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I was married and last lived in Massachusetts with my spouse but do not live in Massachusetts now, can I get divorced in Massachusetts?

While marriage laws are based on where the parties are at the time of marriage, divorce is based on where the parties live at the time of divorce. The answer to this question depends on how long you’ve resided outside of Massachusetts. While most states require you to be a resident before you may file divorce papers, the required length of residency varies per state. In most cases, it’s at least a minimum of six months. To file for divorce in the state of Massachusetts, one of the following must apply: You, or your estranged spouse, have lived in the state for a year, OR You lived with your spouse as a married couple in Massachusetts when your “grounds” for divorce happened. You should be aware that whatever court handles the initial divorce settlement has jurisdiction over all other residual issues such as child custody, child support, and any amendments to these arrangements. Because divorce laws can vary dramatically between the states, it is important to understand how residing in different locations may impact your right to marital property, child custody, alimony payments, and child support payments. Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any action to avoid any filing issues. Contact our office to have your questions answered today.

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Is it legal to videotape my spouse behaving badly (verbal or physical abuse, infidelity, etc) as evidence in a divorce case?

As thoughts turn towards divorce, tempers can flare and people may behave in ways they normally would not be proud of, even in a relatively amicable situation. Of course, the bad behavior of a spouse—ranging from neglect of household duties to infidelity to abusive actions—may well have begun long before the divorce, and may well be the reason for it. In seeking a favorable divorce settlement, one that compensates you for violations of the marriage contract and shields you from your spouse’s ongoing bad behavior, you will want to have evidence to bolster your claims. In a world of smart phones, where everyone has both a video camera and a broadcasting station in their pockets, you may be tempted to record your spouse’s bad behavior. In a word: don’t. Massachusetts laws on recording interactions between persons are possibly the strictest in the nation. While many states have “two-party consent” laws, meaning that both (or all) people on a recording must know they are being recorded and consent to it, the Commonwealth takes it a step further. Recording private conversations falls under Massachusetts statute chapter 272, section 99, also known as the wiretap statute. Explicitly instituted as a measure against organized crime, the statute is of theoretical interest to law students because it addresses both police and civilian conduct with regard to recording in the same law. For civilians, there is an explicit ban on recording wire communications (i.e. phone conversations) and a ban on any audio recording by other means

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Holiday Custody

The winter holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they are also a top contender for the most stressful time of the year. Regardless of family structure, holiday gatherings and visits can be contentious. Under the stress of cleaning and cooking and visiting in-laws, even close-knit nuclear families, amicably divorced co-parents, or happily mixed step-families might experience some tension and conflict around this time of the year. Given the stress of preparing for holidays, and the emotions invested in family celebrations, it is more important than ever for there to be good channels of communication about scheduling. When child custody agreements are involved, communication is even more important, especially if custody arrangements or their enforcement have been contentious issues in the past. Many shared custody agreements drawn up as part of the divorce settlements will specify holiday visitation and custody rights for each parent. For example, one parent may have the children for Thanksgiving and New Year’s, with the other parent having Christmas and the surrounding days. In the next year, the parents might swap time periods, following an alternating schedule laid out in the custody agreement. Changes happen, however. A flight back from a visit to grandma might be delayed by snow. A family wedding might be scheduled for the days after Christmas. A teenager with a mind of her own might want to go to a friend’s cookie-decorating party close to mom’s house an hour away, even though dad has custody for that date.

