Neutrality and the divorce mediation process

When a Massachusetts resident hires an attorney to manage his legal matters he is asking that professional to be his counselor and advocate. Many legal matters can and often migrate toward litigation when they cannot otherwise be resolved; for this reason individuals utilize the services of legal professionals to give them assistance in clearing up their disputes. Family law is one area of the law where disputes often arise and when a divorce goes to court each party generally has his or her own legal representative.

As previously discussed on this blog, divorce mediation does not involve a litigious environment in which opposing parties spar off with their own counselors. Mediation is done in an environment ofneutrality and with a mediator who does not take the side of either party. During a divorce or family law negotiation a mediator hears what the parties have to offer and provides information to them regarding the laws relevant to their particular cases.

Another duty that a divorce mediator will often adopt is to give parties options for how they may find resolutions to their pending or disputed issues. A mediator will not make the decision for divorcing individuals on how to settle their quarrels. Instead, the mediator will offer the parties different ways of reconciling their differences in order to bring about closure to their marriages.

A goal of mediation is to avoid the contentiousness that can occur during a litigated divorce. However, mediation and collaborative divorces are not always the right choices for all couples. Attorneys who work in the divorce and mediation fields can provide their clients with more information on whether mediation may be right for their marital dissolutions.

How does a parenting plan work in terms of child custody?

When Massachusetts parents decide to end their marriages they often must make difficult decisions about what to do with their children. Family law courts throughout the state will guide or even dictate to parents, depending upon their situations, the child custody arrangements that they must follow. Child custody plans can result in one parent having sole custody over his children or with the parents sharing custody in joint arrangements.

Since divorce results in a single household becoming two separate locations, parents who live apart can no longer consult each other regarding all matters concerning their kids. From big decisions about schooling to less monumental decisions about bedtimes and nap schedules, parents can find it difficult to get on the same page as their ex-spouses once they no longer live together. A parenting plan can help exes establish common ground regarding decisions relevant to their shared kids.

The Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts have published an informal document regarding how to create an effective parenting plan. The suggestions contained therein guide parents through the developmental stages of their kids’ lives and provide direction toward what types of matters parents should discuss. For example, parents of 6-year-olds to 9-year-olds should find ways to communicate about changes in their kids’ peers, behaviors and extracurricular interests to ensure that they do not miss warning signs of problems afflicting their offspring.

A parenting plan is simply a way for parents to effectively communicate about their children after their marriages have ended. They can be important tools for keeping the peace after acrimonious divorces and can help children adjust to living in split households and as dictated by their child custody determinations. While the information contained in this post should not be read as specific legal advice it may introduce Massachusetts parents to a tool available for addressing post-divorce parenting quarrels.

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:, “Feds order baby returned after DCF takes custody due to mother’s disability,” April 28, 2015

After a divorce, should I get a prenup for my second marriage?

It is a tragic situation when a married person suffers the death of a spouse due to illness or accident. However, it is also a common scenario for Massachusetts residents that divorce separates two people who legally bound themselves together. Whether a marriage ends from death or divorce, a previously married individual may find herself later considering marriage for a second time.

Even though a divorce or death terminates a prior marriage, there can be many factors from that first marriage that carry over into a second marriage. Primarily, any children born of a first marriage may have inheritance rights from their parents. A second marriage may pre-empt children from inheriting from a parent if a second spouse gets ahead of them in the line of succession prior to the death of the parent.

Additionally, a person contemplating a second marriage – or their soon-to-be spouse – may carry a significant amount of debt. Just as some property is considered marital property, so too can some debt be considered marital debt. The debts and liabilities of one person’s former relationship can affect the financial health of a person when he enters into a second marriage.

Because these financial matters are so important, some people who choose to marry for a second time decide to execute prenuptial agreements. Even if they did not have prenups for their first marriages, they elect to use them the second time around in order to protect their interests, their children’s interests, and their wealth accrued from prior relationships. A prenuptial agreement, through its contractual formatting, allows a couple to make important decisions about their finances before they are married in order to preserve their rights after their unions are confirmed.

