“You’ve been served.” But what does that actually mean? The service of court papers (referred to as “service” throughout this post) has been a hot topic in the news recently as Jason Sudeikis allegedly had his ex-partner and co-parent, Olivia Wilde, served with court documents for a child custody case while she was on stage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Sudeikis swears he knew nothing about the very public way in which Wilde was served. However, most family law lawyers would tell you that Sudeikis’ purported ignorance is suspect considering the purpose of service, and how it is generally accomplished.
Service in its purest form is notice. It is giving the other party to a court case notice that an action has been filed against them. Examples of family court actions where service is necessary include divorce, child custody matters, contempts, modifications, etc. Upon the filing of a court case, the court in which the case was filed issues a summons. Depending on the action, the summons can demand that the party appear at the court on a certain date at a certain time, or take other action, such as filing an answer (a formal response) to the complaint … 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
Many divorcing spouses worry about the possibility of their spouse selling assets during a divorce and leaving little or nothing to be divided. It can be particularly problematic if a spouse was financially controlling or secretive, or handled all the finances during the marriage with the other having a limited idea of the full financial picture. One could sell assets that the other doesn’t even know exists. Or, a spouse might transfer money or property to a family member to try to prevent it from being accessed by the other spouse, anticipating that the family member will transfer it back after the divorce is final.
But will the Court really allow a spouse to cause financial harm to the other by allowing assets to be sold or transferred in this way? Probably not, due to Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 411. This is sometimes referred to as the “Automatic Restraining Order” or “Rule 411.”
This article will discuss how Rule 411 works, and what Rule 411 does (and does not do) to protect marital assets for equitable division during the divorce process.
Rule 411 Goes Into Effect When a Complaint Is Filed or Served
Once the spouse who … Keep reading
In recent years, cryptocurrency has sparked concern in some divorcing clients. We hear questions such as “I believe my spouse has cryptocurrency or other digital assets and we are going through a divorce. What can I expect?”
With the increase in popularity over the past decade of cryptocurrency and other digital asset holdings, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), more divorcing couples are now fighting over those holdings. The difficulty in locating, tracking, and valuing cryptocurrency and other digital assets has added another layer of dispute in a divorce. Some divorcing spouses believe that they can underreport or hide funds in cryptocurrency wallets given it can be difficult to find or access information about those assets due to the built-in secretive nature of the holdings.
But digital assets are not untraceable. While the process for locating and tracking these assets can be a long, slow, step-by-step process, it is possible to follow the money and account for most, if not all, of the digital assets held by a spouse in the divorce process. with the guidance from an attorney knowledgeable in the area, and the assistance of a savvy expert/analyst.
While most cryptocurrency holders buy and sell on an online exchange, … Keep reading
It depends on what was put into writing – or not! On January 10, 2022, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that where a former husband failed to change the beneficiary designation on his life insurance policy, the divorce operated to revoke the designation of his former wife as primary beneficiary.
In the case of American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus v. Joann Parker, the SJC was asked to consider whether the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (UPC), which went into effect on March 31, 2012, applied retroactively to a policy of insurance purchased by Sean Parker in 2010.
When he purchased the life insurance policy in 2010, Sean named his then-wife, Dawn, as primary beneficiary and his mother, Joann, as the contingent beneficiary. Sean and Dawn divorced in 2016, but their Separation Agreement makes no mention of the life insurance policy. Rather, their Separation Agreement provides only that they divided their personal property to their satisfaction and that there were no agreements between them outside of the Separation Agreement.
Following the divorce, Dawn continued to pay the premiums on Sean’s insurance policy, because she claimed he had agreed that she remain the beneficiary of the policy. … Keep reading
Court is inevitable in divorce proceedings. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in full agreement on all issues, you’ll need a judge of the Probate and Family Court to approve your separation agreement and incorporate it into a judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce legally terminates your marriage. In cases where agreement cannot be reached, there can be numerous appearances in court, including motions, pre-trial and trial. There are some reasons you may want to consider avoiding a trial and instead consider mediation or other forms of alternate dispute resolution:
- Uncertainty: If you take your case to a judge to decide all issues or even just one or two issues that you and your spouse can’t agree on, there is uncertainty in going before the judge. Probate and Family Court judges have a lot of discretion in making decisions in a divorce, particularly those relating to child custody and asset division. So, one judge could decide your case differently than another, and parties do not get to choose which judge is assigned to their case. It can be hard to know what your assigned judge will do in your case and what the result will
… 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
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet populations, particularly dogs and cats, are on the rise and expected to continue to increase through at least 2030. Many people have welcomed a new pet to the family during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. A common question that clients ask their divorce attorneys is: who keeps our fur baby?
In the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts, as in most family courts in the U.S., pets are treated as personal property. This means that they’re divided between a divorcing couple according to the same considerations that are applied to things like the toaster, the china, and the lawnmower. Under the law in Massachusetts currently, it’s not possible to have a “visitation” schedule for pets, unlike the parenting plans included in separation agreements or divorce judgments for any divorcing couple with children. For children, courts consider the children’s best interests in determining custody and a parenting plan, but a pet’s best interests won’t be considered, and a Probate and Family Court judge won’t order a “visitation” schedule or “pet parenting plan” for pets.
So, in considering who keeps the pet, the Court will take the same factors into consideration that they … Keep reading
The decision to move forward with a divorce is never easy. Regardless of the length of the marriage, the reason for the divorce, or whether children were born or are expected of the marriage, you married that person for a reason and created a life with that person. To then decide to divorce that person, which will likely drastically change both of your lives and the lives of any children born of the marriage, is not a decision made lightly. The uncertainty of what to expect in divorce proceedings and what steps to take (or not take) are often equally paralyzing. Divorces are not just a breakdown of a relationship and partnership; they are often also a financial uncoupling. Making the wrong decisions may cause you not only additional emotional stress but financial loss.
If you ultimately decide you want a divorce, you may ask yourself, “What’s next? Where do I start?” Consider the following steps:
- Consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Divorce is complicated. Knowing your rights and obligations under the statutes and case law for divorces in Massachusetts is critical to making a fully informed decision and getting the best deal possible. An experienced divorce attorney … 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