When you board an airplane, the flight attendant’s speech usually includes a welcome statement and requests that you securely fasten your seat belt. Then the attendant will alert you that if needed, oxygen masks will be released overhead and request that you secure your own mask before assisting others. Similar to an emergency plane landing, during a divorce, it is important to make sure to take care of yourself before helping others.
Many clients ask at the outset of their case how to best protect their children in divorce. My answer usually stresses the importance of self-care for the client. After my client has put on their own oxygen mask and taken care of themselves, they will ultimately be able to assist their child best.
As a family law attorney, it is my responsibility to shepherd clients through one of their most difficult situations – divorce. Divorce, for many, is the death of a dream. In this post, I’ve shared five tips that I recommend to clients going through a divorce.
Tip #1: Engage a therapist or mental health professional.
It is important to consider engaging a therapist to guide you through the roller-coaster of emotions associated with divorce. … Keep reading
A lot of emotions and impulses can arise during a divorce, and it’s critical to avoid any behavior that you may regret– including in the courtroom. What’s at stake? Credibility, time, money, custody, and peace of mind, to name a few. Below, read the top 10 behaviors to avoid during a divorce.
Do not put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to have read aloud in court.
This means no harsh text messages or emails to your spouse, and no nasty messages to friends and family about your spouse either. If you are upset or overwhelmed and need to vent, speak to a therapist or other mental health professional, or, if this isn’t possible, a trusted friend or family member in a private location (and never vent to your children about their parent or stepparent).
Do not put any tracking devices on your spouse’s car or electronics.
Even if you suspect them of having an affair, installing tracking devices or spying on them or their friends will not produce any information that is valuable enough to risk your credibility in court. This type of behavior is frowned on by judges, and infidelity – without something else such as
… Keep reading
When summer and school vacations approach, many divorcing spouses wonder: what happens with the children and the parenting plan? Do I get to take them for vacation, and sign them up for camps? What happens if my coparent refuses to let me take the children to my family reunion that only happens once every ten years?
Summers and school vacations can be stressful due to the changes in routine alone. That stress can be exacerbated by issues communicating with your coparent, or by uncertainty about vacation parenting plans and travel arrangements.
There are no hard and fast rules on these issues under Massachusetts law. However, to minimize stress and disruption for you and, most importantly, for your children, it is useful to know what is typical for coparenting and parenting plans during school and summer vacations, as well as how to address issues that may arise around vacations and coparenting.
A preliminary issue to consider is what is typically ordered by a judge, or agreed to between divorcing parents, as far as summer and school vacation parenting plans:
- February/April Vacations: Massachusetts public schools typically have two week-long vacations, one in February and one in April. These vacations are
… Keep reading
What do Bridget Moynahan, Tiki Barbar, and Denise Richards have in common? They (or their spouse) were all pregnant while going through a divorce.
Divorce is never easy. Divorcing while pregnant adds another complication. In some states it is not even possible to finalize the divorce while a party is pregnant. However, in Massachusetts, although expecting parents are permitted to finalize a divorce, there are certain obstacles about which a divorcing, expecting parent should be aware.
1. There is a legal presumption that a child born to a woman during a marriage is the child of her spouse.
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209(C), section 6, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he is married to the mother at the time of birth of the child or if the child is born within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment or divorce. (While the terms man and woman are contained in the statute, this law applies to same-sex couples, as well.) The husband’s name will automatically be placed on the birth certificate of the child, even if the husband is not the biological parent. It then becomes the burden … Keep reading
Alcohol consumption is widespread in American culture. A 2020 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that two-thirds (66.3%) of American adults consumed alcohol in the past year, with 5.1% of them admitting to engaging in regular heavy drinking.
The likelihood of divorce triples for couples where one party struggles with alcohol. According to some statistics, more than 14.5 million Americans suffer from alcohol abuse disorders – defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
Study data reflects that more than 7.5 million children in the United States live with a parent who suffers from an alcohol abuse disorder.
How are children protected during a divorce? The Court always strives to maintain a parental relationship while also protecting the child(ren) from harm. When a parent’s alcohol use impairs their ability to care for a child physically and/or emotionally during or after a divorce, the Court will intervene.
