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
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
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 has required the government to take some unprecedented steps. The Probate and Family Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts remain open as of today, but only for emergency matters, which will be handled by phone or teleconference when possible. Click here to read Standing Order 2-20: Court operations under the exigent circumstances created by COVID-19, which went into effect today, March 18, 2020. There are many nuances to the Order relating to specific matters heard by the Probate and Family Court.
Burns & Levinson LLP is committed to helping clients with family and personal matters get through this difficult time. Our team of attorneys, paralegals, and dedicated staff are available to answer questions about how this Order impacts you and to facilitate obtaining emergency orders when necessary.… Keep reading
In 2011, the Alimony Reform Act determined that alimony is “the payment of support from one spouse, who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time.” G.L. c. 208, §48. The “reasonable length of time” during which alimony shall be paid has presumptive durational limits based upon the length of the marriage. Pursuant to G.L. c. 208, §53, the Court can deviate from the durational limits when setting the initial award or at the time an alimony award is modified “upon written findings that deviation is necessary.” The statute sets forth grounds for deviation, as follows:
(1) advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
(2) tax considerations applicable to the parties;
(3) whether the payor spouse is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the recipient spouse;
(4) whether the payor spouse has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the recipient spouse and the cost of such insurance;
(5) sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties divorce;
(6) significant premarital … Keep reading
When parties to a Massachusetts divorce settle their differences and come to an agreement, they enter into a written settlement document, commonly known as a Separation Agreement. The Separation Agreement must then be presented to and approved by a judge in the Probate and Family Court. The judge will review the agreement and the parties’ financial statements to determine if the Separation Agreement is fair and reasonable, not the product of coercion or duress, and ensure that it makes adequate provisions for the care, custody, and support of any unemancipated children. If the judge approves the Separation Agreement, it is then incorporated into the Judgment of Divorce. Beyond incorporation, the agreement will either “merge” into the Judgment of Divorce or “survive” as an independent contract. The parties also have the option to request that certain provisions of the agreement merge while other provisions survive. All too often, I see unrepresented parties stare in bewilderment when asked by a judge if they intend for their Separation Agreement to merge or survive.
Provisions of an agreement that merge into a Judgment of Divorce are subject to modification upon a showing of a substantial and material change in circumstances. Merged provisions can … Keep reading
As a life-long Massachusetts resident, I find it hard to understand people who move to Massachusetts from warm climates. While my colleague, Jordan Bowne, recently suggested that fall is a great time to be in Massachusetts, we all know what comes after fall. Here are some words and phrases that come to mind when I think of winter in Massachusetts: snow, sleet, freezing rain, black ice, frozen pipes, ice dams, blizzard conditions, polar vortex, school cancellations, wind chills below zero, thundersnow… Should I go on? After spending hours digging out and then placing a beach chair on the side of the road as a “space-saver,” it might occur to some people that a beach chair could be put to better use in a warmer locale. If you were divorced in Massachusetts but have since moved to a place where your beach chair is only used at the beach, what state has jurisdiction to enforce or change the alimony provisions in your divorce agreement?
Modification: Alimony provisions that merge into a Judgment of Divorce can be changed upon a showing of a substantial and material change in circumstances. When that occurs, a party seeking to change the alimony terms needs … Keep reading
Divorce is hard. Along with all the emotional upheaval associated with the end of a relationship, the legal wrangling and disputes over division of assets, allocation of liabilities, parenting plans and the appropriate amount of support can be challenging. When special needs children are involved, parenting and support issues become even more complex.
Special needs children can place extraordinary demands on their caretakers. In fact, taking care of a special needs child often becomes a full time job for one of the parents. The parent who sacrificed his/her career to care for the child is likely to be faced with on-going caretaking responsibilities beyond the child’s age of majority. Determining spousal support for the caretaker-parent must account for the lost career opportunities both in the past, as well as in the future.
Where a child suffers from a physically debilitating condition, there can be challenges involved in meeting the child’s daily care needs, equipment, and specialized treatments that need to be considered. Parents may not have the financial ability to have two sets of necessary equipment to allow a child to safely spend time in each parent’s home. This creates additional problems when it comes to fashioning a parenting … Keep reading
My colleague, Jordan Bowne, recently explored the issue of whether the marital home should be retained by a party or sold when assets are divided in a divorce. Before getting to the point in the process where that decision can be made, parties often find themselves in the uncomfortable position of living together after their relationship has soured and contested litigation is underway. Going through a divorce is hard, but it is even harder when you are still sharing a bathroom with your soon-to-be ex. Clients sometimes think that one party is required to move out once a divorce matter is filed with the Court, but that is not the case. When the stress of living together gets to be too much, the question often asked is – how do I get my spouse out of the house?
The easiest, and best, option for separating is to have an adult conversation about who should stay living in the shared residence and who should move out. This will necessarily include consideration of finances in the short-term, how time and relationships with the children will be impacted, and how long the divorce process will take.
When a mutual decision is not … Keep reading
According to the Massachusetts divorce statute:
Judgments of divorce shall in the first instance be judgments nisi, and shall become absolute after the expiration of ninety days from the entry thereof, unless the court within said period, for sufficient cause, upon application of any party to the action, otherwise orders.
A “judgment nisi” means a judgment that comes into effect on a specified date unless within a certain time period cause is shown why it should not go into effect. For spouses getting divorced in Massachusetts, the nisi period results in the parties remaining married for 90 days after the Judgment of Divorce is issued. So what exactly is the reason for the nisi period?
The nisi period is a waiting period designed to allow parties to change their minds about the divorce, even those who have gone through protracted litigation and a trial. For couples who file an uncontested Joint Petition for Divorce pursuant to G.L. Chapter 208, Section 1A (instead of a contested action initiated under Section 1B), there is an additional 30 day waiting period between approval of their settlement agreement and the issuance of the Judgment of Divorce, elongating the wait to be single to … Keep reading
On July 8, 2019, the Massachusetts legislature approved changes to the law surrounding orders for health insurance coverage in cases where child support is ordered. The statutes impacted include G.L. c. 208 (the divorce statute) and G.L. c. 209C (for children of unmarried parents). The law, entitled An Act Making Appropriations For The Fiscal Year 2019 To Provide For Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations And For Certain Other Activities And Projects, provides for, among other things, the following:
- If the Court enters a child support order, either parent may be ordered to maintain health insurance coverage for a child if such coverage is available at reasonable cost and is accessible to the child. Under the previous law, only the parent paying child support could be ordered to maintain coverage for a child, unless the parties otherwise agreed.
- Health care coverage is deemed to be reasonable in cost if the cost to the party ordered to provide health care coverage does not exceed 5% of the gross income of that party. Further, private health insurance shall be deemed not available at reasonable cost to a parent whose gross income does not exceed 150% of the federal poverty guidelines for the family
… Keep reading