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Worcester Family Law Blog

More forms of cheating than physical or emotional

In Massachusetts, many couples find their relationships on the rocks due to some form of cheating. Whether one partner slept around or even sent lewd texts to another person, infidelity is considered grounds for divorce in this state. But there is a hidden form of cheating that is often looked over: financial. While it may not seem as serious, financial infidelity could ultimately lead to the end of a marriage.

One of the most blatant offenses is one partner hiding money from the other. This is different from having separate accounts. Marriages are all about sharing and trust, and hiding money crosses that line. In the same light, hiding debts from each other could also tear down whatever confidence has been built in the relationship.  

What is an “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage?

You’ve probably heard the phrase on the entertainment news shows…a famous celebrity couple has filed for divorce due to “irreconcilable differences” or an “irretrievable breakdown” of their marriage. The latter term is used in Massachusetts. But what exactly does the term mean? 

Like most legal terms, it is subject to interpretation. The law itself that allows for divorce on these grounds, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208, doesn’t define it.  Some cases from Massachusetts courts have offered some interpretation.  According to a footnote in a 2004 case, “the term has been defined as meaning that either or both spouses are unable or unwilling to cohabit and there are no prospects for reconciliation”. But is that any less vague?

Divorce legal issues for members of the military

Many Massachusetts residents are members of the military who are on active duty or serve their country as members of a reserve unit. Military personnel are governed or protected by laws and regulations the unique circumstances under which they serve.

When quarrels and disputes signal the end of a marriage, a divorce in which one or both of the spouses is a member of the military raises divorce legal issues that civilian couples might not experience. For instance, the federal Service members Civil Relief Act could delay the start of divorce litigation against a spouse who is on active duty with the military.

Does Massachusetts recognize grandparents' rights to visitation?

Massachusetts recognizes that maintaining the relationship between children and their grandparents is appropriate when it is in the best interests of the children to do so. Grandparents’ rights to visitation are not, however, without limitations and restrictions.

When the parents of a child are living together the decision to grant visitation to grandparents is left up to the parents. As a general rule, courts will only entertain requests for visitation by grandparents in situations in which a child’s parents are divorced, married but living apart, unmarried and living apart, or deceased.

The basics of establishing paternity

When you are in a married or long-term, committed relationship, it is often assumed by the couple, and the courts, that paternity is well-established. More often than this, this issue won’t arise in a relationship. But if the biological fatherhood of a child is uncertain, all sorts of problems can arise. This does not just include the obvious child support payment issue. There are higher stakes that could be prevalent, such as naming an heir, adoption and others.

In Massachusetts, unwed couples who have a child can have the father listed on the birth certificate, a process called establishing “presumption of paternity.” For couples who stay together and rear the child, this is usually enough. But if they decide to split up, presumption of paternity is not enough to get child support or establish custody and visitation rights.

Prenuptial agreements are for more than just high asset divorce

Prenuptial agreements are not just for the very wealthy. Couples of more modest means might want to consider having an agreement drawn up by an attorney before they get married if there are assets that being brought into the marriage that one or both parties wants to keep separate. For example, an individual who has an interest in a family business might want to have something in writing before the wedding protecting it from becoming part a divorce dispute later on.

Someone about to get married who has children from a prior marriage might want the protection of a prenuptial agreement to pass specific assets, owned prior to the upcoming wedding, on to children of the first marriage. Agreements between couples that are made prior to exchanging vows can eliminate disputes later on.

Post-divorce relief: how to change a court’s ruling

Getting divorced can be a contentious process. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, a family court judge can step in to resolve the issues. One problem with letting the judge make the decisions for you and your spouse is that one or both of you may walk away unhappy. The good news is that if you are unhappy with the outcome of a divorce proceeding, you have options. You can either request the court to modify its orders or appeal the court’s decision.

In Massachusetts, a “final” divorce judgment is not necessarily final. By filing an appropriate motion with the court, you can request the court to modify certain portions of its ruling, such as property division, child support, spousal support, and visitation schedules. 

What is bird’s nest custody?

Joint custody can often be one of the best arrangements for children of a divorce, as long as the parents are amicable with one another. It can be difficult, however, for children to bounce from house to house, even with the most civil and fair custody agreements. This is why bird’s nest custody is becoming a more popular option for parents that can get along well enough to make it work.

In a bird’s nest custody arrangement, the children remain in one home, typically the one they grew up in. Then, the parents rotate instead of the kids. That way, the children's schedules and routines are not heavily effected from the constant back and forth between two homes.

What is mediation?

Popular media and popular imagination often portray divorce as a contentious and bitter struggle, with both spouses fighting over everything from how to divide assets to who gets custody of the children and  using their attorneys as tools to spite one another. There may be some real-life situations like this, but in many cases the reasons for a married couple to end their marriage have nothing to do with hostility and mutual recrimination. In an amicable divorce, is the adversarial system of court always the best way to go?

The answer to that question is decidedly "No." Massachusetts allows soon-to-be former spouses an alternative to litigation in the form of mediation.

Why establishing paternity is important

Legally speaking, paternity means fatherhood. It is the legal establishment of an individual as being the father of a child. This legal relationship can be established either by a court order or by the father’s voluntary acknowledge of paternity. There are many reasons why paternity matters.

Paternity can have important legal consequences. If a father is found to be the legal father either through a DNA test or by voluntary acknowledgement, the court can enter orders against the father. Under Massachusetts law, the father may be required to pay child support and other expenses for the child, such as medical expenses. 

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