Armstrong Law, P.C.

Lowell Massachusetts Family Law Blog

What is involved in paternity testing?

Fathers who have not legally established a relationship with their children should consider taking a paternity test. As a legally recognized father in Massachusetts, you would have greater child custody and visitation rights and can also more directly provide for your children. A DNA test is an important way to clarify your biological relationship with your children, and according to the Cleveland Clinic, it is a pretty simple process.

The goal of DNA testing is to determine if a child shares a prospective father’s DNA. DNA is genetic material that is unique to each human being. During conception, a child acquires half of his or her DNA from the father and the mother. A father seeks to show from a DNA test that his genetic material is also present in his child.

Relatives can protect children by filing for guardianship

When heartbreaking stories of families torn apart by substance abuse, incarceration, immigration and untimely deaths make the news in Massachusetts, the silver lining is that aunt, grandparent, older sibling or even a friend who stepped forward to take care of the children. These children often become attached to their informal guardians. Some may not have a relationship with their biological parents at all.

However, unless that person files for guardianship, the stability of the family relationship can be disrupted at any time. According to Mass.gov, to make this request, the adult(s) will need to file the following documents:

  •          Bond (MPC 801)
  •          Affidavit Disclosing Care and Custody (OCAJ-1)
  •          Petition for Appointment of Guardian of a Minor (MPC 140)
  •          If the parent(s) agree(s) with the appointment, then file a Notarized Waiver and Consent to Petition (MPC 440)
  •          If the parent(s) or other interested parties disagree, then file a Military Affidavit (MPC 470)

Women in the workforce prompt changes to alimony laws

Women in Massachusetts and the rest of America are no longer staying home throughout their marriage. The stereotype of the stay-at-home mom has been changing rapidly for over a decade, with men now often playing the role of stay-at-home-dads.

In fact, Forbes estimates that 40% of American households have a female breadwinner. Women are taking greater financial responsibility for themselves overall with or without men being present in the home. For these and other reasons, states all across America are revisiting alimony laws to limit the amount of money stay-at-home spouses usually receive. This affects not just women who receive spousal support, but men.

How families can make a smooth transition during divorce

When couples divorce in Massachusetts, it can be a difficult time for the entire family. While there are some cases where children and the parents are relieved to call it quits, the vast majority of families find it difficult to face new challenges apart.

Children may begin to wonder about their continued relationship with the leaving parent. Who will they live with? How often will they see their siblings if the children are split between the two parents? One spouse may also worry about the other’s ability to parent on their own, especially if they did not initially play an active roll in the children’s life.

Alimony may not be forever

Spousal support is often granted upon separation or divorce of a Massachusetts couple and is separate from child support. Also known as alimony, it is funds provided to the lower-earning spouse by the higher earning partner to maintain the standard of living set when the couple lived together.

LiveAbout states that there are different categories of alimony and several factors that determine whether an individual receives spousal support and for how long.

  • Temporary spousal support begins while the parties are separated and last until the finalization of the divorce. It helps to maintain the dependent spouse’s lifestyle until the couple reconciles or comes to an agreement regarding the settlement.
  • Reimbursement alimony is when a spouse receives recompense for specific expenses incurred by the other, such as if one put the other through medical school. Payment may be a lump sum or over time.
  • Rehabilitative spousal support helps the dependent spouse obtain the education, training or professional experience necessary for self-sufficiency. If one parent stays home with the couple’s small children, it may also last until the children begin school. This type of alimony typically has a fixed period.
  • Permanent alimony continues from the divorce until the death of the payor or the recipient. It may also stop when the recipient re-marries, although not always.

Why does the date of separation matter?

When divorcing in Massachusetts, people are often surprised to know that the end of the marriage is counted in two ways. The first is the date of separation and the second is the actual finalization of divorce. But, why does it matter when you separated? Does it have any legally binding consequences?

Forbes points out that in many instances, it does. Assets and debts accrued between the wedding day and the date of separation belongs to both parties. Assets and debts accrued after the date of separation belongs to the respective individuals.

Tips for fathers who want joint or sole custody

A heavily contested Massachusetts divorce can be emotionally draining for everyone involved. This is especially true if each parent wants full custody of their children. At Armstrong Law, P.C., we have experience representing clients in the areas of visitation and child custody and finding a positive solution.

Although mothers often receive primary custody of their children, according to VeryWell Family, fathers can file for full or joint custody. For many dads, this is an uphill battle. Here are some tips that may help show the court your commitment to your children.

  • If you and your ex have already agreed on child support payments, keep making them, even if it is an informal arrangement. Maintain accurate records, such as keeping receipts, written confirmation of payments by the mom or proof that she cashed a check.
  • Keep a record of when you spend time with your child. If there is not already a parenting plan in place, develop one and submit it to the court.
  • Attend school functions, social gatherings and other important events. Call or speak with your children often, know their friends and become familiar with their teachers and other important people in their lives. Ensure that they know you are there for them if they need you. The courts consider your relationship when making custody decisions.
  • Ensure your child has their own space in your home. It is critical that there are adequate living accommodations if you wish to obtain joint or primary custody.

What should I include in my prenup?

So, you are one of the many Massachusetts residents that opt to sign a prenuptial agreement each year. After the initial challenge of discussing the matter with your partner and perhaps getting them to agree, you are probably now wondering what to include in your prenup.

According to the American Bar Association, a good starting point is not the prenup itself but each other’s financial situation. The ABA specifically recommends taking a look at your partner’s credit reports. Both partners should also make a list of all their assets and all their debts.

Keeping your financial situation stable during your divorce

You have heard the stories about people suffering financially as they struggle to cope with the drastic aftermath of their divorce. Now, you are looking for ways to boost your own financial situation and prevent your divorce from creating too much strain so you can continue to live a comfortable life. At Armstrong Law, P.C., we are committed to helping people in Massachusetts to work through their divorce as quickly as possible with minimal repercussions. 

Your finances will undoubtedly be rocked by your decision to get divorced from your spouse. Separating all of the financial accounts that you and your spouse have shared including retirement benefits often requires time and analysis to guarantee that both of you are able to get a fair settlement. During this time, you will need to be careful about how much money you spend and what you spend it on. Additionally, it is imperative that you keep accurate and detailed financial records so you can confidently know where your money is going. 

What happens to your family business when you divorce?

If one of the marital assets you and your spouse own in Massachusetts is a family business, what happens to it when you divorce likely will become a major issue. If you are like most couples, your family business represents not only your greatest asset, but also the one that provides most, if not all, of your family income. Consequently, how you split it up undoubtedly will have lasting consequences for both of you.

Forbes reports that divorcing couples usually have the following three options when it comes to splitting up their family business:

  1. Sell it and divide the proceeds
  2. One spouse buys out the other spouse
  3. You both continue to own the business

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