You Have a Videoconference Relating to Your Divorce Matter Scheduled – Now What?

While you are finally able to get your hair cut at a salon or barbershop, a bite to eat and drink at an outdoor restaurant, and even a pedicure (thank goodness!), the days of appearing in Court for a hearing, or in an office setting with a large group of people for a deposition or mediation, are likely a long way off. Even though social distancing requirements are being lifted, and even with the Supreme Judicial Court’s updated order of June 24, 2020, indicates that Massachusetts state courthouses will physically reopen to the public for limited purposes, including some in-person proceedings, on July 13, 2020, virtual court appearances, depositions, and other meetings are here to stay.

In order to keep divorce cases moving during COVID-19, many divorce lawyers and the Courts have transitioned away from in-person meetings entirely (except in cases where an in-person meeting is absolutely necessary) and towards videoconferencing. The Judges of the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts have now all been granted “Zoom” accounts to conduct hearings (motions, pretrial conferences, and even trials) via videoconference. Mediators and conciliators are offering videoconferencing sessions, with the ability to conduct “break out” rooms for privileged settlement discussions between … Keep reading

Temporary Orders (Allowances) Explained

Temporary Orders, or Temporary Allowances as they are called in Rhode Island, are interim orders that are made in a case before a final hearing (trial) in order to address pressing issues. Temporary Orders can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the Court after one or both parties file a Motion. Some of the issues that are addressed via Temporary Orders in divorce cases include child support, alimony, parenting plans, health insurance, and the payment of expenses. Temporary Orders last until changed by a final decision or a further Temporary Order of the Court.

It is important to understand, especially as it relates to parenting plans, that Temporary Orders have a way of becoming permanent orders. What this means is that Temporary Orders that are in effect for a long period of time may ultimately be the final orders agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the Court. As such, if you negotiate and agree on Temporary Orders, it is important to consider how those orders will work for the long haul, as they may be difficult to change. In light of the current backlog in the Courts, especially because of COVID-19, it is taking … Keep reading

Webinar: How to Know When You Are Ready to Divorce

No one enters a marriage intending to get divorced, yet nearly half of all marriages dissolve this way. Before you move forward with the legal process, you must make sure this is the right step for you and your family.

In the first episode of our new webinar series, Elizabeth Crowley and Ronald Barriere discuss trusting your intuition, selecting a lawyer, and what questions you should be asking yourself during this difficult time.

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

At What Age Does a Child Have a Say in the Parenting Plan?

One of the most frequent questions I am asked by parents involved in custody disputes is: “when is my child old enough to decide to live with me?” The answer – that children under age 18 in Massachusetts do not get to make decisions around parenting plans – often comes as a surprise.

M.G.L. c. 208, sec. 28 provides:

Upon a judgment for divorce, the court may make such judgment as it considers expedient relative to the care, custody and maintenance of the minor children of the parties and may determine with which of the parents the children or any of them shall remain or may award their custody to some third person if it seems expedient or for the benefit of the children….Upon a complaint after a divorce, filed by either parent or by a next friend on behalf of the children after notice to both parents, the court may make a judgment modifying its earlier judgment as to the care and custody of the minor children of the parties provided that the court finds that a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the parties has occurred and the judgment of modification is necessary in the Keep reading

Planning for Your Children’s Financial Security

Last month I reviewed how to approach the extremely important decision of choosing a guardian for your minor children. Let’s now look at some vehicles for ensuring financial stability for your children in the event of your passing, which is particularly important if you are divorced. The options outlined below may already be familiar to you; hopefully, this information can help get you started on deciding which may be a good fit for your circumstances. Keep in mind any special considerations, such as setting aside money specifically for education or medical expenses, your child’s age and ability to manage money, or any special needs for which you need to account. Weigh these in conjunction with the ease and expense of setting up and administering each option.

Establish a Trust. A trust is undoubtedly the best vehicle for managing and protecting your children’s assets. A trust can be structured in numerous ways to accommodate your specific intentions. The trustee you name can provide asset management and decision-making in accordance with the parameters you specify.  Distributions of trust assets to your child can be limited to specific purposes like education and health expenses, or you can give the trustee broad … Keep reading

Safeguarding Your Mental Health During and After Divorce

Many people going through divorce experience feelings of fear, sadness, loss and depression. Out of concern for the impact seeking help for these feelings may have on custody disputes, some people choose not to seek help, which may only make matters worse.

