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Worcester Family Law Blog

What steps do I take to get a divorce in Massachusetts?

Spouses who would like to get a divorce may be unsure about what the basic legal steps are. To begin, both parties must be legal residents of Massachusetts in order to get a divorce there. As long as that requirement is met, a spouse may file a petition for divorce citing fault or no-fault grounds.

When an individual files the divorce papers, copies of those papers must be mailed to or otherwise served on their spouse. If the recipient wishes to object to any of the information in the divorce papers, they will have an opportunity to contest the divorce by filing their own papers. If the recipient has no objections to the information, they will simply sign the paperwork and mail it back.

The scope of expenses that child support can cover

Massachusetts parents may be interested in some information about the scope of child support and what expenses it covers. The rules for child support that courts follow often go beyond a child's basic needs.

States have specific guidelines that help courts determine the amount of money that should be paid for child support by a non-custodial parent. In coming to this decision, courts will usually look at the income of both of the child's parents and the financial needs of the child, among other factors. The courts do not generally monitor how this money is spent, since they rely on the assumption that the custodial parent is providing for the basic living expenses of the child. In cases where the child's needs are not being met, the government may step in.

The decline of the divorce rate in the United States

While most individuals in Massachusetts and across the country might be under the impression that the divorce rate is around 50 percent, studies may have proven otherwise; the article suggests that an estimated two-thirds of marriages are expected to be successful. The highest divorce rates occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but couples who tied the knot in the 2000s are divorcing at lower rates.

Perhaps the decline in the number of divorces is due to a variety of factors; for example, people are now marrying a lot later in life, resulting in relationships that are more mature. In the 1950s the median age for men to marry was age 23 and women at age 20; in 2004, the median rose to 27 for men and 26 for women.

Challenging paternity in Massachusetts

Many Massachusetts parents are ecstatic when the time comes to welcome a child into the world. However, there are cases where it may not be known who the father of the child is. If a man was assumed to be the father but evidence suggests that this is not the case, either party can challenge paternity.

When a child is born, the mother's husband is usually assumed to be the father. If the mother is not married, the man she believed fathered the child may be assumed to be the child's parent. However, even after paternity has been established, there are many reasons that a man or the child's mother may wish to challenge paternity. For example, the person assumed to be the father may be found to be sterile or infertile, or the lab results establishing paternity may have been tainted or tampered with. Furthermore, either party may have reason to believe the child was fathered by someone else.

Giving notice when leaving the state

When a parent has custody of a child in Massachusetts, there are some restrictions as to relocating. This is not as much of a factor if the parents already live in two different parts of the state or country. However, if the custodial parent wants to leave the area, then there could be some challenges for the non-custodial parent.

Unless there is an agreement between the parents, the non-custodial parent can bring a dispute to the court about the relocation. This could prevent the other parent from leaving the area until the case is heard in front of a judge. The judge will make a decision about whether the parent can leave with the child. If the parent is granted permission, then there will be a new agreement drawn for visitation with the non-custodial parent. Some judges will not allow the parent to leave the state if it is not in the best interest of the child.

How is international child custody handled?

There are times when a parent may attempt to sidestep the laws of Massachusetts and take a child out of the country after a divorce. When the child is removed from the country, a previous agreement may no longer be enforceable because the document no longer has jurisdiction. However, there is recourse for a parent in this situation. The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which was held in October of 1980, created an agreement between many of the countries of the world to protect the interests of children in this situation.

The convention agreement means that any country that was a party to the agreement will take steps to ensure that the custody laws and decisions of any particular country are upheld regardless of where the child is taken. The primary objective is always to return the child to their proper country of residence and to ensure that all rights of custody and access are upheld equally in all countries that are part of the agreement. The articles of the convention may come into play if the child was taken unlawfully, as in an abduction scenario, or if a joint custody agreement is made between parents living in different countries.

What is the process of a paternity DNA test?

Some Massachusetts residents who are questioning paternity may be interested in the way it is established. Paternity testing uses DNA from the parents and the child to establish or disprove biological fatherhood. If paternity is proven, the father will be given the rights and responsibilities due him. If not, the father is not legally responsible for the care and sustenance of the child.

DNA is specific for each individual and is received from both parents. By examining the DNA from the mother and the alleged father, it is possible to say if the baby received the father's DNA. The best specimen for testing is obtained from blood samples although cheek swabs and hair samples may be used. The test may be done immediately after birth. While prenatal testing is available, it may result in risk to the child.

Paternity disputes involving related males

Families involved in paternity disputes in Massachusetts might encounter the situation of having two related males as possible fathers to a child. These males can be brothers or father and son, and they might seek the results of DNA testing to identify the real father.

Even though brothers and fathers and sons share many of the same DNA markers, a DNA test is usually able to distinguish which one has fathered a certain child. The danger with these similar markers is that both men could test positive in a paternity test, if the lab does not have all the information needed to make a correct determination. However, if the lab is informed ahead of time about possible fathers being related, the correct precautions for the situation can be taken and the testing can provide accurate results.

What is the process for filing for adoption?

Adopting a child in Massachusetts is a multi-step process designed to ensure that adoptive parents and the children they adopt are a good match. The first step in the process is to call the Department of Children and Families. A representative from the department will then perform an inspection on an applicant's home to ensure that it provides adequate safety and privacy for everyone living there.

Anyone over the age of 14 who is living with a prospective adoptive parent will be required to go through a background check. Applicants will then have to attend weekly training courses and submit to a fingerprint check prior to being matched with a child. An agent will then review an applicant's home again and decide what type of and how many children an applicant may adopt. The matching process could happen quickly or be a lengthy process depending on how many children are available at a given time.

Massachusetts child support

The Massachusetts legislation treats child support orders with utmost importance. If a noncustodial parent fails to make his or her payments, he or she is violating a legal order of the court.

The day a child support payment is due, it becomes a judgment under the law against the person who owes it if they fail to pay. Like other types of judgments, collection actions can be taken in order to collect it.

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Robert A. Antonioni, Esq.
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Leominster, MA 01453
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