Interventions can include:
- Requiring a parent to maintain sobriety in order to exercise parenting time, which is monitored through random urine screens or the
… Keep reading
A parenting coordinator is a third party hired by divorced or divorcing parents to help resolve parenting disputes – such as holiday and vacation plans, the selection of activities for the children, or school choice. Under Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Standing Order 1-17, a parenting coordinator can be appointed in any case relating to the care and custody of minor children. Under the Standing Order, parents may, by agreement, engage a parenting coordinator to assist them in dealing with existing or future conflicts regarding their access to and responsibilities for their children. A parenting coordinator can be given authority to make binding decisions or be limited to simply trying to help the parties come to mutual agreement.
Here are a few of the benefits to hiring a parenting coordinator:
- Less time in court. A parenting coordinator can help parents avoid repeated trips to the courthouse to deal with minor disputes.
- Less cost. Sharing the cost of a parenting coordinator will be less expensive than continuing to use attorneys to work out parenting disputes.
- Quicker decisions. It can take months to get a hearing date in the Probate and Family Court. Parenting decisions often must be made quickly
… Keep reading
On August 2, 2021, Chief Justice of the Trial Court, Paula M. Carey, signed new Child Support Guidelines, which go into effect on October 4, 2021. These new guidelines are the result of work by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force, which was convened by Chief Justice Carey in 2020 to undertake the quadrennial review of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines required by federal regulations.
If you currently pay or receive child support, you should consider whether these new guidelines result in a different child support obligation in your situation. There is a rebuttable presumption that the guidelines apply in all cases establishing or modifying a child support order, regardless of whether the parents are married or unmarried, the order is temporary or final, or the Court is deciding whether to approve an agreement for child support. There is also a rebuttable presumption that the amount of the child support order calculated under the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support to be ordered. Existing child support orders are not automatically changed to be in compliance with the new guidelines unless the parties specifically agreed within the terms of an Agreement to automatically recalculate child support. Absent … Keep reading
In an announcement made by the Probate and Family Court on June 25, 2021, effective September 1, 2021, divorcing parents of minor children will no longer be required to attend and complete the Parents Education Program as the Program is, at least temporarily, suspended. What does this mean for parents presently going through the divorce process? It depends on whether the complaint for divorce has already been filed or will be filed in the future. If filed on or before July 11, 2021, parents will still need to attend the Program and submit a certificate of completion before September 1, 2021. If the complaint for divorce is filed on or after July 12, 2021, the requirement is waived.
Prior to this recent suspension of the Parents Education Program, all parties to a divorce action in which there are minor children (under the age of 18) were required to attend and participate in an approved Parent Education Program pursuant to Standing Order 2-16. The purpose of Standing Order 2-16’s requirement was to provide divorcing parents guidance in understanding and addressing the challenges caused by divorce and to assist them in addressing and reducing the stress children may experience during and … Keep reading
As my partner Andrea Dunbar recently wrote, it is inappropriate to post negative comments about the opposing party in a custody matter on social media. But can the court prohibit it? The answer in most cases is no.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a compelling interest in protecting children from being exposed to disparagement between their parents, freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment limits the government’s power to restrict expression simply because the government does not like the subject matter, idea, or content of the message. An Order from a Probate and Family Court judge instructing a party not to post comments about the other parent on social media is called a “non-disparagement order.” These types of orders are prior restraint on speech. In order for prior restraint on speech to be allowed, the speech must be truly exceptional. This requires that the harm expected from the unrestrained speech must be grave, the likelihood of the speech must be all but certain absent the prior restraint, and the order must be the least restrictive way to stop the grave harm. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial … Keep reading
In Probate and Family Court cases involving the care and custody of children, the Court may appoint a Guardian ad litem (GAL) to investigate or evaluate the case, and/or an ARC (Attorneys Representing Children) attorney to advocate the child’s position. Join Tiffany Bentley and Robin Lynch Nardone for a discussion on the roles of these professionals and their impact on custody litigation. Learn about:
- How and why a GAL or ARC attorney is appointed.
- The differences between a GAL and ARC attorney and how to determine which is most appropriate for your case.
- How to prepare for a GAL investigation.
- How to use a GAL report in negotiation or further litigation.
Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading