have sole primary and physical custody. As you will see below, even when one parent is granted sole custody, the other parent will still retain rights to the child.

Legal Custody
Legal custody relates solely to the decision-making rights regarding the child. A parent can have legal custody of a child without having physical custody. The parent with legal custody will have the authority to make decisions about the child’s medical, religious, and educational needs. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody, that parent has the right to make major decisions about the child without consulting with the other parent. If the parents share legal custody, they must discuss the matter with the each other before making any major decision.

Physical Custody
Physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with. Typically, one parent is awarded physical custody, while the other receives parenting time. Although joint physical custody is an option, it is more typical to see sole physical custody awarded to one parent. Usually, joint custody will only be awarded if the parents agree to this arrangement. It is very rare to see a judge award joint physical custody if the parents have not agreed to it. [Read more…]

Obtaining An Annulment in Massachusetts

If you are unhappy with your marriage, you can obtain a divorce in Massachusetts for just about any reason. Regardless, there are those times when a marriage should not even be legally recognized. A divorce will end a marriage, but an annulment determines there never was a legal marriage from the start. Moreover, an annulment may have significance for religious or social purposes. If the marriage was not valid from the beginning, it is possible to receive an annulment.

Do you qualify for an annulment?

In Massachusetts, the marriage needs to be void or voidable. There is a popular belief that you can receive an annulment if the marriage was short. Unfortunately, this is not true. There are specific guidelines for granting an annulment, and the duration of the union is not a factor in Massachusetts. In fact, the requirements are so strict that many eventually choose a no-fault divorce, because it is just easier. [Read more…]

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.

Under the law, asking for custody or visitation rights for pets is along the lines of asking for those rights for a television or microwave. 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.  [Read more…]

Divorce Modification in Massachusetts

Once a divorce is finalized, the documents are filed with the courts. However, life is unpredictable and circumstances can change over time. In Massachusetts, if an earlier court order or judgment no longer suits the parties because circumstances have changed in a significant way since the order or judgment was issued, the court can “modify” the prior order or judgment.

Cases where a modification might be appropriate include those where the children are significantly older than at the time when the last child support order was issued, or where a person ordered to pay alimony has retired and now has a substantially smaller income than at the time he or she was ordered to pay alimony.

Sometimes a party may want to change an order or judgment because there is a legitimate need to do so, and it would be unfair not to allow a change. For example, when there is a typographical mistake in the written judgment, or when the opposing party lied about the value of a significant asset on his or her financial statement, and the lie influenced the judgment of the court.  [Read more…]

What To Do When Your Child is Injured

In Massachusetts, if a child suffers an injury due to faulty playground equipment, a bike accident, a slip and fall accident, or any type of negligence, that child’s parents or legal guardians have the right to pursue a claim on the child’s behalf.

It is often a challenge determining whether your child was injured due to the negligence of another party. Ask yourself:

  • Did your child simply fall, or did he slip on ice or snow that property owners neglected to clear? Property owners must make every effort to ensure that snow and ice are cleared for pedestrian traffic and may be liable for not doing so.
  • Did your child get injured at the pool due to unsafe conditions? Was there a lifeguard on duty who could have prevented the accident? Was the injury due to poor maintenance in the pool area as in uneven cement, missing drain covers or broken ladders?
  • Did your child get injured by a product or toy that could have been defective? Did parts come off easily which your child swallowed or punctured their skin?

Many parents are hesitant about looking into a claim for their child but many times your child’s injuries are at least, in part, due to the negligence of another party. A parent should consider your child’s pain, what he has suffered, and possible repercussions that could result. Also, there are the immediate medical expenses and those incurred in the weeks or months that follow, especially if looking at surgery or therapy as well as the time from work you’ve missed as the parent taking care of your child.

If you suspect that the accident was due to negligence, it is a good idea to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who will evaluate your case and provide you with options. When you meet with your attorney, bring any information you have. If your child saw a doctor or was hospitalized, bring the medical documentation. Bring photos of the injury or accident site and the names and addresses of any witnesses. Bring an accident report, if applicable, or if the injury is due to a defective product or toy, bring that product if possible. Any and all information will help decide if you have a case and how to move forward.

A child, like an adult, has the same reasonable expectation of not getting hurt or seriously injured due to someone else negligence. If your child has been injured, seek the advice of a seasoned attorney in the field of personal injury to assure that your child’s best interests and rights are properly protected.

Court Cases Provides Guidance for Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Divorces in Massachusetts

Massachusetts was a leader in its early recognition of same-sex marriages. Logic dictates that the Commonwealth will also have more experience with same-sex divorce and family law matters, including child custody and support issues in cases involving the dissolution of a same-sex marriage. Three Massachusetts cases do, in fact, reflect that experience.

