What Issues are Involved in a Massachusetts Modification Case?

Once a Massachusetts court enters a judgment in family law case, the parties must obey its provisions unless and until they are modified by the court. If something changes after the judgment is entered, such as a job loss or change or changes in the lives of parents or children, the question of what action to take arises. If the change is significant and long-term, then bringing a modification case should be considered.

If a modification case is filed, the court will consider the following:

  • What was ordered?
  • What changes have occurred since the entry of the judgment? Are they significant and long-term? Please bear in mind that the court is very busy and cannot get bogged down with what might reasonably be considered minor or short-term changes and will not get involved in an attempt to review a judgment already made based on the same or similar circumstances.

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What Issues are Involved in a Massachusetts Contempt Case?

Once a Massachusetts court enters an order or judgment in family law case, the parties must obey its provisions unless and until they are modified by the court. If one of the parties does not, either by not doing something that the party is supposed to do or by doing something that the party is not supposed to do, the question of what action to take arises. If the act or failure to act is causing a significant or on-going problem, then bringing a contempt case should be considered.

If a contempt case is filed, the court will consider the following:

  • What was ordered? It is clear and unambiguous? If it is not, then a modification case seeking to clarify the order, not one for contempt, might be more appropriate and looked upon more favorably by the court.
  • How is that order being violated? Please bear in mind that the court is very busy and cannot get bogged down with what might reasonably be considered minor or one-time infractions.

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What issues are involved in a Massachusetts paternity case?

There are many issues which can be involved in a paternity case. Some cases may involve many of these issues and others may involve only one or two. Please browse the following pages to learn more about your potential rights and obligations:

Parenting issues:

Financial issues, children:

It is important that you explain your family’s specific circumstances to an experienced family law attorney such as those at the Law Office of Frank Gaynor to explore fully and protect your legal rights. Please contact us to obtain advice pertinent to your particular situation.

Massachusetts Child Support Laws

In Massachusetts, child support is governed by the Child Support Guidelines, the current version of which became effective in August 2013. The Guidelines take into account the following factors in determining child support: (1) the parents’ gross incomes from any and all sources, (2) the child care costs paid by either of the parents for the purpose of working, (3) the out-of-pocket cost paid by either of the parents for health (medical, dental, and vision) insurance coverage for themselves and/or the children, (4) any other support payments made by either of the parents, and (5) the number of dependent children involved in the case. You can use the Probate & Family Court’s Guidelines worksheet to calculate child support. [Read more…]

Spousal Support and Alimony in a Divorce

In Massachusetts, a court can award alimony in a divorce case if it determines that there is a need for support by one spouse in order to continue the standard of living maintained during the marriage and an ability of the other spouse to help meet that need. It is possible if not likely, however, that a divorce will result in a reduced standard of living for both parties and it is then a matter of sharing that reduction equitably.

Major changes to the law of alimony became effective in 2012. Under reform legislation, four types of alimony are now available:

1. General term alimony is the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent on a payor spouse.

  • It terminates on the remarriage of the recipient spouse, the death of either spouse, or the payor spouse attaining full retirement age under Social Security (67 for people born after 1959).
  • It can be suspended, reduced, or terminated if the recipient spouse maintains a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
  • It is limited in duration based on the length of the marriage as follows: after a marriage of 5 years or less, 50% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of between 5 and 10 years, 60% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of between 10 and years, 70% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of between 15 and 20 years, 80% of the length of the marriage; after a marriage of more than 20 years, no limit (except as noted above).
  • The amount of general term alimony payments can be modified on a showing of a material change of circumstances.

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What happens in a family law case?

What happens in a family law case depends on how many issues the parties can reach an agreement, either by themselves or with the assistance of knowledgeable attorneys. Ideally, all major issues can be resolved amicably and the case can proceed as an uncontested divorce. In many cases, however, there are some issues which are not readily resolved and which will require that the case proceed as a contested divorce; as such a case progresses, however, the parties can always reach an agreement and the case can become an uncontested one.

Health insurance for children in a family law case

Normally the parent providing medical, dental, and vision insurance for the dependent children before a family law case is initiated will be required to continue that coverage. If neither parent has such insurance, a determination will be made about which parent has the best coverage available at the least cost. In some circumstances, neither parent may be able to provide health insurance for the children and arrangements will have to be made to obtain coverage through a plan offered by the state.

It is important that you explain your family’s specific circumstances to an experienced family law attorney such as those at the Law Office of Frank Gaynor to explore fully and protect your legal rights. Please contact us to obtain advice pertinent to your particular situation.

Parenting Issues – Legal Custody

There are two components of legal custody: (1) access to information about minor children from doctors, teachers, and other professionals involved with them and (2) involvement in decision-making about significant matters in their lives, such as medical treatment and educational programs. In Massachusetts, the presumption is that parents will share legal custody but this may not be appropriate in certain situations such as those involving physical or emotional abuse of either the other parent or the children or where the parents have demonstrated an inability to communicate and cooperate with each other in promoting the best interest of their children.

Health Insurance in a Divorce

In Massachusetts, health insurance coverage for spouses after divorce may be continued by statute unless state law is preempted by federal law. Such preemption occurs when the employer is self-insured, in whole or in part. The employer’s human resources or benefits department should be consulted to determine whether state law or federal law applies. Under state law, health insurance coverage can continue until one of the parties remarries. If the party providing the insurance remarries, the other party is eligible for coverage for an indefinite period of time through a rider on the family plan or an individual plan, but typically pays the cost of the coverage, unsubsidized by the employer. If the party not providing the insurance remarries, he or she will be responsible for obtaining independent coverage elsewhere.

Under federal law, health insurance coverage terminates on divorce, subject to the nonemployee’s right to elect continuation coverage under COBRA for a period of up to three (3) years after the divorce. The non-employee spouse typically pays the unsubsidized cost of the COBRA coverage.

What happens in an uncontested divorce and family law case?

If parties are able to communicate with each other, either alone or through attorneys, it is a good idea to pursue the case as possibly uncontested, at least until it becomes obvious that court intervention is going to be necessary. Experienced attorneys can often guide clients through the maze of emotionally charged issues involved in a family law case and help the parties understand their respective rights and obligation and reach a settlement. This is the most cost-effective way to begin and should not be abandoned unless it is clearly not working.

Typically an uncontested case involves the following steps. Although it is possible to following them pro se, i.e. without an attorney, given the ramifications of having an agreement become a court order and therefore binding on the parties, experienced legal advice should be obtained as early as possible in the process. [Read more…]