Armstrong Law, P.C.

Lowell Massachusetts Family Law Blog

Do you need to re-do your custody agreement for the school year?

If you are divorced and have kids in Massachusetts, sending the kids back to school can throw a wrench into your custody arrangement with your ex-spouse. Even if your custody schedule worked perfectly last school season, there are many reasons why it may not be so great this year. If this is the case, make sure you work together and/or with an attorney to come up with a legal modification plan that works in everyone's best interest.

According to Huffington Post, children's schedules can change dramatically and quickly. They may get more involved in their favorite activities or switch to a new school that is further away. When this occurs, the custody agreement may need to be changed to accommodate their schedules and developmental needs. The agreement should also work with your and your ex's schedules, as it may be easier for one parent to take care of the children during the week.

What about pet custody?

Couples going through a divorce in Massachusetts have a lot of decision making to do. One area of contention among families is who will get the pet(s). If both spouses are close with the family pet, they may fight over who gets custody and wonder if there are visitation rights. As with deciding child custody, emotions can run strongly when it comes to furry friends.

According to the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, the state treats pets as property, such as a couch or a piece of artwork. A judge can grant ownership to one party or the other based on either what is best for the pet or simply to whom the pet belonged before the marriage.

Do you suspect your spouse is hiding assets?

Couples going through a divorce in Massachusetts have a lot to consider and agree upon. While you may want to believe your spouse is being truthful and straightforward about his or her assets, it is in your best interest to do some extra digging and make sure nothing is being hidden and held back from you.

The Georgia Bar Association recommends that a forensic accountant becomes part of the team to look for hidden property and other assets. These professionals are experts in this technical and specialized area. The accountants apply an advanced methodology to find changes in trends related to financial transactions. They also know how to perform more advanced internet searches and financial analyses of bank statements and tax returns.

Financial problems and child support payments

Parents lose the ability to pay child support for different reasons, such as a health crisis that came out of the blue or a reduction in work hours or the termination of a position altogether. Unfortunately, a parent who is facing financial problems may experience additional hardships if they fall behind on their child support order. For example, they may run the risk of being arrested or face many other complications, from tax refund interception to losing the ability to travel overseas. As a result, you should look into your options if you expect to find yourself out of work and are worried about staying caught up on child support.

If major financial changes have created challenges in your life, you might be able to have your child support order modified. The modification of a child support order can help ensure that you do not fall behind by making it much easier to make your payments on time. Unfortunately, parents who ignore these considerations may fall behind on their obligations and see their life spiral out of control.

Benefits of a postnuptial agreement

Married couples in Massachusetts may have entered into the union without a prenuptial agreement because the thought of separation seemed impossible. However, once the honeymoon stage has passed, one or both spouses may realize it would be beneficial to write up an agreement that defines certain aspects of the marriage. This can be done after the I-Dos have been said, and it is called a postnuptial agreement. 

In many cases, a postnuptial agreement has the same information that is typically found in a prenup, and this can make it much easier in the event the couple decides to separate or divorce. The USA Today talks about how this type of agreement helps couples discuss their finances, each partner's philosophy about money and mutual lifetime goals. The couple should talk about separate and marital property and decide how to manage them and how they would be divided in the event of divorce.

Tips for summer break and child custody

Divorced parents in Massachusetts who are detail-oriented and thorough may have already broached the subject of custody during summer break. However, even the best-laid plans can change. Whether you made initial plans and want to change them, or you are just now considering what to do over the summer, there are some tips to follow so it is a smooth process for everyone.

According to FindLaw, one of the most important things you should do is discuss with your ex about your plans, and do so as much in advance as possible. Most parents are willing to accommodate each other's wishes, but there is a better chance when you bring them up far in advance.

Child support and tax refund issues

When it comes to child support payments, there are different issues you may need to address. For example, perhaps you are concerned about being unable to pay child support and you worry about the potential consequences you may run into down the road, such as being taken into custody or unable to obtain a passport in the U.S. Moreover, falling behind on child support can also lead to the interception of your tax refund. In this post, we will look at other child support matters involving tax refunds.

For some people, tax refunds are a helpful boost. Those who have fallen behind on the child support they owe or anticipate financial challenges in the near future may allocate their tax refund toward child support payments. Having an influx of cash at a crucial time can be very helpful for non-custodial parents who are struggling to stay current, such as when one has lost his or her job or is facing medical problems they did not expect. Moreover, parents who cannot pay child support and have fallen behind on their payments may not be able to receive their tax refund due to the government intercepting it.

How do I handle a military divorce?

If you are a milspouse (military spouse) you know that as with everything else in the military, both marriage and divorce are far more complicated than they are for civilians. While military regulations and federal law may govern much about your marriage and divorce, how does Massachusetts state law impact the proceedings if you are a military spouse and wish to obtain a divorce?

One of the biggest factors to consider is whether or not an active duty serving member of the military can be served with divorce papers in a reasonable amount of time. Mass.gov details this difficulty, and points out that service members are exempt from defaulting. Imagine how difficult it would be to serve your spouse with divorce papers if they are deployed overseas, and yet laws still holding them accountable for any kind of default or non-response. If your divorce is uncontested, however, rather than being served your spouse can file a waiver.

Is legal separation possible in Massachusetts?

There may come a situation where you wish to take on all the trappings of a divorce without actually completely terminating your marriage - aka, a temporary or permanent separation. Yet not all states have a legal statute governing separations versus divorce; can you pursue a legal separation from your spouse in Massachusetts?

The simple answer is no. Per Mass.gov, Massachusetts has no legal precedent that defines "legal separation." Either you are married or you are divorced, but how you handle any separation is a matter between you and your spouse - for the most part. There are special circumstances, and one such circumstance is when you pursue what is called "separate support." But what is separate support?

I want to file for divorce...but can not find my spouse?

One of the more difficult cases of divorce is one in which abandonment or disappearance comes into play. Divorce law in Massachusetts generally requires that one party serve another with divorce papers, or that both parties file jointly. When your spouse has gone missing and you have not been able to find them through any means, however, what happens when you wish to divorce but cannot serve divorce papers?

Luckily, you are not bound into a marriage you do not want simply by the absence of your spouse. Massachusetts has alternative provisions for handling divorce from a missing spouse, as detailed on the Mass.gov website. As in any case, you must notify the defendant before a judge can make a decision. When you cannot notify the defendant by serving them with papers, you may first ask the sheriff to attempt to serve papers at their last known address. If that fails, you can petition the courts for a motion for service by publication, or a motion for alternative service.

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