In a 2006 same-sex divorce case (A.H. v M.P., 447 Mass. 828), one partner never adopted the child of her partner, although she was well aware of the importance of pursuing a formal adoption. Her former partner was the child’s primary caregiver. The court determined that she had no legal right to parenting time and had no support obligations as a “de facto” parent. The result in this case indicates how critical it is for one partner in a same-sex marriage to adopt the other partner’s biological child if the first partner desires to continue to have a parental relationship with that child in the event of a dissolution of a marriage.

A Massachusetts court had previously considered the rights and responsibilities of a “de facto” parent. In a 1999 case (E.N.O. v. L.L.M., 429 Mass. 824), the court determined that an adult who has no biological relation to a child, but who has participated in the child’s life as a member of his family, may be entitled to parenting time and visitation rights following dissolution of the relationship. The “de facto” parenting standard is thus a function of the facts of each specific case. A same-sex parent who does not actively participate in a child’s upbringing while a marriage is intact will have little opportunity to continue any relationship with that child after the marriage dissolves.  [Read more…]

Is Collaborative Law Right For Your Divorce

The emotional repercussions of the breakdown of a marriage make divorce one of the most complicated of all legal processes. However, complicated court appearances and stressful litigation is not always necessary. For those that are comfortable with settling out of court, collaborative law is an option. There are many experienced attorneys throughout the state of Massachusetts that at  are well-practiced to serve individuals in this regard.

What is Collaborative Law and is it right for you?

Simply put, collaborative law is a non-adversarial a means of settling all aspects relative to dissolving a marriage without any court appearance or intervention. Rather, the parties will take part in several meetings with professionals of varying specialties to come to a mutually agreeable settlement arrangement. Again, it is important to understand that this option is for spouses who are non-adversarial, meaning that the parties are not fighting to “win” an advantage, as further outlined here. If you believe that you and your current spouse are willing to proceed through the negotiation process with respect for one another, and with the understanding that any solution needs to suit all involved as best as possible, including any children of the marriage, then collaborative law could be the answer for you. Each of the individuals involved must also be willing to disclose any financial and personal information to determine the most lawful and proper settlement outcome.

In addition to reducing stress by avoiding court involvement, collaborative law is also more cost-effective. When spouses are not in agreement, excessive time and resources will almost inevitably be used.

If you are ready to take an active role in your divorce settlement and feel that Collaborative Law may be right for you, you may contact our office directly or review information from the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council to find a qualified attorney.

What You Need to Know About Child Custody in Massachusetts

Divorce is described as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Add children to the mix, coupled with questions of custody, support, and visitation, and emotions and stress can reach a breaking point. Wading through this difficult time calls for the help of a professional such as a divorce & family law attorney who also understands laws specific to Massachusetts.

Before you meet with an attorney, here are few pieces of information about child custody in Massachusetts that you’ll need to know in order to develop questions pertaining to your situation.

Two primary forms of child custody in Massachusetts

Physical custody determines where a child will live during certain periods of time.

Legal custody determines which parent has authority to make major decisions as in the doctor the child sees, the school the child attends, and even in which faith to raise the child.

Sole vs. shared custody
Sole physical custody means a child lives with one parent who is ultimately responsible for the child’s day-to-day supervision. The other parent is allowed reasonable visitation unless the court rules that this would not be in the child’s best interest.

Shared physical custody allows both parents a shared responsibility in raising the child while the child resides equally with both.

Sole legal custody gives one parent all rights and responsibilities to make major decisions in the child’s life. [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.

3. Unreported Income – Does your ex-spouse work in a cash business? Some people believe they can keep their true income hidden by excluding revenue from their financial statements. However, lifestyle costs often reveal the truth.

4. Collectibles – One way to hide money is investing in antiques and artwork, or even comic books and baseball cards. These items are often bought over the course of the marriage, and then the value is under-reported during the divorce.

5. Delayed Compensation – Your ex-spouse’s stock options, raises, and bonuses are all included in a divorce. However, if your ex-spouse has a friendly boss, they can conspire to delay promotions or payments of bonuses.

6. Custodial Accounts – One of the most devious methods of hiding money is setting up a custodial account in the name of one of their children. While this is hiding assets from the court, they are basically gifting the assets to their child. This can mean, if they eventually take the money back, they are stealing.

[Read more…]

Consequences of Devastating Head Injuries

50,000 people lose their lives, 280,000 are people hospitalized and 2.2 million people are seen in emergency rooms: these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show the impact of head injuries in the United States in a single year. The magnitude of these statistics is worthy of discussion; particularly since a traumatic head injury can be the result of car accidents, slip and fall accidents and assaults.