The loss of a marriage and change in family is a traumatic experience. If you are going through a divorce, know that seeking help for feelings of depression and sadness is normal and reasonable, even for those seeking custody of their children. Needing to talk to someone, or even to take antidepressants, is common. There is no reason to avoid seeking treatment.

In 2019, the suicide rate in Massachusetts was 9.7 deaths per 100,000 residents. Research reflects that up to 20% of those in Massachusetts who committed suicide experienced an intimate partner issue, such as divorce, break-up or conflict in their relationship in the months or weeks prior to death. Even after the divorce is over, there is evidence that divorced and separated people have higher suicide rates than married people. Of divorced people, divorced men commit suicide at rates 9 times higher than that of divorced women.  It has been suggested, though not proven, that because … Keep reading

Considerations for Your Kids in Your Estate Planning

Planning for the wellbeing of your children may be at the forefront of your mind in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The decision you have been putting off may feel more urgent than ever. Namely, who would care for your minor children if you and a co-parent (if any) become unavailable? Now is a critical time to carefully consider your intentions and solidify them in writing with an estate planning attorney. But where should you start and what factors should you consider?

Consider naming separate individuals.

Legally, stand-ins for parents fall into two separate roles. A guardian of a minor is responsible for making any legal and medical decisions on behalf of the minor, and generally is the person who cares for and raises a child. A conservator is responsible for managing assets and financial affairs on behalf of a minor (or otherwise incapacitated person) Both are nominated in your Will (and a temporary guardian may be nominated in an Emergency Guardianship Proxy), and you may considering naming separate individuals for each of these roles.

It may prove easier to narrow down individuals who would be well-suited for each role separately based on their respective strengths and … Keep reading

The New “Normal”?  Well, at Least Until June 1st…

Another week of social distancing, an extended stay-at-home advisory, and a new update on the status of operations of the Probate and Family Court due to COVID-19. While continued social distancing measures were certainly expected to continue in Massachusetts in some form past May 4, 2020, it was not easy to digest that this new “normal” would remain in place for at least the next month (particularly for this working mother of two young children who no longer has the assistance of outside childcare after Governor Baker announced last week that daycares would be closed until at least June 29, 2020).

On April 27, 2020, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an updated Order guiding Court Operations under COVID-19, which becomes effective May 4, 2020. The new Order extends the closure of the Probate and Family Courts from May 4, 2020, until at least June 1, 2020, except in the case of an emergency. A copy of the new order can be found here.

What does this new “normal” look like for divorce or custody matters presently pending or to be filed in the Probate and Family Court?  Here are a few of the most relevant take-aways:

  1. Until at
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Co-Parenting Considerations for April “Vacation”

There is little differentiation between weekends and weekdays in this remote-work, socially-distant world we’re living in. The “Boys of Summer” have not yet returned home to Fenway Park. The Boston Marathon has been postponed. Under these circumstances, it’s easy to forget that Massachusetts schools would traditionally be “on vacation” next week. For children in intact families, this may have little meaning or impact, but for children with separated or divorced parents this often is a week of great significance, as many parenting plans allocate the February school vacation week to one parent and the April school vacation to the other. In those situations, the February parent would have already enjoyed his or her school vacation time with the children, before the country shut down in mid-March. What happens now, in the midst of this pandemic? Here are five key considerations.

  1. Are the Children’s Schools Observing the Vacation Week? If so, and if there is a Temporary Order or a Judgment allocating April school vacation to one parent, that parenting time should go forward in most cases. In an Open Letter posted online, the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court reiterated: “Parenting orders are not stayed during this
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How to Obtain a 209A Abuse Prevention Order During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abusers like to isolate their victims – closing off relationships with trusted friends and family who can offer another perspective or a place of shelter from abuse.  Stay-at-home directives issued to flatten the curve of COVID-19 are giving some people cherished time at home with family, while it is trapping others with their abusers.  As my colleague, Andrea Dunbar, recently wrote, Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts remain available for those in need of protection from abuse. But which Courts are available and how can they be accessed by those suffering intimate partner abuse?

All District Courts, Probate and Family Courts, as well as the Boston Municipal Court have jurisdiction to enter 209A Abuse Prevention Orders.

  • There are 61 District Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can find the District Court that serves your home address here.
  • There are 18 Probate and Family Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can find the Probate and Family Court that serves your home address here.
  • The Boston Municipal Court has 8 locations serving the City of Boston. You can find the BMC locations here.

To obtain an initial 209A Abuse Prevention Order, forms can be emailed … Keep reading