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Worcester Family Law Blog

Massachusetts adopted children to have legal counsel

Contested private adoption cases in Massachusetts will frequently involve attorneys who represent the adoptive parents, particularly when child custody is at issue. But until recently, the adopted child did not necessarily have a recognized right to legal representation. That may be about to change, though, according to an order from the Chief Justice of the state's Family and Probate Court.

The order directs that private adoption cases -- at least those that are currently pending -- be reviewed to determine whether the legal rights of the children have been adequately protected.

Calculating child support payments in Massachusetts

Mothers and fathers are legally obligated to financially support their children, regardless of their status with the other parent. Massachusetts courts often assist parents with custody agreements and arranging child support payments. Child support helps to cover the cost of the everyday expenses of raising the child, such as healthcare and education, as well as the cost of living. Though most parents are required to make child support payments until their son or daughter reaches the age of 18, payments can be required through the child’s early 20s or even longer, depending on the situation.

Parents can come to an agreement on child support by using multiple routes. They might attend mediation where they decide amongst themselves who will be the primary custodial parent and who will make payments, for instance. The most common route is through the court, where a judge will determine an arrangement that focuses on the best interests of the child. 

Annulment vs. divorce: what you should know

An annulment is a declaration by the court that you are not legally married. It is different from a divorce because an annulment means that your marriage was not valid in the first place. Under Massachusetts law, there are only a few legal grounds for an annulment.

Keep in mind that even if your marriage is annulled, the court may still enter orders if you and your ex had children together. The court may, for example, order visitation or child support. 

Child support for children over the age of 18

A parent’s obligation to support his or her child usually ends when the child is emancipated. Under Massachusetts law, a child is considered to be legally emancipated when he or she turns 18. As a result, child support generally is intended for children under the age of 18. Of course, there are exceptions.

One exception is a child who is over the age of 18 and still in high school. A parent still has a legal obligation to pay child support for that child. Another exception is a child who is attending college. In Massachusetts, a judge can order a parent to pay for a child’s college expenses, even if the child is over the age of 18. 

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.

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