Head Injuries Pose Potential for Long-Term Consequences
While a head injury can have immediate repercussions for victims including headaches, temporary memory loss and feelings of sleepiness, the long-term consequences should not be ignored. Even those victims who suffer very mild symptoms of a head injury after a car accident need to use caution; repeat head trauma has been associated with higher incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Those with severe head injuries immediately after an accident can suffer from: [Read more…]

What to Do if You Aren’t Getting Visitation with Your Child

If you are the non-custodial parent, not being able to spend time with your child on a daily basis can be painful. Regular visitation should help, but if the other parent is not cooperative or if you have not been granted visitation, you could be wondering what steps you need to take in order to spend more time with your child. An attorney who is experienced in Massachusetts divorce and family law can help.

The next steps depend on your situation. If you have not been granted visitation with your children, then you and your attorney will need to go to court to modify the child custody order that is currently in place, or you may need to petition to have a child custody order made if there isn’t one. These are both things that a family law attorney can help you with.

On the other hand, if a judge has ordered that you are supposed to get visitation with your child but the custodial parent is not cooperating, you will need to petition the courts to ensure that the child custody order is followed. It can be challenging to deal with a custodial parent who is not willing to budge, but it is important to follow the proper legal procedure in order to obtain your desired outcome.

If you want to see your kids, you should be able to, even as the non-custodial parent. Whether you need help with child custody or other aspects of your divorce, we can help. Please call our office to schedule a consultation with our family law attorneys.

Divorce and The Best Interests of the Child

When you’re going through the divorce process and managing the child support and custody issues, you’ll hear the term “best interests of the child.” Generally, the court will consider the new family lifestyle after a divorce and where the court feels the child will best be able to adapt to the new changes. It is possible for you and your spouse to ease into your new family dynamic in order to make the transition easier on your child.

Amicable Relationship

In order for you and your spouse to best help your child through the divorce process, they should maintain an amicable relationship. While that may not be easy, especially at first, this is beneficial in helping your child’s transition into this new way of life. It’s best to avoid contentious debates about visitation, child support, visitation and other child-rearing issues. [Read more…]

Employment Law, Military Service, and Your Rights

Today’s military relies more and more on reservists and those considered to be part-time soldiers. While these individuals are ready, willing and able to serve their country when called, they know that time away serving their Country means time away from their regular employment. This is why there are laws that protect those called to active duty.

Re-Employment Rights

No doubt, the biggest concern to those called away is getting their job back when they return. An employee is considered to be on an unpaid leave of absence when he or she is called to active military duty. This means that they have the right to be re-employed once they return, as mandated by federal law. They are also entitled to the same benefits and salary.

Those that have been called away to serve must reapply for their job, depending on how long the reservist has been away. The service member has five years to retain his re-employment rights.

If the employee has been absent for 30 days or less, he can continue his health care coverage at the same cost during the time of his service. If he serves more than 30 days, he obtains a plan through the health plan offered by the military. [Read more…]

What Can Be Modified in Your 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 need to 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, a significant change of residence, or change in income. These changes can affect custody agreements and spousal and child support.

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…]

Criminal Law Cases

With a background in criminal law and having served as an Assistant District Attorney, Attorney Morte has represented numerous clients who have been charged with criminal offenses.

A small sample of cases handled successfully by Attorney Morte have included:

  • Operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • General motor vehicle offenses including negligence, operating after suspension or other similar charges
  • Gun charges
  • Sexual assault charges
  • Registry of Motor Vehicle issues and including loss of license
  • Texting/Pornography related charges

General Civil Litigation – Sample Cases

Attorney Morte has represented several small and large companies in recovering outstanding amounts owned for goods and services provided.  A sample of the companies that Attorney Morte has represented.

  • A nationally known transportation company
  • A nationally known distribution and warehouse business
  • A Massachusetts Insurance Agency with offices throughout the State
  • Several banks that do business in Massachusetts
  • A well-established local coffee company
  • Several appliance stores located within Massachusetts
  • Several construction and development companies
  • A Packaging Company that does business worldwide.
  • Several carpet and tile companies in either their defense or in the collection of funds owed for goods and services provided.
  • A Real Estate and Development Company related to a mechanics lien
  • Attorney Morte has also defended individuals where there has been inadequate insurance coverage or wherein the insurance company has refused to cover claims whether the be related to homeowners or automobile coverage.

Motorcycle Group Ride – Accidents and Injuries

Many motorcyclists are quick to sign up for group rides.  There is no shortage of them especially in Massachusetts.  Our riding season is generally shorter than many parts of the country.

Every weekend there is a group charity ride going somewhere.  Many motorcyclists are willing to quickly sign up to participate for these rides because the cause is important to them.  They are quick to fill out the registration form and pay the fee and they often sign off on the release of liability agreement required to participate in such a run.  Signing a form of this type does not make the ride any safer or remove liability from all participants.
[Read more…]

Employment Law Cases

Attorney Morte has successfully handled numerous cases involving discrimination based on pregnancy, sex, age, disability or national origins.

