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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

What should I do about the credit cards I share with my ex?

Often when a Springfield resident begins the process of ending their marriage through divorce they have concerns over how the property they share with their partner will be divided. In states like Massachusetts individuals may own property with their spouses or on their own. While separate and individual property is maintained by the individual owners, marital property must be divided in a fair and equitable manner.

Couples may hold certain financial assets together during marriage, such as savings accounts, retirement funds and credit cards. While couples may think to divide their accounts and other liquid assets, they may neglect to address the shared credit liabilities that they have taken on with their spouses.

Parents' income is an important factor for child support

From time to time Massachusetts residents may read about celebrity child support orders that include payments that extend into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. These child support orders may seem astronomical to everyday men and women who work hard to provide for their families, but generally the amount of money that a parent will pay in child support will correspond to the amount of income that they earn.

The child support guidelines that operate in Massachusetts factor in the incomes of both of a child's parents. This is because both parents are expected to financially contribute to the upbringing of the youth. A custodial parent is expected to provide financial support for the child that they keep under their roof and a noncustodial parent is expected to pay periodic amounts for the support and benefit of their child.

What is temporary guardianship?

A guardian is a person who is responsible for taking care of a person who cannot take care of themselves. In Massachusetts the courts can appoint guardians for adults who are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions to support their wellbeing. They can also appoint guardians for kids who do not have parents or other adults able to provide them with support.

If a child's parents are deceased then they may be appointed a permanent guardian. However, under Massachusetts law temporary guardianship also exists and when circumstances support it temporary guardianship may be used to provide a child with a responsible adult who will see to their needs until their permanent guardian is available.

Divorce issues can be complicated and personal

At its most basic definition, a divorce is the legal end to the legal relationship known as marriage. When two people marry they agree to hold jointly certain rights and responsibilities, namely to maintain any financial obligations that they take on together, support any children that they have together and a multitude of others. In Massachusetts, individuals choose to marry each and every day.

However, each and every day Massachusetts residents also choose to end their relationships in divorce. When they do they file the appropriate paperwork that must be filed with the appropriate courts. They begin the process of untying their lives from those of their spouses and returning their relationship statuses to single.

Understanding property rights when a marriage ends

Often in marriage the partners to the couple consider each other's property things that they jointly own. This assumption can persist as long as the individuals live harmoniously and agree regarding the disposition of the items of personal and real property that they maintain. However, that assumption may quickly be called into question if the partners to the marriage decide that they want to divorce.

This is because not all property that individual marital partners own is marital property. Marital property is the property that the partners acquire together or the separate property that is converted to marital property due to its use for marital purposes or its conversion to marital property by the owner. Married people can and do own property separate and apart from the spouses and generally when their marriage ends that separate property remains theirs without their partners having rights to claim it.

Accusations become ugly in NFL player's child custody case

In matters related to the custody of children, courts throughout Massachusetts as well as throughout the rest of the United States look to preserve the children's best interests. Achieving this important standard can require courts to examine the personal and professional lives of the parents and individuals who appear before them seeking custodial power over the children. In doing so individuals who wish to attain custody of the children can make damaging accusations against the other individuals whose intentions also include custodial rights.

An example of this situation happening in the real world is currently playing out between an NFL star and his former girlfriend. Jimmy Smith is a successful athlete with the Baltimore Ravens football organization. Smith is also the father of a three-year-old child that he shares with a former partner. Smith has acknowledged the child as his and at present shares custody of the child with the child's mother.

Considering a child's special needs in child custody decisions

Children are beautiful and unique reminders of how innocent life can be. For Massachusetts parents who have had to go through divorce, it can be terribly upsetting to inflict the stress and strain of a marital dissolution on kids whose lives should be filled with happiness. However, it is often best for everyone in a family for the parents' relationship to end and when a divorce is occurring there are important steps that parents can take to protect the unique needs of their children.

First and foremost, like the family courts that handle divorce and related legal matters, parents can recognize and acknowledge the best interests of their kids. All children have needs and preferences that may be accommodated during divorce, but some children who suffer from physical, emotional, intellectual and mental disabilities can require extra attention and care. If one parent is better suited to manage the day-to-day needs of a special needs child then it can be in that child's best interests for the parents to agree to a custody arrangement that allows the child to reside with that individual.

How can a prenuptial agreement affect my divorce?

A prenuptial agreement, also known as a prenup, is a contract that individuals enter into prior to getting married. In the contract the parties may acknowledge their financial positions and may make determinations regarding the division of their money and property in the event that they later file for divorce. For some Massachusetts couples prenuptial agreements are a good way to protect children from prior marriages, maintain separate property from their spouses and streamline their divorce proceedings by having the money matters worked out in advance. To this end, a prenup may greatly impact how a person's property is divided and wealth is distributed at the time of their divorce.

There are certain matters that cannot be worked out in a prenuptial agreement. For example, a couple cannot prearrange child custody matters in a prenup as decisions related to the physical and legal custody of a child must be made with the best interests of the child in mind. When parents cannot sort these important matters out during their divorces courts can step in and impose custody and visitation orders upon them.

Who will care for your child if you are unable to do so?

Massachusetts parents would often do anything for their children to ensure that the youths are well provided for, happy, healthy, educated and thriving. Parents are willing to make incredible sacrifices for their kids to provide them with the opportunities that the parents did not have in their lives. However, one of the most fundamental steps a parent can take to ensure that their child has a loving future is often neglected.

No one wants to think about circumstances that may leave a parent unable to take care of their child, but every day throughout the country children are placed with individuals outside of their homes. If a parent becomes medically incapacitated, is found to be abusive or have substance abuse problems or otherwise cannot take care of their child then that child may be placed with a guardian. A guardian is an adult who becomes a child's legal representative during the time the child's parent is unable to care for them.

When does child support end in Massachusetts?

It is important for readers of this Springfield family law blog to understand that child support determinations are made based on the specific needs of children. As such, the factual situations of a reader's case will play a huge role in the outcome of their support matter. This post only provides a general overview of Massachusetts law and how it relates to the termination of child support.

In some cases child support may end when a child attains 18 years of age. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. If the child is still principally dependent on their parents the support may continue. If a child has moved out of their parent's home, is supporting themselves with earnings, has gotten married or joined the military then they may be found to be no longer dependent on their parents.

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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