Children & Divorce

New Child Support Guidelines to Go Into Effect This Fall

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

Suspension of Parent Education Program Attendance in Divorce Actions

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

Non-Disparagement Orders in Custody Cases

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

Custody Litigation: The Roles of the Guardian ad Litem and ARC Counsel

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

In-State Relocation With Children During or After Divorce

I recently participated with a client in an uncontested divorce hearing where the Probate and Family Court Judge presiding over the matter said something I have not heard many judges say at an uncontested divorce hearing. Addressing both parents, the Judge called attention to the removal language contained in the divorce agreement, making specific note to the residential parent. The Judge pointed out that while the language contained in the agreement only referenced removal of the children out of the Commonwealth, if the residential parent wanted to relocate with the children within the Commonwealth – but at such a distance that would impact the current parenting schedule – the residential parent may need to seek the Court’s permission to do so before she moved. While most divorce agreements contain specific language prohibiting out-of-state removal, very rarely do separation agreements provide similar restrictions for in-state relocation of a great distance, yet Massachusetts caselaw does restrict in-state “removal.” I was pleased that the Judge in this case called attention to this issue so that both parents were reminded of their obligations post-divorce with respect to the other parent’s relationship and parenting time with the children.

M.G.L. c. 208 section 30 … Keep reading

The Hague Convention & International Child Custody Disputes

For those facing international divorce and child custody disputes, knowing and understanding your rights, options, and potential pitfalls before they happen is vital – especially for parents who are dual nationals, foreign nationals, or are married to individuals with foreign ties. Join Elizabeth Crowley and Katie M. Dalton for a virtual webinar where they will share insight on these important matters and discuss recent high-profile Hague Convention cases in the media.

Click here to watch the full webinar.… Keep reading

Co-Parenting During the Holidays

Carolyn Childs Van Tine and Andrea Dunbar discuss the do’s and don’ts of co-parenting during the happiest – and possibly most stressful – time of the year. Learn about “holiday parenting time,” how to negotiate for an agreement that favors the holidays most important to you, and what steps you can take in conflict situations – with or without a plan. Despite the challenges, you can set your family up for a joyful season filled with new memory-making traditions.

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

Prenuptial + Postnuptial Agreements: How Are They Different?

A prenuptial agreement, signed before the big day, allows a couple to determine how assets and income will be handled at the end of a marriage, whether by death or divorce. A postnuptial agreement, which serves a similar purpose, is signed during the marriage. While the two are alike, they have critical differences, including what is required to make these contracts enforceable.

In the sixth episode of our divorce-focused webinar series, Robin Lynch Nardone and Elizabeth Crowley cover essential questions: Is a prenup right for you and your relationship? Will a postnuptial agreement put you at ease and help bring back marital bliss? Register now to learn more about these two types of contracts and how they can benefit you (and your marriage).

View the full episode here.… Keep reading

A Review of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act

Earlier this summer, which feels like a lifetime ago in these COVID times, the Rhode Island Governor signed the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act into law.  The law, which had been considered in four previous legislative sessions, and takes effect January 1, 2021, repeals current laws regarding paternity and ensures equal access to the security of legal parentage.  Rhode Island was long overdue for this update as the paternity laws had not been updated in over forty years, and the laws as previously written did not recognize today’s broader definition of family.

Some of the highlights of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act include the following:

  1. The law allows for LGBTQ couples to establish parentage through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, negating the necessity of having to undertake a lengthy, and potentially expensive, co-parent adoption process to establish legal parentage.
  2. The law creates a path to parentage and provides protections for children born through surrogacy.
  3. The law expands the paths to legal parentage, including through adoption, acknowledgment, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage, and presumptions.
  4. The law also provides clear standards for establishing parentage in the family court.
  5. While Rhode Island case law has supported de facto
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Webinar: Keeping the Focus on Your Children During the Divorce Process

In the third episode of our divorce-focused webinar series, Dr. Sharon Gordetsky joins attorneys Tiffany Bentley and Francine Gardikas to explore how divorce affects children and how to navigate the process for their benefit. They discuss children’s developmental stages and needs, the decisions that will impact your family, the various professionals potentially involved in the process, and finally, the big one: how to tell the children.

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading