Tiffany M. Bentley

Newly separated and divorcing clients almost always come to us with preconceived ideas of what they hope/expect might happen in their cases. All too often, these preconceived ideas are based on a client’s own sense of equity and justice, but are incorrect as a matter of law. Here are five of the most common misconceptions, and reality checks for each.

1. My spouse almost never spent time with the kids while we were together, so he/she should not have significant parenting time with them now that we are separated.

Reality: Everything is subject to change post-divorce, including a parent’s active involvement in the day-to-day caretaking of the children. Gone are the days when it was presumed that the children would remain primarily with one parent after a divorce, spending every other weekend and perhaps a weekday dinner visit with the other parent. Courts are increasingly defaulting to shared-custody arrangements, even in situations where one parent’s involvement pre-divorce was fairly minimal. Every parent will be given the opportunity to be significantly involved in their children’s lives.

2. My spouse cheated on me, so I’m going to take him/her to the cleaners in this divorce.

Reality: As our fearless leader Nancy … Keep reading

trust shield

trust shieldHi there,

I continue to be amazed by the distinguished group of divorce and probate lawyers I have the privilege to work with at Burns & Levinson. Today’s decision on Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl, a case which will guide family financial planning across the country, is a credit to their hard work and dedication. We’re proud to bring you part two of this story which our contributor Tiffany Bentley brought to our attention back in April. This case was deemed “unwinnable” by many, so it is hugely important to our client as well as a celebrated achievement for our team.


Almost exactly four months ago, I blogged with great pride about the compelling arguments from my colleague, Bob O’Regan, to the Supreme Judicial Court in the matter of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl. Today, I blog with even greater pride about the SJC’s unanimous decision in our client’s favor.

In Pfannenstiehl, initially both the Trial Court and the Appeals Court went to great lengths to ensure that the wife would benefit from an irrevocable trust established by her (now former) husband’s father. The husband had no access to or control over the trust. Assets and … Keep reading

On April 5, 2016, the collective eyes of Massachusetts divorce attorneys and estate planners were fixed on the Supreme Judicial Court, where the highly-anticipated oral arguments on “further appellate review” of Pfannenstiehl v. Pfannenstiehl took place.

The 2015 Appeals Court decision received national attention for its potential detrimental impact on the estate planning goals of families who desire to shield trust assets from divorce claims. In Pfannenstiehl, both the Trial Court and the Appeals Court went to great lengths to ensure that the wife would benefit, at least indirectly, from an irrevocable trust established by her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s father even though the husband had no control over the trust and could receive distributions only at the discretion of the trustees. The husband had no present, guaranteed, enforceable interest to receive or use assets or income from the trust. The trustees’ discretion was limited to making distributions under an “ascertainable standard” for a beneficiary’s health, education, maintenance and support. The Trial Court and Appeals Court decisions failed to account for the fact that the trustees did not make distributions to the husband for most of the marriage, and that the husband received distributions only during the final two years of … Keep reading

Same-Sex Parent Claims Victory Over Alabama in Custody Battle

Mother hugging her daughter.Freshly back to work from maternity leave, it warmed my new-mommy/divorce-lawyer heart to see this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming a loving mother’s right to share in the ongoing care and custody of children she helped raise during a long-term same-sex relationship. While the opinion itself speaks much more to jurisdictional issues and the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution than it does to gay rights, the V.L. v. E.L. case represents a significant victory for gay-rights advocates in Alabama, despite the best efforts of that state’s Chief Justice to ignore or outright defy social and legal developments advancing the rights of homosexual couples.… Keep reading

A Closer Look at the Supreme Court’s Same Sex Marriage Ruling

With the announcement of last week’s Supreme Court decision, proponents of same sex marriage rejoiced and Facebook became much more colorful. After a weekend of celebrating the new-found rights of my gay and lesbian friends, neighbors and colleagues, I sat down today to read all 103 pages of the majority decision and dissenting opinions, including a particularly “colorful” dissent from Justice Scalia.

How did this issue get to the Supreme Court?Keep reading