A sampling of these cases that Attorney Morte has resolved or is presently working on one of the following:

  • A case where a woman was terminated working for a national known company, after she became pregnant and complained that she was being placed on a Personal Improvement Plan simply because she was a woman and pregnant.
  • A case where a woman was being sexually harassed by her supervisor who repeatedly asked her for sexual favors.
  • A man who was a whistleblower against a utility company that was falsely reporting statistics to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Cases involving the wage and hour laws which allow for a trebling of damages plus Attorney’s fee where the employer fails to pay wages or overtime in accordance with the law.

[Read more…]

Personal Injury Cases

  • Attorney Morte has represented the Estates of a young man who was overprescribed medication and who eventually died from an overdose of the medication. Attorney Morte successfully recovered from both the physician who prescribed the medication, as well as the pharmacy who sold the medication to the young man.
  • Attorney Morte was able to secure the policy limits for a woman who was involved in a single car incident caused by a driver who left the scene of the accident. The accident happened at the intersection of Route 495 and Route 290 in Marlborough, MA.  The client suffered a concussion from the accident and which was ultimately diagnosed as a brain injury resulting in a large settlement.
  • Attorney Morte successfully negotiated a settlement for a mason who was injured at work due to the negligence of the general contractor and his employer. The client suffered a debilitation shoulder injury which prevented him from returning to work.  Fortunately, the settlement allowed the worker a financial settlement that allowed him to comfortably live out his retirement years.
  • Often Attorney Morte has represented clients with pre-existing injuries that were aggravated by another accident. These cases are often denied by insurance companies initially.  Attorney Morte has often been able to prove that the injuries are either new or aggravated be the recent events resulting in favorable settlements.
  • Attorney Morte has represented numerous motorcycle operators or bicyclists who were badly injured in motor vehicle accidents. Often there is a bias against these individuals, but the injuries that they sometimes suffer can be catastrophic.  Attorney Morte has successfully resolved a number of these cases.
  • Attorney Morte has represented a number of individuals when they have been injured while working. These cases are often covered under the worker’s compensation law, but there are occasions where the employer fails to properly provide for insurance coverage the employee as such and a direct claim can be made against the employer.
  • Attorney Morte has successfully pursued numerous third party cases against individuals or entities that caused injuries to client’s while they were working. Attorney Morte has successfully maintained third party cases on behalf of police officers, municipal workers, and many others.
  • Attorney Morte has represented a number of individuals who were badly injured when they fell due to the negligence of their landlord or others. Attorney Morte has been successful  in obtaining substantial recoveries for individuals who have sustained ankle fractures, arm fractures or other significant injuries.

Divorce Matters and Restraining Order Cases

Restraining Orders

Often times a Restraining Order will serve as the first step to a divorce action.

Attorney Morte has successful challenged Restraining Orders that were obtained without advance notice and a hearing.  When the time came for presentation of the full set of facts and there was an opportunity for cross-examination, these Restraining Orders were dropped.

Alimony

Attorney Morte has helped numerous clients obtain Alimony in accordance with the recently enacted Alimony laws in Massachusetts.  The new laws generally allow for a spouse to obtain Alimony that ranges between 30% to 35% of the difference in income where there has been a long-term marriage.  Attorney Morte has been successful in obtaining awards for both men and women. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Car Accident Expenses – Who Pays For What?

You’ve been in a serious car accident along the busy roads of Greater Boston.  The damage to your vehicle is great, but that doesn’t measure to the pain you’ve suffered from your injuries. Not only is your car totaled, but you’re about to receive numerous medical bills for thousands of dollars.  Who pays for what?

•    Medical Bills
The state of Massachusetts follows the “no fault” system.  When injury occurs from a car accident, automobile insurance will pay up to $2,000 of the medical bills.  After that $2,000, either your healthcare coverage, or P.I.P.(Personal Injury Protection) if you did not have health insurance during the accident, will cover the amount appropriate with the insurance you bought.  However, P.I.P. will only cover up to $8,000. [Read more…]

Premises Liability – What is it and Who is at fault?

Winter is coming, and there will be snow and ice. In fact, if it’s anything like last year, there may be a lot of snow and ice.

Injuries due to snow and ice may be cause for damages in a premises liability case. Premises liability in Massachusetts, however, applies to many types of injuries and accidents, not just those caused by our weather.

The term “premises liability” covers any kind of accident that arises from a condition on a property. This can include snow or ice, an obstruction, defective workmanship, inadequate maintenance, a slippery floor, broken stairs, or any other environment that causes one to fall, slip, or trip. The range of potential conditions covered by premises liability is very wide; because of the numerous conditions potentially covered and the complexity of the law, it is highly advisable to consult an experienced personal injury attorney if you have questions. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Child Support Law

In a Massachusetts divorce, one parent may be ordered by the court to pay child support. Under Massachusetts law, both parents are required to support their children—and this is true regardless of marital status (whether the parents are married, divorced, separated, or were never married). The parent the child lives with is termed the custodial parent. The noncustodial parent may be required to pay child support.