The end of a marriage can be a tragic time, but many people whose marriages end endeavor to start over in new marital relationships. The death or divorce legal issues that follow a person into his new life can be addressed through prenuptial agreements. Individuals with lingering questions about second marriage prenups may choose to speak with their legal representatives about the utility of such agreements for their lives.

Celebrity chef and actress head for divorce

The programs on the Food Network have inspired many a Massachusetts home chef to attempt to make interesting dishes and meals for his or her family’s enjoyment. Part of the appeal of the channel’s shows is the cast of personable hosts who provide insightful tips on how to perform better in the kitchen. One popular Food Network chef is Bobby Flay, who recently has been in the news for matters other than his impressive cooking.

Flay married actress Stephanie March about a decade ago and, just recently, the two announced that they would be divorcing. However, it appears that the couple executed a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle. Per the agreement, Flay promised to pay March $5,000 per month in support should their marriage end.

March and her representatives have claimed that Flay sent her $5,000 after their separation, but that such payments based on their prenuptial agreement are no longer valid. The payment was reportedly returned to Flay and the couple will likely have to address the enforceability of their prenup as they sort out their high asset divorce.

Prenuptial agreements can be invalidated or ruled unenforceable for a variety of reasons. March and her team may have to convince a court that the terms of the agreement are insufficient to meet her needs or that she is entitled to more support based on the couple’s finances. Other rationales can be offered as to why a prenup may not be enforceable.

Natick couples going through divorce may relate to Flay and March’s situation. Whether they have prenuptial agreements or not, support may be a contested issue in the dissolution of their marriages. In addition to dividing property and establishing child custody, spousal support is an important divorce issue for both the paying and the receiving spouse.

Source: Fox News, “Bobby Flay, Stephanie March divorce reportedly getting messy,” April 13, 2015

Can a non-biological parent be required to pay child support?

Last week, this Massachusetts family law blog discussed the circumstances under which a grandparent may secure visitation or custody of his or her grandchild. In many cases, after a divorce the parents of a child share custody of that young person based on a court-approved schedule. In such arrangements, one parent is deemed the custodial parent for physical custody purposes and the other is deemed the non-custodial parent who generally has visitation rights.

Generally, a non-custodial parent is required to pay child support for the financial needs of raising a child. This is because the custodial parent expends many resources, including time, money, and energy, into the direct care of the child. Child support from the non-custodial parent can be used to balance the expenditure of resources provided by each parent.

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Court System website, a non-custodial parent can be required to pay child support. Generally, that parent must be proven to be the actual parent of the child; in some cases where paternity is not established, the first step in getting child support is determining that an individual has a parental relationship with a child. If paternity is proven, initiating a child support request can be somewhat more straightforward.

Adoption and other procedures can create paternal relationships between adults and non-biological children. For this reason, the realm of who pays child support for a youth can become somewhat murky. While paternity is often an important factor in establishing who should pay for the costs of a child, it may not be sufficient for the particular details of every unique family situation. Individuals who need further assistance with complex child support matters may utilize the services of family law attorneys to better serve the best interests of the child.

Source: Massachusetts Court System, “How can I get child support for my child?” accessed April 6, 2015

Understanding the timeline for divorce finalization

Previous posts on this Massachusetts family law blog have discussed the different grounds on which an in-state divorce may be based. In many instances, a divorce is based on fault, generally assigning blame for the end of the marriage to one of the parties to the marital dissolution. A divorce may also be without fault and relatively amicable for the parties.

Regardless of whether fault is involved in a divorce, the involved parties can be anxious to know when their marriage is truly over. The finalization of a divorce depends upon how it was categorized. The Massachusetts Court System has different timelines for when divorces are truly completed.

