Divorce must be filed in a particular family court

Massachusetts has a number of probate and family law courts scattered throughout its borders. This is because its residents live in large and small communities all throughout the state. In fact, each county in the state has its own probate and family court. Having multiple courts allows individuals to have their legal matters heard in a timely matter, though it can also create confusion for some who may not know where to have their legal matters heard.

When it comes to divorce, there are a few rules that a person must follow with regard to where he may file his paperwork. Most simply, if a person and his or her spouse live in the same county, then that person can just file the paperwork in that court. If they do not live in the same county, then the individual has a choice.

When spouses no longer live in the same Massachusetts county the individual filing the divorce paperwork may choose to file in his or her county of residence. The individual may also choose to file in his or her spouse’s county of residence; deciding where to file divorce paperwork may be a challenge for some and those who have questions about how to handle this step in procuring a divorce may choose to consult with their personal legal counsel.

Knowing where to file one’s paperwork for divorce is just one of the legal hurdles a person may face on the road to the end of a marriage. Many other divorce legal issues can complicate the process of terminating the legal relationship between a husband and a wife. People with questions about this and the other technical requirements of divorce may find answers from trusted legal sources.

Time as a factor in an alimony determination

Hollywood power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner recently announced that they would divorce. While it may not be surprising to learn of another celebrity couple splitting up, the timing of this split is notable.

Garner waited until the day after the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary to submit her petition to end her marriage. In the state where the couple resides, a marriage of more than 10 years is considered one of long duration and therefore entitles the lower wage-earning spouse to more alimony than spouses who divorce out of shorter-term marriages. Timing of a divorce can affect alimony in Massachusetts as well, and the state’s legislature has established an alimony scale that increases an alimony award for every five years that a couple is wed.

For example, if a couple is married for fewer than five years, a support award cannot last longer than half of the months that the couple was married. That would mean that if a couple was married for exactly four years or 48 months, the alimony award could not last longer than two years or 24 months. Each step up of five years of marriage provides a support-receiving spouse with a greater percentage of months during which he or she may receive financial support from the paying spouse.

In Massachusetts, a court may disregard the month-based structure described above if the interests of justice dictate doing so. There is, therefore, some leeway in the discussed length of marriage legislation to provide a needy party with the support he or she needs when taking into consideration any limitations he or she may have regarding the ability to earn money. Just as demonstrated in the Garner-Affleck divorce, the length of a marriage can have an impact on how much support a court awards in a divorce. Other factors can play into an alimony determination, and individuals with more questions about alimony may choose to work with family law legal professionals.

Do you know what is at stake in your divorce?

Marriages are partnerships, and like other forms of partnerships, the partners to a marriage often divide between themselves the responsibilities that need to be completed. In some Massachusetts marriages, one of the partners handles household tasks while the other handles financial obligations. While these divisions can provide some balance to the load of work forced upon many couples, they also often leave some spouses in the dark when it comes to the money matters of their marriages.

For example, when one spouse handles all of the bills, budgets and investments for the pair, the other may be unaware of how their money is being spent and where it is being held. If a divorce were to occur, the money-controlling spouse could be at an advantage to better understand the financial picture of the couple’s life. This advantage could unfairly benefit that spouse during the property division process at the end of the couple’s relationship.

While litigated divorces are designed to give individuals opportunities to secure records and information through the discovery process, uncooperative spouses are sometimes motivated to hold back on sharing all of the financial data they have in order to enrich themselves in the divorce process.

A spouse could sometimes find themselves in less than stable financial positions when their partner fails to disclose or under-disclose all of the couple’s assets. When a person is unsure of where marital money is located and how it is controlled, he or she can find himself lost during the couple’s asset division negotiations.

A zealous advocate can be an asset to someone who does not have all of the information that he needs to bring about the end of a marriage. Attorney Kevin Walters of the Walters Law Offices supports his clients through the entirety of their divorces and has worked hard to obtain the financial materials required for past clients to obtain a fair property division determination. To learn more, check out our divorce website. Although no property settlement or resolution can ever be promised, strong advocacy and the careful collection of information can help a person prepare to get a fair financial outcome during dissolution.

Must I pay child support if I don’t agree with a planned expense?

Illness and injury are two of the main reasons that Massachusetts parents take their kids to see doctors. When their children are under the weather, parents often look to medical professionals to provide reassurance, care and suggested methods of improving the children’s health. When children are given serious diagnoses, their parents may be asked to take them to different facilities for further evaluation or for the treatment of significant health conditions.

While married parents may be on the same page when it comes to the medical care of their children, divorced parents may not have the same harmonious experience. One parent may support the medical treatment of a child by doctors and other health care professionals while the other may resist such practices and seek other methods for improving the child’s health. One parent may believe that costly medical procedures are important to a child’s care while the other may deem the expenses as unneeded.