Massachusetts child support law is complicated, but there are several things you should know.

One, child support may be used to pay for housing, food, clothing, education, and insurance and medical costs. [Read more…]

Who Has Child Custody When Parents Are Separated

Making the decision to separate from your spouse is difficult and often occurs over a lengthy period of time. During that time, it’s common for spouses to begin living in separate households. If the partners have children, this raises many questions about where and with who the children should live.

Massachusetts law has put in place some very distinct laws to handle this sort of child custody dispute.
If the parents are not married, the mother automatically has sole legal and physical custody until a court orders something else. However under Massachusetts law, if the parents are married to each other, both parents share legal and physical custody of the children until a court decides otherwise. [Read more…]

Divorce Modifications in the State of Massachusetts

When the terms of your divorce no longer fit your present circumstances, petitioning for divorce modification can help alter the terms accordingly. In the state of Massachusetts, overturning a divorce decree requires an appeal. This process is often drawn-out because one appellate court will need to overturn a lower court’s decision. These appeals are usually unsuccessful except in the case of exceptional and compelling circumstances. These are common examples of situations that warrant a divorce modification. [Read more…]

Employment Law: Massachusetts Sick Leave Law Now In Effect

If you work in a company of 11 or more people you are now entitled to paid sick leave. The law became effective on July 15, 2015 and requires that you be credited with one hour of paid leave for every thirty hours worked. According to the state statute you may use this time for yourself, your spouse, child, parent or parent – in –law for issues such as:

  • Medical treatment for physical or mental illness
  • Conditions that require home care
  • Preventative medical care
  • Routine medical appointments
  • Physical or legal issues concerning domestic violence

In most instances you do not have to produce documentation, or a “doctor’s note “ unless you are absent for more than 24 hours. [Read more…]

An attorney who will get the job done!!

7 years ago Steve handled my difficult divorce with professionalism and to my satisfaction. I rehired him to work through the support part of our divorce which was left unsettled due to the inability of one party to compromise. Although it took longer than I had hoped, through no fault of Attorney Morte, the support issue was also resolved to my satisfaction. I would hire Attorney Morte again in a heartbeat.

Pam, divorce client

Massachusetts Law and the Role of Insurance Adjusters

With over 110,000 auto crashes a year in the state of Massachusetts, it is a sad likelihood that you or a loved one could be severely injured in an auto accident at some point. This can be a very disturbing event, and potentially a very debilitating one. Both emotional and physical effects from an accident can significantly affect your daily life.

You have prepared for this contingency by purchasing auto insurance. In the event of an accident, you expect that your insurance policy or that of the party a fault will provide whatever is needed for your continued health and well-being.

However, it is important to know that the insurance companies will always try to limit the costs associated with payment of claims. With that in mind, there may be some things that the insurance representative will not tell you. [Read more…]

Contempt and Enforcement of Family Law Court Orders

When a divorce decree is finalized by the court, the decree often contains specific orders to one party specifically called court orders. These orders may include payment of child support or spousal support or a transfer of property to one spouse. The courts may also order specific visitation schedules for the non-custodial parent. Too often, former spouses may elect to ignore these orders which can create numerous problems. The penalties to the offending party for these transgressions can be severe but oftentimes the party who is being harmed needs to file a claim in order to call the court’s attention to the situation. Your family law attorney may suggest you file a contempt of court case against the offending party.

What do I have to prove?

Before you can file a contempt of court charge against the person who is violating a court order, there are certain conditions that must be met. You will have to be able to prove to the satisfaction of the court some of these conditions:

  • The order is valid – a contempt of court case requires the agreement between the partners was ordered by the court and that one person is violating that order.
  • The defendant is aware of the order – in some divorce cases, both parties may not have attended the court hearings. If a judge orders support payments or visitation, the other person has to be aware these orders are in place in order to obey them. In most cases, this can be accomplished by sending a copy of the orders to the other party immediately following a divorce.
  • The person is knowingly in default – if your former spouse calls you and tells you they will not make a support payment or that you cannot see your child, this is clear evidence they are knowingly violating a court order.

[Read more…]

Negligent Entrustment – $625,000.00

A Marlborough, MA man received a $625,000.00 Judgment after having been injured in a motorcycle accident in 2006. This young man was injured when another motorcycle operated by a person, with limited driving experience and a poor driving history, caused the motorcycle crash. This person was also operating an uninsured and unregistered vehicle.

Suit was brought against the company that entrusted the motorcycle to this person. Initially, this case was decided in favor of the company by a Judge in the Superior Court. The case was appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, where the Superior Court’s decision was overturned, ultimately resulting in a settlement of $625,000.00.

This case is a good example of how persistence and hard work can result in a successful outcome.