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Don’t Be Blindsided By The Division of Marital Property in Your Divorce

Not all property is valued or taxed in the same way; therefore, the process can be long and confusing without the help of a knowledgeable attorney at your side. It’s important to consider that even though different financial accounts may be have the same current value and/or balance, the account value for purposes of a division of assets, may vary based upon the nature of the account in question. For instance when dividing retirement assets, as opposed to more liquid assets such as bank accounts, any withdrawals made will be taxed to the transferor absent a properly prepared Qualified Domestic Relations Order being entered by the Court. Regarding real estate property, if one spouse is granted full control of the marital home, for example, or vacation properties, then he or she is usually expected to pay the expenses on those properties during the pendency of the divorce, including but not limited to the payment of the mortgage, real estate taxes, homeowners insurance premiums, and routine maintenance Debt is another matter you will need to be well-informed about when dividing real and other property. No matter who is awarded the property, the debt owed to the lender is still the responsibility of both parties, if the property was jointly owned. This means in the event the awarded party cannot fulfill his or her payment obligations, the bank or other entity holding the debt will expect the second named party to fulfill the payment obligations. If you’re like most families, you have

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What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?

Courts primarily base their decision on what is in the child’s best interest, using the Child’s Best Interest Standard. Factors vary from state to state, but the overall goal is to make a decision that promotes the health and wellbeing of the child. Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement on matters of child custody and visitation to submit to the court. However, if the judge finds the settlement agreement is not in the child’s best interest, it can be rejected. Courts will generally determine the stability of each parent’s home environment and their interest and commitment to caring for the child. Other factors include the health of each parent, both physical and mental; the special needs of the child, if any; the child’s own wishes if they are old enough to say so; whether there is evidence of illicit drug use, or drug/alcohol abuse; and adjustment to the community, such as where they go to school, proximity to other caretakers, etc. In Massachusetts, the best interests of the child are the overriding guiding principle for judges making custody decisions. State law also says that the child’s “happiness and welfare” are paramount and that the parents’ rights are equal unless a parent has been found to be currently unfit. Child custody cases can be complicated and always require extensive knowledge of family law. When facing a child custody issue, you will probably have several questions. Please call our office for experienced advice regarding your family law concerns.

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Protecting Assets in a Divorce

Divorce is as much a financial blow as it is an emotional one. Alimony and child support may take a large, even unreasonable amount out of your monthly paycheck. Conversely, if your income is much smaller than your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s, or if you stayed at home to look after the family, you might find yourself in dire financial straits if you are not awarded a just settlement.   You deserve a divorce settlement that takes into account your circumstances and your contributions to the marriage— and financial, logistical, or emotional. In this article, you will find three steps to follow to protect your assets in divorce and reach the settlement that is best for you.   I. Be Open and Honest—and Savvy  On your end, it is important not to hide any of your assets.  Hiding your assets, or even appearing to hide your assets, may be used against you in court by your spouse and his or her counsel.   In fact, most people’s attempts to hide their assets—by spending large amounts of cash—fail to improve their divorce outcomes. This is for two reasons. First, because Massachusetts family courts take into account income (earnings) rather than expenditure (spending). Second, because assets are defined as more than cash, excessive spending fails to protect non-liquid holdings like stocks, bonds, and even intellectual property.   To understand the full scope of your assets, it is worth investing in professional help to you value and locate them. This way you can have the knowledge you

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Pitfalls of A High Net Worth Divorce

While divorce is prevalent across the country, each case is different. Real estate, business ownership, and significant financial interests can put you in high-asset divorce territory. Couples experiencing a high-asset divorce are prone to a number of common mistakes, all of which can be avoided. Like other marriages, high net worth couples don’t divorce without reason. From addictions to infidelity, extreme differences in parenting styles and growing apart, divorce always stems from one issue or another. In the case of a high net worth divorce, significant assets, such as business interests, real estate, large retirement accounts, investments, and valuable collectibles will need to be valued and considered for asset division. The process can be time-consuming and complicated. To reduce stress and ensure a smooth asset division process, avoid the following pitfalls. Mistake #1: Making Emotional Decisions Guilt can be a huge factor in a high net worth divorce. A spouse with a guilty conscience can be subject to making emotionally-based decisions. This frame of mind can have detrimental effects when making financial decisions about divorce. Anger is another emotion that can impact sound decision making. Withholding information or acting out of spite will slow the process. Rely on your attorney’s council to help you make clear-headed decisions.

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