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Worcester Family Law Blog

Shared child custody benefits Massachusetts children of divorce

As many are already aware, having two loving, attentive and involved parents is the ideal situation for every child. Barring extreme circumstances such as abuse, this is why an increasing number of advocates across the nation are pushing for a presumption of equally shared child custody from the beginning unless a reason is shown why this should not be the case. Unfortunately, a number of states, Massachusetts included, still have some catching up to do.

The news isn't all bad for Massachusetts. When it comes to when and how children with divorced couples spend allocated time with each parent, the state was graded a C-plus in a ranking system by the National Parents Organization, so while there's room for improvement, it scored well above a number of other states who have no statutes yet in place for encouraging shared parenting. Massachusetts was also recognized for requiring all divorcing couples with children to attend a two-part parent-education program that aims to encourage a safe, calm and appropriate transition into divorce.

Avoid common divorce mistakes with savvy legal guidance

The end of a marriage is not something that most -- if any -- Massachusetts couples take lightly. Divorce, no matter how necessary and beneficial in the long run, inevitably brings stress and upsetting emotions. However, as many are aware, a divorce is often best for all parties involved, and with sound support and guidance, there are ways to avoid common mistakes and minimize the stress.

One of the most essential parts of any divorce is finding the right legal representation. Rather than looking for the cheapest option, it's critical to find an experienced attorney who is capable and knowledgeable. Trustworthy advice from other sources is almost equally important, as there is a wealth of confusing and misleading information available, and it can be difficult to know what advice, if any, is accurate and helpful.

SJC addresses Search and Seizure Law in connection with Human Trafficking Investigation.

In Commonwealth v. Barbosa, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the lower court's ruling on a Motion to Suppress holding that a room key to a hotel room being used for a human trafficking operation is immediately apparent as evidence of other criminality, when retrieved from a defendant's person in a search incident to arrest for assault and battery on a police officer during a human trafficking sting.

The Court determined that the officers had "ample evidence of the defendant's involvement in the separate criminal activity of human trafficking" to justify their inquiry about the hotel room key. The Court distinguishes these circumstances from those set forth in Commonwealth v. Blevines, in which a defendant was arrested for drinking in public, and officers subsequently used keys found on his person to locate and enter into a motor vehicle that contained evidence consistent with drug distribution. In Blevines, the Court held that there was no evidence of independent criminal activity to justify the use of the defendant's keys for investigatory purposes.

Do Massachusetts divorce filings really spike after the holidays?

In what may or may not come as a surprise to Massachusetts couples, the choice of when it's time to end their marriage may be strongly affected by the season. Sociologists analyzed data and determined that the number of divorce filings peaks consistently ever year after winter holidays. There are several theories as to the reasoning behind this "Divorce season."

One psychiatrist theorizes that specific times during the year have a significant impact on individual's behavior and, thus, on the decisions they make. Of course, in some cases, these are on a more personal basis, such as specific meaningful dates like the loss of a loved one or a particular anniversary. Even the weather can affect people's moods and feelings and, in turn, their decision-making.

Tips on preparing for an appointment with a divorce attorney

Those in Massachusetts who find themselves entering the new year with thoughts of ending their marriage are not alone. In fact, for one reason or another, the first working Monday of each year brings an annual spike in the number of people making appointments to seek the counsel of a divorce attorney. Before such an appointment, there are several steps an individual can take so that he or she is as prepared as possible.

The first is gathering whatever financial information they can. This includes bank statements, credit card bills, paystubs and even the last tax return. Of course, one may wish to obtain a complete summary of the previous year's finances until late in January or even into the following month; it never hurts to get a head start.

Over 20 states considering laws for more equal child custody

In 2017, over 20 states -- Massachusetts among them -- considered legislation to encourage or even presume shared parenting from the get-go in divorce. This more equal approach to child custody would be legally presumed even when parents didn't agree, though of course would not apply in cases of abuse. Despite the predictable criticism that faces almost any proposed law, the legal trend toward collaborative parenting and shared custody seems only to be accelerating on a nationwide level.

Critics -- among them women's rights groups -- worry that these joint custody laws may result in the elimination of child support, which they say is still necessary given the gender wage gap. Opponents are also concerned that, notwithstanding reassurances to the contrary, the bills would remove the important safeguards that have been installed to protect against controlling and abusive spouses while taking away discretion from judges. Additionally, they claim these parenting bills would only apply to the approximately 10 percent of parents who are unable to reach parenting agreements, and thus are generally unnecessary since the growing number of divorcing parents already choose joint custody.

Massachusetts divorce checklist

No matter how certain both spouses are that splitting up is for the best, the process of ending a marriage is still going to be stressful, even from a strictly legal point of view. There are a lot of issues to address and things to remember, and it can be difficult to think clearly and logically at a time that might feel extremely emotional. However, there are certain steps individuals can follow with the guidance of a Massachusetts attorney that may help make the divorce process smoother from beginning to end.

One of the first tasks is to separate any joint financial accounts and for each spouse to establish his or her own credit cards and bank accounts. After this has been accomplished, it's important to consider the expenses that any divorce brings and begin budgeting accordingly. This can be especially essential in contested divorces or those involving custody disputes, as these divorce proceedings tend to be longer and more expensive.

Basic tips for navigating Massachusetts divorce court

Sometimes, no matter how hard a divorcing Massachusetts couple tries to settle their differences, they end up in court. While no one can say divorce court is pleasant, it is sometimes a necessary part of the process. Of course, this time is guaranteed to be a stressful one no matter what the situation, and in such cases, it may be difficult to remember things that otherwise would feel like common sense, so individuals may wish to try to keep in mind some basic guidelines.

The first and most important may sounds silly, but it's crucial: Know exactly where the courthouse is, get there on time, and dress appropriately. The better the first impression an individual makes, the more likely court decisions are to be favorable. Bring all necessary documents along, and expect to spend the entire day there without being able to leave and come back, or even use a cell phone to cancel or reschedule plans. It's advisable to simply clear the day of all other commitments.

The basics of mortgage management in Massachuetts divorces

For divorcing Massachusetts homeowners, the number one financial issue they often face is property division for the family home. On the surface, there are three basic options from which to choose. The first is that of selling the house and dividing the proceeds. Another is for both exes to continue their joint ownership, at least temporarily. The third is refinancing to allow one ex to keep the home while removing the other from the mortgage.

The first option, selling the home, is often the neatest way. However, it isn't always feasible. While it is the quickest and easiest way to sever ties with an ex – after paying off the remaining mortgage debt and any taxes and related expenses, the remaining money can be split – this option doesn't always appeal for a number of reasons, from not wanting to relocate if children are involved, to the state of the real estate market and more.

Massachusetts child custody modification is possible

Much of the time, the biggest concern for most divorcing parents is their children. Unfortunately, sometimes custody battles don't always work out as planned, and for whatever reason, one parent may not end up with the Massachusetts child custody arrangement he or she had hoped for. When this happens, it can be upsetting, heart-wrenching and agonizing.

One thing it doesn't necessarily have to be, though, is permanent. While winning back custody or having a court decision reversed can be difficult and time-consuming, with the knowledgeable support of a family law attorney, it's definitely possible. The first step to consider is to try to figure out what went wrong, such as whether, perhaps, a court order was violated or if there were false allegations of neglect or abuse. Once an individual has some idea of why he or she lost custody in the first place, the issue can be addressed.

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