Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
Local 413-315-5518
Toll Free 877-622-6089

Family Law Attorney

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

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Springfield MA Family Law Blog

A final reminder about alimony and taxes

Although this blog previously discussed this, with the end of the year approaching, this is a great occasion to remind Massachusetts residents of upcoming changes in the way alimony gets handled for tax purposes.

For divorces and other orders finalized before the end of this year, that is, by December 31, a person ordered to pay alimony may under the right conditions be allowed to take those payments as a deduction off of their taxes. On the flip side, a person who is receiving alimony had to report those payments as income on their federal returns.

The house isn't always worth the fight

For many couples in Massachusetts, the family home is a place full of memories and, at least at times, a place where one feels secure and safe. Financially, it is also a valuable investment, as many ordinary residents of Springfield have a lot, even the largest share, of their wealth in their residence.

These and other reasons make it fairly likely for a divorcing couple which is dividing marital property to argue about who will continue to own the house. Sometimes, fighting for the house makes economic sense or, even if it doesn't, is justified for other reasons, such as the well-being of a couple's children.

Does Massachusetts recognize legal separation?

Unlike many other states, Massachusetts has no formal process for legal separation. If a married couple wants to have a formal breakup, then their option is, generally speaking, to obtain a divorce.

Otherwise, a couple who wishes to separate, but still remain married, may be left with sorting out their financial affairs and even their child custody and support issues themselves. This is not always an ideal situation, but people often have moral, financial and legal or even emotional reasons for remaining married even if they choose to live apart.

October is a good time to support domestic violence victims

As has been the practice for decades now, October is the month in which people in particular remember and support victims of domestic violence.

During this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, one way Massachusetts victims themselves can take a stand for their right not to be abused is to start the process of getting out of an abusive relationship permanently.

Standard for receiving guardianship without consent

As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, there are many people in Springfield who know children whose parents are simply not willing or not able to care for them properly.

Things like drug addiction or mental illness can easily handicap a parent to the point where they can no longer safely provide for their children. However, these parents may not be willing to just agree to let someone else take care of their kids, perhaps because they fear losing them permanently or because they are just not thinking clearly.

Child support and uninsured health expenses

Even when one or both parents have decent health insurance, Massachusetts residents are inevitably going to have to pay for some medical expenses out of pocket. These expenses can range from co-pays and deductibles to less frequent expenses that are more expensive, like braces. While all parents will no doubt have some of these expenses, they are particularly common when parents are raising a child with special needs.

While not necessarily part of a parent's regular child support payment, these sorts of expenses are treated in the state's Guidelines for child support. As the name implies, these Guidelines serve as a reference for courts who are trying to make otherwise difficult decisions about each parent's financial responsibility for their children.

How would an offshore account be treated in a divorce?

The idea of an offshore account may connote some sense of mystery or even inherently illegal activity. However, the reality is that offshore accounts are simply bank or investment accounts that are held in foreign countries. Residents of Springfield, Massachusetts, even if they are of relatively modest means, can and often do own these sorts of accounts for a variety of reasons.

Offshore accounts will generally be treated as any other asset being divided in the course of a divorce or legal separation. Since Massachusetts is an equitable division state, the starting point would be to split the property in half in some way, assuming the bank account is marital property in the first place. Of course, a fair division of property does not always imply a perfect 50-50 split.

Be aware of sentimental value in family law disputes

As many Springfield residents probably know already, a divorce or legal separation, and sometimes even an informal breakup, are going to each cause issues related to property division. With respect to divorce in particular, the goal in Massachusetts is to divide the property of the married couple equitably, that is fairly, between them.

Handling property division therefore requires that the court and both parties have some understanding of how much each piece of property is worth. Otherwise, it will be hard to know whether, from a financial perspective, one party is getting the short end of the stick.

The IEP: a possible subject in a child's custody order

A child with special needs can come in many different shapes and sizes and can have a number of different issues. The vast majority of the time, these kids are able to attend school but may need a little extra help to get a good education.

This is where an Individualized Education Program comes in to play. While there a lot of federal laws surrounding an IEP, the basic idea is that the law requires educational institutions to supply education on a basis tailored to the needs of the student. The goal is to prevent a child suffering with a disability or other special need from slipping through the cracks of what might otherwise be a one-size-fits-all education system.

What can I do when my special needs child turns 18?

As is the case in most states, a child in Massachusetts will reach an age at which, legally, they have both the right and responsibility to handle their own affairs. In this state, a child who is over 18 is an adult and presumably has the ability to take care of themselves. For some, though, help may still be needed to ensure that adult is safe both physically and financially.

A problem arises with respect to special needs children who may still require someone to manage their property and take care of their personal affairs, such as making sure they have appropriate medical care and the like. Sometimes, these legal matters can be handled through the divorce court or a paternity order. In other cases, however, a loved one who is overseeing someone on the cusp of legal adulthood will need to file a request for guardianship over an incapacitated person. An incapacitated person is someone who is a legal adult but cannot reasonably be expected to handle their own affairs.

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Springfield, MA 01103

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Phone: 413-315-5518
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