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

The effect of evidence of abuse on child custody

Most Massachusetts couples who have decided to obtain a divorce wonder how the court will resolve the complex question of physical custody. The court will consider a variety of factors, such as the relative incomes of the parents, the relationship between the parents and the children, and the stability of relationships before and after the divorce. A significant factor is whether one parent is able to provide a better home environment for the child. Another factor may be considered a nuclear weapon of sorts: evidence of abuse.

Massachusetts judges are required to consider evidence of abuse as defined in the statutes governing divorce. "Abuse" means an attempt by one parent toward the other parent or a child to cause bodily injury or placing another person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury. A serious incident of abuse includes these definitions and adds a third: causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations.

Planning for a special needs child in a divorce settlement

Divorce, even a simple one, can be one of life's most taxing experiences. If a child is involved, the experience can become even more stressful. And if the child has special needs, the experience may seem to tax the emotional resources of both parents beyond their capacity to endure. Massachusetts parents with a special needs child can survive the experience by giving substantial forethought to the needs of their child.

Most decisions in divorce courts regarding children turn on the concept of "best interests of the child." Three major questions usually determine the outcome of the court's calculus. The most important question is with whom will the child live? Second, how must contact will each parent be allowed? Third, by whom will child support be paid, and how must will be paid? Parents are the best judges of the amount necessary to support a special needs child, both as to physical care and medical care. A court will attempt to measure the relative capacity of each parent to support the child and pay any expenses required by the child's special needs.

Special issues may affect military divorces

Any divorce in Massachusetts can raise important and complicated family law questions, even when the couple is of relatively modest means. Because they are already in a unique situation given their careers, military members and their families have some additional issues that they will want to be aware of in the event of a divorce.

On the procedural level, for instance, there may be some questions about which state's courts can hear a divorce case involving a servicemember. Military families may have a number of options in this respect, in part because they have to crisscross state lines frequently in connection with their jobs. Aside from convenience, which state's courts hear the divorce can affect how property, including pensions, get divided.

Options for enforcing parenting time in Massachusetts

In many child custody and visitation matters in Massachusetts, one parent will have the care and control of the child most of the time. The other parent, however, will generally be given court-ordered visitation. In other words, the other parent's legal visitation rights are backed by the authority and power of the court hearing the case.

Unfortunately, this is oftentimes not enough to persuade a parent to recognize that he or she must allow the child to visit with the other parent per the court's visitation order. Sometimes, a parent will flat out ignore visitation orders and deprive the other parent the right to see and have a relationship with the child. In other cases, the defiance is subtler in that there are a series of little violations of the order, oftentimes accompanied by a lot of seemingly plausible excuses.

Guardianship and government benefits

Many children, particularly special needs children, are eligible for a variety of government benefits at both the state and federal levels. For several reasons, these young residents of Massachusetts may need to have another adult, aside from their parents, take responsibility over them and give them the care and support they need. Sometimes a grandparent or other relative can work toward setting up a guardianship through the Massachusetts courts in order to get legal authority to have custody over a minor child and handle that child's financial affairs.

While oftentimes a child does not have a lot of assets for a legal guardian to manage, one thing guardians frequently do have to be responsible for is managing government benefits, like disability payments from the Social Security Administration, on the child's behalf. This is a very important responsibility, as a child will often at some point in his or her life require these benefits to have financial security and get the services that they need.

Massachusetts parents can be ordered to pay college expenses

Even when a Springfield, Massachusetts resident turns 18, they will likely still need a lot of assistance from their parents. After all, financial security rarely comes automatically to a person the minute they walk out of their parents' front door, particularly if they are planning on attending college. After all, college is expensive and continues to get pricier as the years go on.

Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines treat child support questions regarding children in college differently than younger children still within the age of minority. The big difference is that judges have a lot more discretion to order parents to support their children after the child reaches the age of majority and may elect not to order parents to pay for college at all.

What is the difference between adoption and guardianship?

This blog has previously discussed various aspects about guardianship over minor children in Massachusetts. Basically, a guardianship gives a child's loved ones the opportunity to step in and take over parental responsibilities when a parent is unwilling or unable to do so.

It is important for prospective guardians, as well as others in Springfield, to understand the differences between a guardianship and adoption, which is another way in which other adults can fill the role of a biological parent for a child who needs one.

Options for how to divide a family business in a divorce

Massachusetts couples who own a family business together but are ending their marital or personal relationship have many important options to consider when it comes to what they want to do with the business moving forward. This decision can have a huge financial impact on all parties involved.

What option works best in a given situation really depends a lot on an individual's circumstances and goals. As such, the details should be discussed with a family law attorney. However, there are a few suggestions a person who is trying to decide what to do with a family business may wish to consider.

Back child support can rack up interest quickly

Springfield, Massachusetts, residents probably already realize that not paying child support can lead to some significant penalties. One of the penalties is that the person who is behind in payments may get assessed interest on the delinquent amount of support, as well as incur a penalty fee. These penalties specifically apply when the Massachusetts Department of Revenue is collecting child support. However, a parent who is trying to collect support directly from the other parent can also request interest, among other penalties.

Both the penalty and the interest each get assessed at a rate of 0.05 percent per month. In total, this means, for example, a person with $1,000 in back child support will pay about $1,120 at the end of the year, with $120 being the penalty. As this shows, if a person is considerably behind in paying child support, the interest and surcharge can quickly add up until the amount one owes is overwhelming.

Helping Springfield business owners through a difficult time

People in Springfield, Massachusetts, probably do not have to be told that divorce is a hard process to go through emotionally and financially. For that matter, even a separation that for whatever reason does not involve a formal divorce can be hard.

This is particularly true of Massachusetts residents who own a business, and most especially when both parties actually have invested time, money and energy in the family business. A previous post, for instance, talked about the difficulties of even getting a value on a family business, not to mention actually going through the process of divvying the business up.

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