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Divorce Law Monitor

What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

Is It Illegal to Spank Your Stepchild?

Posted in Parenting, Children & Divorce

stuffed animal tigerSince many divorcing people are parents, this new case about physical discipline of children might be of interest. Spanking was more common with previous generations, the practice seems to be dropping off. Under Massachusetts law, a parent or guardian is not subject to criminal prosecution for the use of force against a minor child in his/her care provided the use of force…

  1. Is reasonable.
  2. Is related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor (which can include punishment of misconduct).
  3. Does not cause or create the risk of substantial physical harm or severe mental distress.

Basically, you can physically discipline your children so long as you don’t actually hurt them. This is called “parental privilege.” Recently, our Supreme Judicial Court ruled on whether this privilege should extend to stepparents.

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Change Your Will When Your Divorce Is Final

Posted in Post-Divorce
to do list estate plan

To do: Create or update your estate plan!

Hi there,

I just learned that this is National Estate Planning Awareness Week. One of our terrific attorneys, Christine Fletcher, has written a quick piece explaining the importance of having your estate planner working on a team with your other “people” when making financial decisions. Some may consider this a dry or morbid topic, but in reality it’s a hugely important one. Post-divorce, everyone should immediately change their will, change the beneficiaries on their retirement accounts and, if you haven’t already, change your health care proxies and durable powers of attorney.

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October Is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Posted in Domestic Violence

Depressed WomanHi there,

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Female to male and same-sex violence happens and are just as bad, but often less reported. Many are surprised to hear that men are also subject to domestic violence. In fact many men are reluctant to admit that violence is occurring.

Some Victims Don’t Realize They Are Victims

Abusers start small and follow a cycle that tends to be similar. Anger, denigration, blow up, abuse and apology… followed by penitence and some good times before the cycle begins again. Only worse. As the cycle repeats it becomes harder and harder for the victim to leave. Abusers tend to be highly manipulative and convince their victims that they are worthless, powerless and unable to escape. Some victims become so accustomed to this treatment that it becomes their new version of normal, and they lose an urge to leave.

There are many toxic, abusive marriages where there is no physical violence. However, the victim is subject to such unending, demeaning denigration that he or she becomes stuck in the turmoil and unable to leave. As hard as it may seem, the best advice is still to LEAVE as soon as you realize you are a victim. As a friend or family member, it’s heartwrenching to see a loved one trapped in an abusive relationship.

Help Is on the Way

If a loved one is in harm’s way, there’s always hope. Massachusetts has innumerable shelters, this site lets users search by town to find one nearby. The Commonwealth also has a very strong domestic violence abuse prevention law, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 209A. We even have a pet protection law as part of our domestic violence protection which protects pets from abuse as well. This is wonderful on so many levels. Some people are afraid to leave an abusive relationship without their pets because they fear (reasonably) that the abusers will turn on the animals. Children going through abuse and forced to hide in shelters were often forced to lose their beloved pets as well.

The resources are out there. If you or a loved one are in a dangerous or abusive situation, you can get help through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at http://www.thehotline.org or by calling 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).