Auto Accidents: Back and Neck Injuries

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, don’t ignore the minor aches and pains. You may think you’re not seriously injured and that its too much trouble to go to the doctor to check out such a minor issue. The fact of the matter is many types of back and neck injuries can take weeks and even months to surface and that minor ache often turns in to something much more serious. Here are a few examples of serious back and neck injuries that may take weeks to materialize .

  • Herniated and bulging discs. The 23 discs in your vertebrae sit between 24 vertebrae. Trauma can cause one or more of these to bulge or be herniated and it can take some time to be noticeable depending on the severity of impact.
  • Dislocation fractures. This is one of the most common injuries suffered in a car accident. When one or more vertebrae fracture, the soft tissues move into the damaged area over time.
  • Soft tissue bruising and tearing. During a car accident, a number of muscles, tissue ligaments, and tendons can suddenly break or stretch. This type of back injury can cause excruciating pain, affecting thousands of nerve endings.
  • Axial bursts. If you were in an accident that caused a big impact, multiple vertebrae in your lumbar and cervical regions might have been damaged.

[Read more…]

Auto Accidents – A Skilled Injury Attorney Will Make The Difference

Car accidents happen all the time, and they oftentimes leave one or both parties with injuries that require medical attention. Medical bills are expensive and it is important that you are not financially ruined because of the fault of another. Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to fight for your interests, and make sure you are compensated for your medical bills and suffering.

Personal injury lawyers are especially important when you are in an accident with a commercial truck or other large corporately insured vehicle. The insurance and transportation companies want to settle with you as quickly as possible. Do not sign any papers they put in front of you without consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer even if what they are offering seems like a lot of money. If you waive them of liability by accepting their offer and it turns out you have more extensive medical bills than you thought at the time of signing, you are out of luck; you will have to cover the costs for yourself. [Read more…]

Child Custody and Visitation in Massachusetts

Divorce can be a stressful time. When children are involved, the experience can be even harder. Figuring out where the child or children will live often transitions into disagreements and arguments, particularly if both parents want sole custody of the children or if one parent feels like he or she is not getting fair visitation rights.

Massachusetts law concerning child custody and visitation is pretty clear-cut. First of all, if the parents were married, unless a judge has said otherwise, both parents temporarily share custody of the child until a permanent decision is made by the court. If the parents are unmarried, the mother has sole custody of the child unless a judge says otherwise. Permanent custody of the child can be broken up into four types of custody.

Sole legal custody– One parent has the right to make decisions about major issues such as where the child goes to school, what religious instructions the child receives, and when and how the child gets medical care.

Shared legal custody– Both parents are equally responsible to make decisions regarding things such as the above mentioned major issues in the child’s life. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Paternity Law

When a child is born to two married parents, the husband is the legal father and his name is put on the child’s birth certificate. However, in the diverse society in which we live, children are born into families of many different dynamics. When parents are unmarried, paternity must be legally established in order for the father to appear on the child’s birth certificate and have legal rights to the child. This is an important step since it also involves future rights of the child.

So, how is paternity established in Massachusetts?

Voluntary Vs. Involuntary

Paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. When both parents agree on who the biological father is, they both sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage” in front of a notary pubic, establishing paternity voluntarily. This acknowledgement is then filed with the Registry of Vital Records, officially establishing paternity. [Read more…]

What is comparative fault in Massachusetts?

Practical application of comparative fault

For most people, it is a challenge to understand comparative fault. Therefore it is typically helpful to have a solid example of how the facts of the case will be looked at. Here is an example of what comparative fault is:

You are walking up a flight of stairs in a commercial building. You are with a friend and talking. Because you are distracted, you do not notice that there is a break in the handrail and you get your shirt sleeve stuck in the break causing you to fall down the stairs. You are seriously injured in the fall and have to have surgery and are out of work for several weeks. You feel you deserve to have your medical bills and lost wages compensated.

When reviewing the facts of your case, the court determines you are partially responsible for your fall because you were distracted. The property owner is at fault as well because they should have repaired the broken handrail.

The final determination is that you are 20% at fault for your injuries. Your injury award is determined to be $100,000. However, because you were 20% at fault, the maximum you will be awarded is $80,000.

The comparative fault threshold

It is important to understand that if you are found to be 50% responsible that you will be unable to collect any compensation under the personal injury laws in Massachusetts. Using the scenario above, you might be found to be 50% liable for your accident if the property owner placed a hazard sign on the stairway indicating there was a break in the handrail.

If you have been injured at a commercial facility such as a supermarket or shopping center, you may have the right to file a personal injury suit. Contact a Massachusetts personal injury attorney to determine what rights you have and what evidence you may have to provide.

Great experience helping my 88 year old father

Several years ago, my father and I met with Steve to report that my dads accountant had cheated him out of over $30,000 of his retirement funds. The accountant told my father that he would be investing this money for my dad, but never invested it and kept the money for himself. Steve tirelessly worked on this case over several years. My dad died at 91 but Steve never stopped working for our family. Steve won several judgments against the accountant and finally this year, Steve reached an agreement with the accountants attorney to settle.
My family deeply appreciates Steve’s hard work and getting justice for my Dad.

