Armstrong Law, P.C.

Lowell Massachusetts Family Law Blog

Seeking an annulment as a Catholic becomes easier

Divorce is a touchy subject among Catholics in Massachusetts and the rest of the world. In fact, disagreements on the subject of divorce caused many other denominations to spring up and separate from the church, perhaps most notably, the Anglicans. This is because the Catholic church generally treats marriage as a permanent arrangement unless the spouses receive an annulment.

USA Today explains that in the Catholic church, for an annulment to take place, a church tribunal must declare that a marriage once considered valid actually failed to meet at least one essential criteria. Without this, separated or divorced spouses cannot remarry. The church may consider a Catholic who remarries an adulterer as the new marriage is not valid and the old one is technically not resolved by its standards.

Mistakes couples often make during the divorce process

Going through a divorce in Massachusetts is usually an emotional and stressful process, and it is even worse when there are kids involved. Unfortunately, these emotions can get in the way of making important decisions, and this can lead to unwanted results or unintended financial consequences.

It helps to be aware of common mistakes many couples make so that others going through a divorce can avoid them.

How to request a child custody modification

During divorce proceedings for parents in Massachusetts, a judge typically makes a decision regarding child custody. However, if at some point after the divorce is final one or both of the parents want to change the decision, they need to go through the proper channels to request a modification.

According to the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the court determines sole or joint custody based on the best interest of the child. Some considerations for this include the child's relationship with each parent, the ability of each parent to provide for the child, the mental and physical health of the parents, the proposed living situation and the age of the child. However, after the initial decision, situations may change for one or the other parent. For example, one's income may change, or work schedules may interfere with custody time. When this occurs, either parent, or a third party on behalf of the child, may request a modification to the original custody plan.

The different types of custody arrangement to consider

When filing for custody of a child in Massachusetts, many parents become so caught up in the general tasks that they forget the specifics. According to, parents need to consider the differences between legal and physical child custody. They also need to understand parenting time arrangements and the four custody types allowed in the state.

Sole physical custody allows the child to live with one parent while maintaining reasonable parenting time with the other. In cases of shared physical custody, the child may have the opportunity to live with both parents. Sole legal custody provides one parent with the responsibility of making all the major decisions that affects the child, including health care and education. Finally, shared legal custody includes both parents in the decision-making process.

Your business partner’s divorce can affect your company

There are many risks associated with business partnerships in Massachusetts. One that catches many business partners by surprise is the risk of their partner’s divorce. These entrepreneurs may have taken every step to protect the company via prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, solid estate plans and even a succession plan. However, if their business partner failed to take similar steps, a divorce may cost them both a good chunk of the business.

Forbes notes that most states consider a business a marital asset. This means that during a divorce, that business may be subjected to division like any other asset. This may cause the divorcing partner to lose some of their stake in the business to the ex-spouse.

Penalties on back child support in Massachusetts

When it comes to child support payments in Massachusetts, many people consider the Bay State as one of the toughest. For example, the website warns that the state may still take actions against parents who fall behind, even if they make voluntary extra contributions to their past-due balance every week.

The state views past-due child support as an installment debt and requires parents to use their assets to pay off this debt as soon as possible. Not even social security disability and unemployment insurance checks remain immune to child support deductions.

The difficulties of securing parental rights for LGBTQ couples

When the Obama administration helped to make marriage possible for the LGBTQ community, it was a bittersweet moment. It brought them one step closer to having rights similar to heterosexual couples, but not exactly. One of the biggest outstanding issues was establishing parental rights for both parents when they started a family. This was tricky even when one spouse gave birth to the child and the other spouse was the biological donor.

According to NBC News, several states have stepped up to make it easier for same-sex couples to secure parental rights without spending thousands of dollars on adoption. Massachusetts is one of a handful of states that provides a gender-neutral hospital form that allows both parents to be listed on the child’s documents. Without this form, if anything should happen to the partner giving birth, the other spouse may have no parental claims to the child and may lose the child to the foster care system.

Student loans could end your marriage

For many students in Massachusetts, taking out loans was the only way they could afford to attend college. While some graduates have since repaid their debt, students in Massachusetts do contribute to the $1.5 trillion of student loan debt owed in America.

CNBC reports that more than a third of respondents to a SunTrust Bank survey shared that financial problems, including student loan debt, led to their divorce. In addition to this, 13% of responders specifically blamed student loans for the end of their marriage. Experts say the reason is not hard to guess at. It is difficult to build a life with someone who has high student loan debt. Debt can stand in the way of purchasing a home or car, and if they missed any payments, their credit score in general could plummet.

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, 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)

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