If a divorce is classified as 1A, or generally when the divorce and its applicable negotiations are uncontested by the parties, then the divorce will end 120 days after the entry of the divorce judgment. If a divorce is classified as 1B, meaning generally that the parties do not contest the divorce but that they do disagree about divorce-related matters such as custody, property division, and support, then the end of the marriage does not occur until 90 days after the hearing if a judgment is entered in the matter. Fault-based contested divorces can follow different timelines.

The several months that a couple must wait before its divorce is finalized is called a divorce nisi. During that time, neither spouse may remarry as the marriage subject to the divorce is not technically dissolved. Once the divorce nisi ends, then the marriage is automatically terminated.

The divorce nisi phase gives couples a chance to continue their marriages if they have a change of heart. This does not happen in all cases, and for most the wait is simply the final step in getting to the end of a marriage. More specific questions about individual divorce timelines may be addressed by attorneys who work in the divorce and family law fields of practice.

When should divorcing couples choose mediation?

Divorce mediation is a process through which a Massachusetts couple may end their marriage without resorting to litigation in court. A mediated divorce typically takes less time to complete than courtroom litigation because in most cases the parties to the mediation are willing to work together to end the marriage. However, when couples cannot work together to reach their common goal of divorce they can opt for a traditional litigated divorce.

If one spouse desires mediation and the other prefers to go to court, the parties may want to have a look at the pros and cons of mediation and the traditional courtroom route.

First, Mediated divorce may be faster and less expensive than litigated divorce. Second, mediation can help keep a lid on the kind of anger and resentment that so often goes along with a divorce in the adversarial courtroom setting. A more peaceful end to the marriage can be especially important for divorcing couples who have young children.

However, there are advantages to the courtroom setting, as well. For one, a court can compel testimony from a party who doesn’t wish to speak. Additionally, although a judge typically approves the agreement after a mediated divorce, a litigated divorce ends with a judge formally determining the outcome. based on the merits of the case.

Mediation requires a commitment from each party to work toward a fair settlement. In a highly acrimonious divorce, in which the parties can’t agree to even a place and time to negotiate, mediation is probably not going to work. In these cases, a judge may have to make decisions for the parties.

If the divorcing spouses can at least agree that they’d like to save time and money, they should at least investigate the possibility of mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods. Attorneys skilled in mediation and collaborative law can help Massachusetts residents to understand their options.

Our practice can help with your divorce and child support needs

Not every divorce is acrimonious. In fact, many Massachusetts divorces unfold without drama, leaving former partners as respectful acquaintances or involved supporters of their shared children and friends. When couples are able to put their hostilities aside, the potential negative impact that a divorce can have on a couple and those close to it may be mitigated to a manageable amount.

However, there are still some divorce and other family law scenarios that leave individuals battling over particular issues or, in some instances, every possible aspect of their legal dispute. Conflict may not be completely avoidable in all family law cases and, when some parties to a divorce begin to fight, it can be next to impossible to return negotiations to a respectful demeanor. In such cases, the families and friends of the battling parties may feel the stresses of divorce in a more acute way. Many times, an experienced lawyer can help settle these matters in a way that is fair.

Aside from the actual litigants, children may feel the negative effects of divorce more than anyone else. Children can become caught up in the drama between their divorcing parents. Some unscrupulous individuals may even attempt to use their children as bargaining tools in a divorce settlement or other family law agreement.

Even once a divorce is finalized some people have trouble accepting the terms of their divorces and may actively choose to ignore court-mandated orders. The failure to pay child support or the intentional submission of delinquent payments for child support may be ways that disgruntled parents try to take their frustrations out on their former spouses. What these individuals fail to realize is that the ultimate victims of their inappropriate actions are their kids.

Whether you are at the beginning of the divorce process or have already obtained a divorce decree from a Massachusetts court, experienced family law attorneys may be able to help you with your legal issues. Legal teams like those at the Walters Law Office can provide services that promote respectful dialogue between parties during divorce as well as zealous advocacy for clients who require assistance having their child support, alimony and other family law court orders enforced. If you are struggling with a family law issue, please do not hesitate to visit our website on child support and other divorce-related issues

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