When a parent does not agree with a planned expense for his or her child, the parent may believe it is permissible for them to not provide child support for that cost. However, a parent must first look at the child support order or agreement to see if it is required to pay under such circumstances. Child support payments are for the benefit of the kids, and the preferences of the parents generally do not factor into what constitutes the best interests of the children.

These types of situations also highlight the sometimes murky intersection between child support obligations and child custody arrangements. A parent who pays child support and does not have legal custody of his or her child may not have much standing to oppose a planned child-related expense decided on by the other parent. However, a parent with legal custody over the kids and also pays support for them may have more rights to prevent a child from being subjected to a medical procedure they do not agree with.

In the end, a parent should look at the operating child support document that controls the financial responsibility for the kids. Attorneys who work in the family law field can help individuals review such documents and determine their levels of responsibility. How a family’s child support and child custody plans are set up can have bearing on whether a parent is financially responsible for a cost he or she does not believe to be necessary for the child.

Mediation can be an important option for divorce

Every married Massachusetts couple is unique in its own way. How the partners of a couple interact, how they make decisions and how they share responsibilities can vary greatly from household to household. Whether they have kids, what types of property they own and other marital factors can also set one married couple apart from its neighbors. Incidentally, how Massachusetts couples approach divorce can therefore vary a great deal as well.

Because couples and even the individual members of a single couple may approach divorce differently, the state provides different ways for spouses to negotiate their divorces. Most people know that a divorce may be litigated in a family law court with the assistance of attorneys. A divorce may also be negotiated through mediation with the help of a neutral party.

Mediation can have benefits as well as drawbacks. For example, while the cost of a divorce may be reduced when the partners are able to talk out their decisions in a mediated environment, some individuals may not feel comfortable working directly with their soon-to-be ex to hash out the details of their separations.

Couples who mediate their divorces may feel more confident in the outcomes since they made the decisions themselves, though couples who cannot work together and experience conflict may prefer the use of a family law judge to decide important issues for them.

What is important for Massachusetts readers of this family law blog to realize is that they do not have to follow the path to divorce that their acquaintances followed. They have options for divorcing their spouses and family law legal professionals can help them decide how best to address their pending divorces. The Walters Law Offices help clients pursuing divorce through both the courts and mediation. Our law firm’s website can provide general information to those who wish to learn more about their divorce options.

A closer look at sole legal child custody in Massachusetts

According to the General Laws of Massachusetts, a parent who is granted sole legal custody of a child may exercise a great deal of decision-making power regarding that child’s upbringing. Pursuant to Section 31 of Title III on Domestic Relations, a parent with sole legal custody can choose how and where a child is educated, where and with what techniques a child receives medical evaluation and treatment and if or how a child will have any exposure to religious practices or teachings.

These topics encompass some of the biggest considerations that parents must make with regard to raising his or her children. When one parent is removed from having a voice over such matters, he or she can feel isolated and unable to work for the children’s best interests. A parent with sole legal custody can generally initiate his or her preferences for the children’s experiences without bending to the preferences of the other parent.

With regard to education, a parent with sole legal custody can decide the type of institution that the child or children will attend. This decision can directly relate to another one of the categories over which sole legal custodians retain control: the presence or absence of religious teachings in the life of the child. Secular or religious schools may follow different educational foundations and can vary depending upon the institutions.

The religious beliefs of the legal custodian can also factor into how a child receives medical care. While some religious backgrounds do not have policies with regard to certain treatments, others disavow medical intervention in certain situations. Outside of religious implications, a parent with legal authority over a child can unilaterally choose which courses of treatment to utilize when a child is diagnosed with a medical condition.

A parent with sole custody over the legal decision-making of a child’s upbringing holds a great deal of power. In some situations there are good reasons for why courts feel that one parent should hold such rights over the other. However, parents who feel that the legal custody of their children should be shared can seek to split such decision-making power between them. If doing so would serve the best interests of the children, then courts can permit parents to share legal child custody. Divorced parents dealing with issues regarding the custody of their children should understand their options so they can take the appropriate steps to resolve these divorce legal problems.

When can I stop paying alimony to my former spouse?

Spousal support is the award of financial support from one individual to another following the divorce of the involved parties. In Massachusetts, the duration of how long one party must pay and how long the other will receive alimony depends on a number of factors. While some events can simply terminate monthly alimony payments, in other cases, alimony length is based on the number of years that the former couple was married.

According to the General Laws of Massachusetts, remarriage can end an alimony obligation. If the alimony-receiving spouse remarries after the divorce, the money he or she received from the former spouse can be cut off. When a paying spouse remarries, however, his or her alimony obligation is generally unaffected.

Death can also terminate an alimony obligation. If the receiving spouse dies, alimony ends because there is no one who is owed through survivorship. If the paying spouse dies, the obligation generally does not transfer to another party.