David

Property Owners’ and Landlords Legal Duty to Prevent Injury

If you are a property owner, you have many issues you have to be aware of legally. One of these is the property owner’s legal duty to prevent injury.

If you have tenants who are elderly, disabled, or prone to accident, this becomes especially concerning to you as a property owner, as you may wonder how much liability is involved in such cases.

The “Reasonable Safety” Clause

In general, as a landlord or property owner, you have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care for the safety of your tenants. If you find any dangerous conditions, you must repair these as soon as possible to avoid personal injury. This carries with it also a responsibility to hold regular inspections of the property, so that you will know if such a condition exists.

Warn or Repair

Once you locate a dangerous situation or become aware of it, you are required by Massachusetts law to do one of two things:

  • Repair the portion of the property or the issue which is causing the dangerous situation to exist.
  • Warn the tenants of the possibility of injuries which they could suffer due to the condition, so that they may take proper extra steps to protect themselves.

Liability of Property Owners

If someone is injured while on the property, you may be held liable for damages, depending upon the situation and whether or not you warned the person of the situation, attempted to repair it if possible, and whether or not the person was trespassing. [Read more…]

Great Attorney

A legal complaint was filed against me and Stephen Morte was key to my successful outcome. His confidence and professionalism gave me the faith to know that I could trust him to get a favorable outcome. He was easy to contact and offered a prompt and convenient meeting. He is native to metrowest and is well known and knowledgable in our legal system. I will recommend him to any one of my friends and family in need of a great Attorney.

Gregory

Massachusetts Motorcycle Accidents – What Cyclists Need To Know

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, it is imperative to find a lawyer that has experience taking such cases to trial, and also has worked with accident reconstruction teams and insurance companies. Because of their reputation and the difficulties in presenting a case in court, juries and insurance companies can often be unfair in motorcycle accident cases.

As it is all across the U.S., motorcyclists in Massachusetts suffer from a disproportionate number of accidents and injuries, despite following almost all of the same road regulations as other drivers. Per mile traveled, motorcyclists have a 35 times greater risk of being fatally injured in an accident than a passenger car. Between 2001 and 2008 an estimated 1,222,000 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for non-fatal motorcycle injuries. According to the Hurt Report, failure from motorists to spot and recognize motorcyclists is the predominant cause in motorcycle accidents.

To lessen the danger, certain requirements present themselves to motorcycle drivers. The state of Massachusetts requires that all motorcyclists wear a helmet. And there is also a motorcycle safety program offered in 13 locations across the state. [Read more…]

Great choice for legal services !

I recently had Steve handle my divorce. He was able to see the big picture from the start, unlike myself who would tend to get hung up on the small things. He has a nice and honest way of connecting to his client. Always on top of issues and how to resolve them. I would highly recommend Steve for your legal needs.

Divorce client

Massachusetts Child Custody and Visitation Laws

Divorce is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements for children. In Massachusetts, the top priority of the courts is to determine arrangements that are “in the best interests of the child”, but that may not always be as straightforward as it seems. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead, seek competent legal representation and hire an attorney.

Massachusetts recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody and sole physical custody. When a couple files for divorce, both parents are automatically granted temporary shared legal custody. This allows both parents to have equal responsibility (and rights) concerning major decisions like medical care, education and religious development. During what can be contentious times, differing ideas about the schooling or religious upbringing of children can surface. Having an attorney can make sure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Work Related Injuries

Massachusetts workers who are injured on the job often do not know where to turn if the insurer rejects their claim. There were nearly 70,000 workplace related injuries and illnesses in Massachusetts last year according to a report that was compiled with help from several agencies including Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s office.

Most Common Injury and illnesses

Fortunately, most of the injuries and illness that occurred in Massachusetts were not fatal. Some of the most common injuries reported included hearing loss, respiratory problems and skin conditions. Employees were divided among a number of industries with the most injury and illness reports occurring in construction and manufacturing, education and health services, and state government.

What happens after an accident or reported injury

Employees have an obligation to report workplace injuries and illnesses to their employers within five working days. After that, employers have an obligation to report to their insurance company who must contact you within 14 calendar days. If you don’t hear from the insurer, you may consider contacting the Department of Industrial Accidents Office of Insurance and you should also consider contacting a Massachusetts personal injury attorney. [Read more…]

Swimming Pool Accidents in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts if you are the owner of a private pool, either as an individual, corporation or perhaps part of a club or association, or if you manage a semi-public or a pool open to the public you are responsible for knowing the regulations and laws regarding pool safety.

Finding laws or regulations that govern safety issues for pools in Massachusetts can be a bit difficult. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted the 2009 International Building Code, which governs swimming pool enclosures and safety devices. Here are several codes and regulations often overlooked by pool owners.

