Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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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.

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Springfield MA Family Law Blog

Factors that can weigh heavily on a child's best interests

The well-being of children is often at the mercy of the choices made by adults. Because of this, the family law courts ensure that a child's best interests are top priority when constructing a child custody arrangement. Which factors can be considered during the child custody process when determining what is in a child's best interest?

Because every child is different, what will be in the best interests of one child, may not be relevant to another. There is a long list of potential items that could be heavily influential when a court makes a child custody determination, including the wishes of the child, the health and wellness of the parents, any special needs a child might have, and religious or spiritual concerns. Beyond that, other factors such as relationships with other family members and parental discipline tactics could have a large impact on a determination of what furthers the best interests of the child.

What are the responsibilities for a guardian of a minor?

Taking care of each other is one of our most basic human principles. So when a family member or friend is unable to care for their child, whether permanently or temporarily, a guardian is a person who could step in and care for the minor until they reach the age of adulthood. The decision to become someone's guardian shouldn't be made lightly, though. Instead, interested individuals need to have a solid understanding of duties and responsibilities of a guardian before taking legal action to create that relationship.

Physically looking after a minor is one of the most basic and necessary requirements. Although this often means that the child lives with you, that isn't necessarily the case. It also means that you oversee the child's financial well-being, which might include any financial assistance from their parents or other sources. If necessary, legal action is brought by the guardian on behalf of the minor.

Minimize the emotional toll of divorce on special needs children

For families with special needs children, life looks a little different from the average family. This doesn't mean you love your children any less, it just means that your responsibilities and center of focus can be different from parents who do not have special needs children. Divorce, though, can give rise to certain considerations when these parents decide to divorce.. This is why it is often wise to work with a qualified legal professional when dealing with marriage dissolution.

The emotional toll that a divorce can take on a child, let alone a special needs child, is of course very important. Ideally, a divorce would leave a child in a happy and healthy condition. However, change can be particularly difficult for special needs children. This can be for a variety of reasons, but often it's because they have a hard time adapting to change or they have a hard time understanding the why behind the divorce, which can cause a lot of stress for the child.

It's okay to meet with a lawyer pre-divorce

When you are considering the decision to divorce or to stay with your spouse, there can be so many thoughts, reasons, and ideas that float through your head. No relationship is perfect, but that doesn't mean that a terrible marriage is worth staying in. It's wise to get your facts straight about the process and about your goals for any moves you may or may not make. That's why it can be a good idea to meet or speak with a divorce lawyer.

Meeting with a divorce lawyer does not automatically mean that a person has decided to get a divorce. It could mean lots of things. It could mean that an individual is getting more information about the property division or child custody process. It could be to understand fully what it would take from a person to go through the process of divorce.

The right approach to guardianship issues in Massachusetts

Any parent could tell our readers just how tough it can be sometimes to raise a child. However, sometimes it is the parent who is going through tough times and, as a result, the child is the one who needs help. In some cases, that means that a guardian must be appointed to care for the child, even if it is on a temporary basis. In these situations, all parties involved will need to make sure that they are taking the right approach to attain what is best for the child.

Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to determine what the right approach is in these circumstances. Parents could be temporarily unable to care for a child for a wide variety of reasons, and sometimes there isn't always another willing adult ready to step up and care for the child. After all, taking care of child is a considerable job. As a result, parties on all sides of a guardianship issue will probably end up with a laundry list of questions and concerns.

Weighing the pros and cons of divorce

The decision to get a divorce is a significant one. Many people in Massachusetts who are contemplating getting a divorce agonize about the decision for months, if not years. Sometimes they are certain that a divorce is the right decision, while at other times they may catch a glimpse of what their spouse was like at better times in the relationship and think twice. For anyone who is thinking about divorce, it is probably helpful to understand some of the pros and cons of the legal process.

One of the cons, for starters, is that a divorce, especially for those with minor children, doesn't always necessarily put an end to any and all relationships with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You may still interact with that person throughout life, particularly if you are raising children together. In some cases, divorce simply does not extract a person completely from a relationship with the other spouse. A divorce also might not result in the financial end you might expect. Separating a household can, in some cases, be a financial burden, especially in the short-term when both ex-spouses are trying to get back on their feet after the legal process is over.

How do you address the emotional toll of a divorce case?

Our readers in Massachusetts know that divorce can have a substantial impact on the lives of all involved, which oftentimes includes a soon-to-be ex-spouse and their children. In a divorce case, property and debt will be divided, alimony might be debated, and child custody and support can become hot-button issues. As the legal process unfolds, it can put a strain on any given person's emotional health. So, how do you address the emotional toll of a divorce case?

Well, for starters, it is probably most important to keep the end-goal in mind. Although many couples decide to get a divorce because they see no other alternatives, most get involved in this process because they think that everyone who might be impacted will be better off if the married couple is no longer together. Sure, there is an immediate impact on children, for example, but won't those kids be better off in the long-term if their parents aren't arguing all the time or engendering an overall negative vibe in the household because of their strained relationship? Keeping the long-term goal of a divorce in mind is crucial.

Child support and establishing paternity

Parenthood comes with rights and responsibilities. Parents generally have the right to make to make important decisions about how to raise their children, but they also have responsibilities to provide for their children's needs.

These aspects of parenthood are very personal, but they are also legal in nature. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has an interest in the welfare of Massachusetts children, and when parents fail to provide for their children, the state must provide the children with public benefits. For these reasons, Massachusetts requires non-custodial parents to pay child support in order to help pay for their children's needs.

Grandparents' rights to visitation in Massachusetts

Divorce in Massachusetts centers on the divorcing couple and any children they may have. One group that routinely receives virtually no attention in the divorce process is grandparents. Most people might think that grandparents have only an ancillary interest in visitation with minor children after a divorce has been finalized. In many situations, however, the grandparents may be the child's best hope for a stable environment and adequate financial support.

Massachusetts law is fairly restrictive in specifying visitation rights for grandparents. Grandparents who desire regularly scheduled visitation with their unmarried minor grandchildren must petition the court that granted the divorce for visitation rights. If the divorce was finalized in another state, the petition must be filed in the county where the child currently resides. The right to file such a petition is conditioned upon the existence of one of the following circumstances: the child's parents are divorced or are living apart, either or both of the child's parents are deceased or the child was born out of wedlock and its paternity was adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction. The acknowledgement or finding of paternity is not required in cases where the petition for visitation is filed by the child's maternal grandparents. The granting of a petition depends upon the court's finding that such visitation rights would serve the best interests of the minor child.

Military divorce in Massachusetts

Divorces that involve at least one member on active duty in the United States military can be significantly different from a divorce in which neither spouse is one active duty. Moreover, Massachusetts laws create several special issues for couples in which one or both spouses is on active duty.

The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. ยง521, is a federal statute that is intended to protect active duty military from adverse proceeding in state courts. One such proceeding is a no-fault divorce. Under the Civil Relief Act, and also under the discretion of a state court judge, a divorce proceeding may be postponed during the entire time that the military spouse is on active duty. The spouse who is in the military may wave that ban if he or she also wants the divorce.

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