Hi there,

I have been saving articles on how bad economic times cause folks to stay together since last fall. These pieces have been really prevalent and I had been wondering what it was that made my practice and the domestic relations practice in general at Burns & Levinson different.  We have been extraordinarily busy since January.  I had come to the conclusion that because most of our cases are high end divorces the bad economy was causing more of my clients to move forward rather than wait.  This was confirmed by an article in the American Bar Association Journal.

I think the reality for the decrease in some divorce practices is more complex than simply a result of the recession.  If you look at this post from the Freaknomics blog it is clear that divorce is decreasing not as a result of economic change, but just as a general demographic reality.

I would love to think that this is because people are becoming wiser or kinder, and that may be true, or more likely the young middle aged generation now is the first generation to grow up that were children of divorce, and children of divorce … Keep reading

Hi there,

I know a topic is hot when before I hit my desk in the morning at least 5 people ask me if I saw Jon & Kate discuss their pending divorce on TV last night.  Since I have never seen the show (Jon & Kate Plus 8) my answer was no but it seems to have an unholy fascination, even for divorce lawyers. I understand the Gosselins publically renewed their vows last year so perhaps that was the kiss of death

I am not sure if it is the reality show media circus or the adorable plethora of kids, but there is no mistaking the fascination. This article from www.smartmoney.com provides a vehicle for a discussion of some issues about divorce which may not ordinarily get raised.

Enjoy!

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

After reading the article, “Lawyer reports twice as many calls about elder financial abuse” I asked my colleague Lisa Cukier to write a guest post, as she has years of experience dealing with this issue. This type of problem seems to surface when families are under stress.

Hope this is useful,

Best,
Nancy

Guest post by Lisa M. Cukier, Esq., Partner at Burns & Levinson LLP.  Ms. Cukier concentrates her practice in all aspects of probate litigation, fiduciary litigation, planning & litigation for blended families, same-sex couples, guardianship, conservatorship, mental health law, elder law and domestic relations.

Unfortunately it is not uncommon for friends, family and home health companions to exploit elders for their money and property. All too often, people step into an elder’s life in their final years, initially offering help, but later insidiously swaying elders’ thoughts about family members and creating fear about being placed in a nursing home or about the government taking the elders’ assets. These folks who may have had good intentions at first, later insinuate themselves into others’ estate plans and convince elders to gift them money or deed real estate over to themselves. Sometimes, elders feel dependent and … Keep reading

Hi There,

If you are one of the approximately 95% of couples whose divorce will settle by agreement, be grateful; for the remaining 5%, this post is the barest of bare-bones descriptions of the process.

Trials are very artificial creatures and the preparation immediately leading up to them is easily as long and costly as the trial itself.  You should expect to spend time with your attorney getting prepared for trial, going over the questions she will ask you and preparing you for cross examination.  She will of course be preparing exhibits and the questioning of other witnesses as well.

The trial itself follows a clear set of rules, the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney make opening statements, then the plaintiff’s attorney calls her first witness and asks him questions, this is called direct examination. Then the defendant’s attorney has the opportunity to cross examine the witness.  Then the plaintiff’s attorney has the opportunity to clarify (or try to fix) any damage done on cross and generally this then is repeated with the second witness, etc. This continues until the plaintiff has finished putting in her case.  Then it is the defendant’s turn and the same process continues.  … Keep reading

Hi There,

I write a blog, my daughter is going to show me how Facebook works and I have a bunch of friends who tweet on twitter. This is really an Internet universe – or as some call it, a ‘blogosphere’ or ‘twitterverse’.  And in the Internet universe there may be fewer than six degrees of separation.  There is a tendency to think that one’s personal communications on the Internet are private, but as this Time article shows, they are not.

If you are in a divorce or contemplating one, be careful of what you say on Facebook or on any of the other social media sites.  There is no advantage to chatting about your divorce and how awful the other side is in public and there is a real risk that they may see what you have written.  This may hurt your case, give ammunition to the other side, and could clue them in to what your strategy is.

You would think this would go without saying, but do not show up on a dating site until AFTER you have separated.  Dating sites are not private.  Divorce attorneys are very aware of the pitfalls of our very open … Keep reading

Hi There,
 
Here I am posting on gay marriage yet again.  Because I am a divorce lawyer and because I have been married for 44 years, marriage is obviously something I think about regularly, both personally and professionally.  There are so many significant legal rights that attach to marriage that I have long believed that same sex couples should have the right to marry.
 
Like the pro-choice and pro-life arguments, this is a debate that cuts across political parties, although you would not know it by the way it is reported.
 
It looks as if New Hampshire will vote to allow same sex marriage as well.  Go New England!
 
Best,
 
NancyKeep reading

Hello there,

The uncontested divorce hearing is often a culture shock to the participants.  While there is a great deal of ceremony around the actual act of marriage, divorce itself has all the charm of a trip to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Everyone needs to attend the hearing.  When the case name is called the clients and their attorneys stand at the counsel table.  The Judge may or may not read the agreement.  The attorney for the plaintiff (remember the plaintiff?  He or she is the one who filed) asks her client a series of very simple questions, name, address, date of marriage, date of separation, etc.  The Judge will ask the same questions if there aren’t attorneys present and then the Judge will ask each party if the financial statements are accurate and if they believe the other party’s financial statement is also accurate and then the Judge asks a series of questions designed to preclude anyone in the future attempting to set the agreement aside due to buyer’s remorse, i.e. do you understand the agreement?  Did anyone coerce you into signing?  Do you think it’s fair and reasonable? ..etc. Then the Judge explains how long it will be ’til the divorce is final (depending on … Keep reading

Hi There,

When parents cannot communicate or agree after a divorce a parent coordinator is sometime used to help resolve matters. There’s a very interesting article in this week’s issue of Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly which gives a much more in- depth presentation. if you are involved in any custody or disputed parenting actions you might want to read it.

There is a dispute among divorce practitioners as to the utility of parent coordinators.  A few extremely good divorce litigators  refuse to use parent coordinators at all. I happen to think that in the right circumstances and with the right parent coordinator they can be invaluable. No matter how much a parent coordinator charges, it will be less than the costs of litigation. I also think there is a true psychological benefit to the kids to keeping their parents out of court.  

May you never need a parent coordinator.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there;

I’ve been on trial (lawyers like saying that it makes us sound John Grishamish) and I haven’t had time to post, I hate it when that happens.

However, a friend just sent me a link to a collaborative law blog that had a great series of suggestions for how to minimize the collateral damage to children in divorce cases.

Even if you don’t have children many of these are suggestions that may make your divorce process less contentious and thus less expensive.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there,

Done well, by both counsel and the judge, the pretrial conference is a great opportunity to settle a divorce case. That is if you have not already settled it at the four way meeting, in which case you probably will get divorced on the day of the pretrial conference.

If you haven’t settled, this is the time for the attorneys to write a memo that tells the story of your circumstances and sets forth in the best light possible what you want, and why you want it.  By the time of the pretrial there should be no open questions as to values or assets.  If there has been a custody issue the Guardian Ad Litem report should be in and should have been reviewed. Both sides must file an up to date financial statement and should file an asset chart as well.

The idea behind the pretrial conference is that the judge can read the memos and the financials; ask the lawyers if they have anything to add then the judge can tell everyone what he or she thinks about the areas of dispute. Then the parties and their lawyers (who hopefully have also brought draft agreements … Keep reading