Armstrong Law, P.C.

Lowell Massachusetts Family Law Blog

Post-divorce communication with your ex

Many people know how important communication is during a marriage, and when a couple is unable to discuss things with each other this can lead to a divorce. Some people also talk with each other while they are in the process of splitting up, such as those who work with a divorce mediator. However, you may want to keep in touch with your ex after the divorce for many reasons. In this blog, we will examine some of the reasons why it may be important to maintain healthy communication with your former spouse, if you are able to.

When two people have kids, communication can be essential even if they are no longer married or living together. For example, you may need to reach out to your spouse over an issue regarding the division of child custody. You and your spouse may be able to work out various custody-related matters and ensure that your kids are being raised in a healthy environment that is good for them physically and mentally. You may also want to reach out to your spouse regarding child support or alimony payments, whether you are struggling to stay caught up or you are not receiving the payments that your former spouse owes you.

How to deal with your first holiday season without the children

Divorced parents in Massachusetts may be dealing with a number of issues around the holidays, and if it is your first holiday without your children, you may be dreading it. Whether you are newly divorced or your kids are spending the holiday with your ex-spouse, you are probably struggling with a variety of emotions. There are a number of tips that may help you get through the holiday smoothly.

According to Psychology Today, one crucial thing to remember about this first holiday is the children are especially upset and sensitive to the fact things are different. No matter what your feelings are towards your ex, it is important to remain civil and keep the lines of communication open. One way to deal with the holidays is to let go of past traditions and come up with new ones. Even if your kids are spending Christmas week with your ex, you can create Christmas traditions before or after so you still get to celebrate together.

Defend yourself from a restraining order

Couples who file for divorce in Massachusetts may have already tried many tactics to reconcile their differences and make the marriage work. By the time divorce proceedings begin, both are emotionally drained and often angry. A restraining order may be used to gain an advantage in the settlement or as a method of retaliation. At Armstrong Law, P.C., we have experience defending clients from misuse of a protective order.

It is possible to fight a restraining order if there is no substantial evidence for its issuance. According to FindLaw, it is imperative to file a response document and show up to the hearing prepared. Failing to appear in court could result in the judge discounting your response.

Property division: What you should know

There are many factors to negotiate when going through the divorce process. One of the most challenging may be that of property division. Whether you have just recently filed for divorce or are considering initiating the process, you may want to think about how the property and assets accumulated during the marriage will be divided in the divorce settlement. Massachusetts is an equitable division of property state, meaning the estate will be divided according to what the judge deems fair and just.

When deciding who is entitled to what in the final settlement, the judge presiding over the case may look at several factors, including the following:

  •          How long the marriage lasted
  •          Age, health and occupation of each spouse
  •          Vocational skills and ability to get a job
  •          The root cause for the divorce
  •          Whether alimony is involved
  •          Health insurance availability

How to handle the holidays and child custody

The holidays quickly approaching, and for many people in Massachusetts this is a festive time filled with friends and family. Unfortunately, for many divorced parents this is a time of the year that can be challenging, stressful and depressing. To keep conflicts to a minimum, you and your ex-spouse should discuss the holidays far in advance and make plans that work with everyone's schedules and are fair to the children. This will help ease some of the stress when the holidays do arrive.

According to FindLaw, one of the most important aspects when determining holiday schedules it to put the kids' needs first. This means being flexible and selfless while still meeting your wishes to celebrate with your children. It may take a series of discussions with your ex to determine who gets the kids when and to figure out specific details. 

Grounds for modifying custody in Massachusetts

Like all states, Massachusetts law provides for modifications to custody orders. However, a parent cannot obtain a modification merely because he or she does not like the current order. The state is very deliberate in how it assigns custody the first time around. If one or both parties to an agreement feels as if an arrangement is not working, they must show how it is not working and why the shortfall negatively impacts the child.

According to Mass.gov, the court uses the child's best interests standard when devising a custody schedule. This standard factors in a child's well-being, his or her relationship with both parents and family members, the school district and community in which each parent lives, both parents' history of drug abuse, violence and abandonment, and the child's preferences. The state does not make custody decisions lightly, so when a parent does request modification, it expects to see ample evidence in favor of the change.

Who pays for child's medical expenses after a divorce?

When going through a divorce in Massachusetts, there are a lot of things to consider and decide on. When children are involved, it gets even more complicated. An important consideration is which parent will be responsible for health insurance and medical costs. If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, the courts will decide who is responsible as part of the child support order. Typically one parent will provide health insurance coverage, and other medical costs are divided among both parents.

According to WebMD, health insurance coverage can be included as a requirement in the divorce settlement for both the child and the ex-spouse. When offered through an employer this is usually much less expensive than buying insurance on one's own.

The role of stepparents in co-parenting

Divorced parents in Massachusetts have a lot to consider and agree upon in terms of child custody and visitation, child support and co-parenting. If one or both parties remarry, you suddenly have additional "parents" who are part of the picture. While some exes are naturally good at fitting the new spouses into the family dynamic, this is more rare than common. While each family needs to make this new arrangement work in its own way, there are some basic considerations that will make this new parenting situation more harmonious.

WebMD recommends that stepparents be supportive of the children spending alone time with both biological parents. This is one part of looking out for the child's best interests. This being said, the stepparent should also try to spend one-on-one time with the children on a regular basis. Stepparents should also not expect their stepchildren to accept them and bond in the same way as biological children. This may come over time, but it should not be rushed. 

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.

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