Massachusetts code states that residential pool owners must have a barrier covering their pool when not in use. The barrier should not have openings in it that would allow the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere. The pool should also have self-closing gates. [Read more…]

Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts

In order to identify citizens who are driving under the influence of alcohol and certain drugs, police will often use Field Sobriety Tests to determine if a driver is under the influence. A driver is said to be under the influence of alcohol if their blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08%, and in commercial drivers the limit is set at 0.04%.

If a police officer believes that a driver is intoxicated, they may ask the driver to submit to several field sobriety tests. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test are 3 field sobriety tests that are often used.

 The horizontal gaze nystagmus test can identify the use of alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system by showing a nystagmus in the eye. A nystagmus is involuntary bouncing or jerking of the eyeball that occurs when one looks to the side. This involuntary bouncing or jerking can be either caused by alcohol intoxication or the use of other drugs such as inhalants or phencyclidine (aka PCP or Angel Dust). Alcohol and certain other drugs depress the central nervous system making it difficult for the brain to control the eye muscles. To administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a police officer will position an object such as a pen or a finger about a foot away from the driver’s view. The officer will then note any bouncing or jerking movements of the driver’s eyes as they follow the pen with their eyes from side to side. [Read more…]

Are Parents Held Accountable for “Social Hosting” ?

It’s well-known that the legal drinking age in all states, including Massachusetts, is 21. However, what about “social hosting”? Social hosting refers to providing alcohol or other illegal substances to a minor that is not your own child on your property or in an environment you control. Especially during graduation time, some parents reason if they provide alcohol at a party at their private residence in a safe environment, ensuring that minors do not drink and drive, they are not committing a crime. Massachusetts’ “Social Host” law says that they are. Consider the consequences and situations covered by this law.

  • You could pay fines and go to jail. The penalty in Massachusetts for “social hosting” is a fine up to $2,000 and/or prison time for up to one year. Of course, if injury occurred, such as if a child died in an accident after leaving your home, you could be convicted of more serious crimes, resulting in a longer prison sentence.

[Read more…]

Domestic Violence Laws in Massachusetts

In the state of Massachusetts, domestic violence laws include physical harm or the intent to physically harm, the infliction of fear of physical harm, and involuntary sexual relationship against a family or other household member. This crime is especially serious if the victim was violated by the suspect while a protective order was in place.

Definition of a household member:

  • people who are or have once been married
  • individuals that have children together
  • individuals that are related through marriage or by blood
  • individuals who live together are have lived together, such as roommates

Assault can range from actual physical harm or the intent to commit physical harm against another individual. This means that even a serious threat to commit physical harm can be considered assault. Simple assault is in itself a crime, but in Massachusetts, assault against a family or household member is considered a much more serious offense. [Read more…]

An Experienced Attorney with Integrity

Steve Morte is a great attorney. Steve was there through every step of the process with my legal situation. Steve made me feel at ease and comfortable through the whole process and made me know he had everything under control. Steve’s communication was impeccable and I knew everything every step of the way. Steve genuinely cares about his clients and he displays that from the very beginning. I highly recommend Steve Morte if you are in need of an attorney from my experience with him.

David M.

Attorney Stephen Morte Criminal Defense

Attorney Morte assisted my daughter with a criminal motor vehicle issue. From the start, he was calm, knowledgeable and confident with all aspects of the trial and his preparation for it. The actual trial went just as attorney Morte had predicted and all charges against my daughter were dropped. The entire process was, for us, relatively effortless. What some friends told us could be a legal nightmare was, literally, a fifteen minute stop at trial court.

My daughter and I would heartily endorse attorney Morte for in situations where effective and professional criminal defense is warranted.

Criminal Defense client

Exceptional Attorney

Mr. Morte has represented me several times over the past twenty years, and while the results have been exceptional, I have been even more impressed with his calm manner, professional approach, and extensive knowledge of the law. I am particularly pleased with his unique ability to simply listen. I would reccomend Mr. Morte to anyone seeking an effective, and caring attorney.

Charles G.

What is Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?

In Massachusetts, when you’re injured in an auto accident, your insurance policy’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage should pay your medical bills and other expenses, but those aren’t the only benefits you’re entitled to recover. If you sustain a serious injury, an experienced personal injury attorney could also negotiate a settlement for damages due to your pain, suffering, any permanent disabilities, and lost wages.Massachusetts automobile statutes allow injury victims to collect additional damages from the legally responsible party if injuries or medical bills meet or exceed PIP tort thresholds.

PIP Tort Threshold

Massachusetts No Fault Laws recognize that injuries can have a significant impact on your life. The medical bills and lost wages covered by your Personal Injury Protection coverage were never intended to make up for permanent disabilities or other life altering conditions. The law gives you the right to sue the person who caused your accident if one of the following occurs. [Read more…]