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