When neither death nor remarriage cuts off alimony, a court will stipulate how long the alimony should last based upon how long the preceding marriage survived. Generally, shorter marriages result in alimony scheduled for shorter durations. Marriages that last more than ten years can result in alimony schedules that endure for longer periods of time. Massachusetts’s courts can even award indefinite alimony when the couple subject to the order was married for more than two decades.

The alimony schedule that a court sets is based on many factors and is unique to the couple it applies to. The above information has been provided as general information and should not be treated as advice. Divorcing or divorced couples dealing with alimony issues or other divorce legal problems should learn more about their options. Obtain legal guidance could help protect the rights and interests of both parties.

Mediation and collaborative law are different divorce processes

This family law blog has included posts about the benefits divorce mediation could have for couples dissolving their marriage. However, another form of cooperative negotiation can also bring about a supportive end to a marriage. Collaborative law, and its applicability to collaborative divorce, is an alternative method of litigation to reaching the legal end of a marriage.

Both mediation and collaborative law hold as hallmarks the compliant nature of negotiations between the parties. They attempt to take the adversarial nature of divorce out of the equation by letting couples talk out issues to establish their custody, support and property division decisions. Though they share many commonalities, there are differences between the mediation and collaborative law divorce processes.

For example, in mediation the parties do not always choose to have their own legal representatives. While a mediator may be an attorney, that individual does not advocate for either one of the partners to the divorcing couple. In a collaborative divorce, the parties usually do have their own lawyers.

Additionally, mediation focuses on getting couples to the ends of their marriages and may not require the full exchange of information between the parties that is achieved through discovery in a litigated divorce. Collaborative divorce has a more formal information gathering process, and with their attorneys, divorcing couples can ask each other for more data in that legal environment than in a mediated setting.

There are other factors that make the mediated divorce and collaborative law divorce routes different, but at their cores, they are both committed to keeping the divorce process respectful and concerted. Couples who are planning to divorce and are interested in possibly pursuing collaborative or mediated methods may decide to research further the commonalities and differences that exist between the two processes.

A child’s needs are paramount when it comes to child support

For many Natick kids, getting through each day is an adventure of new experiences, appropriate challenges and opportunities for fun. They have chances to play with their friends and to bond with their parents and siblings. Though some children are burdened with stresses through their familial and educational settings, most live the relatively carefree lives that children are meant to live.

Some children, however, struggle with challenges that far exceed the normal problems American children generally face. Children afflicted with significant health and medical problems must endure the physical and mental pain of coping with their ailments in addition to the regular issues children of their age must overcome. When children afflicted with serious medical conditions split their time between two different homes, the maintenance of their medical care can become a struggle for their custodial parents.

Health care in American is expensive, and Natick parents dealing with the medical expenses of their ailing children may find that the child support payments they are receiving are insufficient to cover the bills their children’s doctors send. When a child is afflicted by a serious medical condition that imposes emotional and financial strain on his custodial parent’s life, that child may have the right to additional support from his noncustodial parent.

Massachusetts courts look at the best interests of the child in child support cases to determine if the commonwealth’s child support guidelines meet the child’s needs. When a child’s needs change due to medical treatments and doctors’ visits, more support may be warranted to provide him with the care needed to address his ailments. The Walters Law Offices can offer guidance to individuals facing this overwhelming burden. Changing child support orders is possible, and in the case of an ailing child, doing so can serve the child’s best interests.

Massachusetts mother gets child back after state takes custody

The birth of a child can raise many questions for a new mother. Whether she is raising the baby with a partner or on her own, the great responsibility that comes with caring for a new life is one that few women take lightly. Though many worry about whether they are ready for the challenges of parenthood, most are excited about the opportunity to raise their own kids.

A Massachusetts woman was denied that opportunity shortly after she gave birth. Around two years ago, the young woman, who suffers from intellectual disabilities, had a child at a hospital. Upon the child’s birth, the commonwealth’s Department of Children and Families took custody of the girl, claiming that the mother was unable to adequately care for the baby. Since DCF’s interference in this situation, the woman and her family have fought to get the child back.

Just recently the federal government stepped in to help the family. The departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, through a joint investigation, demanded that DCF return the child to her mother. Noting that parents with physical disabilities and limitations are not denied the right to raise their children, the departments found DCF’s actions discriminatory against the mother.

For its part, DCF has claimed that it took action because it believed it was in the best interests of the child to remove her from its mother’s care. However, the investigation also found that while the child was in DCF’s custody, she suffered injuries such as bruises and a black eye. The child will be returned to her mother and her family, and many who advocate for the rights of disabled parents see this as a family law victory for those who experience limitations in their lives. As shown by this unique situation, child custody matters can grow out of many circumstances and can challenge the rights of parents, government agencies and children.

Source:¬†myfoxboston.com, “Feds order baby returned after DCF takes custody due to mother’s disability,” April 28, 2015

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