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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Springfield MA Family Law Blog

Back to school may mean changes to child custody arrangements

Although the warmth of summer may last for a while longer, all throughout the country children are preparing to wrap up their vacations and re-enter their school classrooms. Here in Springfield, parents may be reviewing school shopping lists as their kids cling to their last few weeks of calm before the rigors of the academic year begin. For most families, back to school time means a change in the routine they experienced during the summer break. For families subject to child custody agreements and orders, back to school time may indicate the need to review or modify a child's physical custody plan.

Whether a child custody order or agreement must be modified will depend on many factors that are specific to the needs of the child subject to the controlling document. For example, if children change schools or will experience a change in routine due to academic commitments, their parents may need to adjust when they transition between households or when the noncustodial parent has visitation time with the youths.

Do I have to allege fault for a Massachusetts divorce?

Marriages end for many reasons. While some couples naturally drift apart, others make unexpected and shocking discoveries about each other that bring their relationships to quick ends. In Massachusetts, individuals have a variety of grounds on which to base their divorce fillings, which can include, but do not have to utilize, claims of fault.

There are seven fault grounds that Springfield residents can use for the purposes of pursuing divorce. These include claims such as adultery, impotency, and desertion, as well as claims of abuse, habitual intoxication, non-support and incarceration. Individuals who plan to use these fault grounds as the bases for their divorces should consider discussing their plans with their family law attorneys to ensure that they understand how their choices may play out during their court proceedings.

Special considerations for pursuing a military divorce

Before a Massachusetts resident begins the difficult process of making personal and financial decisions about how to manage a divorce, he or she must first file the appropriate paperwork with the appropriate court in order to initiate the legal proceedings. Matters such as jurisdiction, residency, and others can influence when and where a person may file for divorce, and for members of the military and their spouses, determining these matters can be complex. This post will provide a general overview of special considerations a service member or a military spouse may make before starting a divorce, but readers are cautioned to use this post as information only, and not legal advice.

As military divorces fall under both state and federal jurisdiction, service members and their spouses have some flexibility when it comes to deciding where to file their pleadings. They may file for divorce in the state where the service member is stationed, or they may file in the state where the filing spouse has residency. If the filing spouse is not the service member then that person may also file for divorce in the place where the service member holds residency.

Political, financial concerns causing some to put off divorces

The decision to divorce is very personal and can only be made by the parties to the ending relationship. However, sometimes social, political, and economic factors can influence Massachusetts residents and other Americans to modify their marriage-ending plans. At present, the hotly contested health care debate in Washington D.C. has caused some people to put their divorce plans on hold as the difficult matter is sorted out by politicians.

Currently, members of the congressional leadership are seeking to eliminate and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Some iterations of the new health care bill suggest that some Americans may be made ineligible for health care insurance if they suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. While employer-offered health insurance plans generally do not prevent individuals with pre-existing conditions from having health insurance, those who seek to divorce their health insurance-carrying spouses may see their coverage ended and no possible chance of getting health care insurance again on their own.

A child's special needs may require extended child support

It is a common dream among Massachusetts parents that their children thrive during their younger years and then arrive at adulthood prepared to take care of themselves and face the challenges that come with being grown-ups. However, when some children turn eighteen they may be unable to manage the many responsibilities that befall adults in modern American society. Children who suffer from disabilities often require support when they become adults, and when those kids' parents are divorced, this can result in child support obligations that extend into the children's adulthoods.

For example, a special needs child may require accommodations such as a personal helper, modified vehicle, medical or occupational interventions, and other types of support in order to function in his or her daily environment. While some may be able to bridge the difficult step from childhood to adulthood, others may be in exactly the same place with regard to the help they need once they turn eighteen. For these children, it can be next to impossible to take care of themselves if their parents cease to support them in a financial way.

Why might a child be appointed a legal guardian?

When it comes to making important decisions about children's lives their parents often fill the role of judgment makers. Parents in Springfield regularly make choices about how to have their children treated for medical conditions, how they will have them educated and how they will be raised. Making decisions about their children's well-being are critical responsibilities in the lives of Massachusetts parents.

However, from time to time a child's parents may not be available to make decisions for them or may not have the capacity to make choices that serve the child's best interests. In such situations a child may have a guardian appointed for their care and, generally, a guardian may be selected by the child's family or may be selected by a Massachusetts family law court.

Summer holidays can cause scheduling problems in split families

After a Springfield couple has ended the marriage through divorce, the former partners may be prepared to begin their separate lives. They may feel as though the agreements and decisions that they made during the divorce will allow them to live independently of each other and pursue their unique interests without ever having to consult with the other again. While this can be the case for couples who divorce without sharing kids, divorced parties with children may find it hard to fully sever their lives from those of their ex-partners.

Divorced parents may find that, particularly in the summer when their children are out of school, they must coordinate their lives with those of their former spouses. As they plan family vacations, make holiday arrangements and enroll kids in camps and clubs, they may have to change the custody and visitation schedules that they agreed to when their divorces were finalized.

Understanding the law if your spouse wants to move

Whether Massachusetts residents are custodial parents or non-custodial parents of children, the decision to move, following a divorce, is not something that should ever be taken lightly. Regardless of the reasoning, the courts have various protections and procedures to ensure that such decisions are necessary or done with proper intentions. In addition, courts work to ensure that future visitation rights are not negatively affected by the move.

If an express consent agreement was in the original child custody arrangement, the information and understanding should be straightforward. If not, the custodial parent who wishes to move must give a written notice to the non-custodial parent within a certain timeframe, which varies by state, requiring consent from the other parent. If this is not accepted, the courts will look at the situation and make an appropriate ruling.

How do courts determine the 'best interests of a child'?

Throughout the court system in United States, including the courts in Massachusetts, one of the primary objectives is to protect any children involved in a divorce. The courts understand that a divorce has the potential to affect children, and it should come as no surprise to understand how or why.

It is not uncommon once a relationship begins to sour, that spouses begin lashing out at each other. This could lead to fights or verbal disagreements. If there are children who witness their parents fighting or arguing, they may become upset or confused. If the disagreements lead to domestic violence, it can be especially traumatizing for the children. The courts take domestic violence very seriously and will take it into consideration when making a decision regarding child custody.

Know what to expect with child custody visitation rights

As we have stressed in the past, the divorce is never easy and seldom painless for all parties involved. Although on occasions both spouses are on the same pages with many of the decisions that need to be made, this is rare. More often than not, there are differences of opinions, beliefs and wishes. This leads to disagreements. Add to it the fact that there is often animosity, resentment and hurt feelings, and things can get complicated and occasionally messy.

When it comes to visitation rights, it is necessary that both sides work together to make certain that the non-custodial parent receives reasonable and fair time with their child or children. The custodial parent typically has more leeway in this regard, but if it is believed that the custodial parent is purposely not working with his or her ex-spouse out of spite or malice, the courts may take that into consideration when making their decisions.

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Springfield, MA 01103
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