, , ,

I Want It NOW

Growing up, Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favorite books. Charlie was, by far, my favorite character, because of his innocence and wonder; however, Veruca Salt was always the most interesting. Do you remember all of her infamous “I Want It Now” demands?

Some of my potential divorce clients remind me of Veruca Salt. During our consultation, those clients will tell me they want and deserve everything: all equity in the house(s), the entire 401k, and, yes, even the salt shaker.

Very rarely will one party receive all of the marital assets in a divorce settlement.  Similarly, Massachusetts is not a community property state; therefore, we do not automatically divide marital assets equally.

Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts apply M.G.L. Chapter 208, §34 to determine how marital assets should be divided. More often than not, division of marital assets is as close to equal as possible. When determining how to divide assets, Judges give varying weight to each of the following factors, but all are considered: Length of marriage; Conduct of the respective parties during the marriage; Ages of the respective parties; Health of the respective parties; Station of the respective parties; Occupations of the respective parties; Amount and sources of income of the respective parties; Vocational skills of the respective parties; Employability of the respective parties; Estates of the respective parties; Liabilities of the respective parties; Needs of the respective parties; Current needs of the minor children of the marriage;  Future needs of the minor children of the marriage;  Opportunities available to the respective parties for future acquisition of capital; Opportunities available to the respective parties for future acquisition of income;  Contributions of the respective parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their estates;  and Contributions of Husband and Wife as homemaker.

For someone who is truly angry and wants everything, this can be a tough reality; however, I find that most clients would rather hear the truth sooner than later. Unrealistic expectations only lead to disappointed clients.

Only because you read this entire article, I will share a secret with you: the Oompa Loompa are now my favorite. I love their honesty and integrity (but also because they remind me of a close friend). Now that I have shared that, I dare you to get their song out of your head as you go on with your day.

 

North Attleboro Plainville Wrentham Bristol Norfolk Real estate child support custody divorce real estate homestead title insurance Attleboro lawyer legal law office modification contempt estate plan planning will power of attorney old republic title company living will Norton Franklin Bellingham Canton Easton Marin School Asso

North Attleboro Plainville Wrentham Bristol Norfolk Real estate child support custody divorce real estate homestead title insurance Attleboro lawyer legal law office modification contempt estate plan planning will power of attorney old republic title company living will Norton Franklin Bellingham Canton Easton Marin School Association Representative Town Meeting Junior League of Boston Contractor Disputes Personal Injury Landlord Tenant  Deed paternity South Attleboro Cub Scout pack 65

ciation Representative Town Meeting Junior League of Boston Contractor Disputes Personal Injury Landlord Tenant  Deed paternity South Attleboro Cub Scout pack 65

, , , , ,

Truth.

Truth.

I recently read Good to Great (2001) by Jim Collins.  Although the book is geared towards corporate executives, the messages can be carried into any career or life, in general. Some of the highlights are as follows:
1.” Great leaders combine tremendous personal humility with unwavering professional resolve;”
2.  “Companies that are trying to become great must force themselves to confront brutal facts and difficult realities in order to address them;” and
3. “The transformation from good to great does not come in a dramatic swoop or sudden action.”

I recently participated in a creative writing class. During that class, we had a discussion about humility as an essential aspect of being genuine.  Whether in business or in every day life, we tend to trust people who can admit when they are wrong or need assistance, because we, ourselves, are not perfect or indestructible.  During the class, I couldn’t help but also reflect on the book.

When I first started to practice law in December, 2004, I was over confident. While in law school, I had worked for as a student district attorney and for some amazing attorneys; of course, I thought that I knew everything that there is to know about practicing.

On the very first day that my practice was open, I received a referral from a close law school friend. Opposing counsel on the case was one of the most prominent attorneys in Boston, who (literally) started practicing before I was born. Within a month, I felt out of my league; while my experience was great, it was not that of a seasoned attorney. The brutal truth of admitting to myself that I had failed at being instantly brilliant was painful. Only once I admitted that I was lost could I truly ask for help and grow in to who I am eleven years later.

Sometimes the truth is painful, but it can be the gateway from good to great.

**This newsletter is dedicated to Lisa Hutchison, who taught the creative writing seminar and colleagues who never make me feel foolish.**

 

North Attleboro Plainville Wrentham Bristol Norfolk Real estate child support custody divorce real estate homestead title insurance Attleboro lawyer legal law office modification contempt estate plan planning will power of attorney old republic title company living will Norton Franklin Bellingham Canton Easton Marin School Association Representative Town Meeting Junior League of Boston Contractor Disputes Personal Injury Landlord Tenant  Deed paternity South Attleboro Cub Scout pack 65

, , ,

The Column That I Didn’t Expect to Write

People who know me know well are going to think it is hilarious that I am writing this newsletter. I’m generally not a big fan of reality television, with the only exception being Shark Tank, which I loved even before a friend was on it last year, but even moreso since. However, sometimes reality personalities become part of mainstream news and discussion.

Lamar Odom, former NBA player and reality personality, has been all over the news lately. I know very little about him or his family, but I have been asked several times, within the last week, to explain how divorce papers can be signed, yet they are not divorced and his Wife can still make health care decisions on his behalf. To the best of my knowledge, California has jurisdiction over their marriage. I am not a California attorney.

Massachusetts requires several events to occur prior to granting a divorce. A Complaint for Divorce initiates the process; it is a document that is filed with the Court, either by one party or jointly.

Parties must exchange financial information. Both spouses present a financial statement, which summarizes expenses, assets, income, and liability. They also provide three (3) years of taxes, investments, and bank statements. Often the information is the same for both spouses, but not always. Sometimes, more information is requested, especially if one spouse is self employed.

Once financial disclosures have been made, the bulk of negotiations begin. Parties can often come to an agreement about how to divide marital assets and liabilities, whether alimony is necessary, as well as the care and custody of minor children. If the parties cannot agree on one or all issues, court intervention is available. If the parties can agree on the issues, a Separation Agreement is created and signed by both spouses.

My limited understanding is that the Kardashian-Odom process is or was at this point in the process. For that reason, they are still married and marital privileges, such as decision making power, are still in effect.

Parties need to actually present their Separation Agreement to the Court prior to obtaining a divorce. A judge will review the document for fairness and may ask the parties some questions. If the judge determines the document to be fair and entered into without coercion or pressure, a Judgment of Divorce is ordered. Most people feel as though they are divorced at this point, but they are not until a Judgment of Divorce Nisi is entered.

Massachusetts has a Nisi period which lasts for 90 days. The intent of the statute is to allow the parties to cool off and reconsider reconciliation. In most cases, this period is unremarkable and the parties become divorced.

North Attleboro Plainville Wrentham Bristol Norfolk Real estate child support custody divorce real estate homestead title insurance Attleboro lawyer legal law office modification contempt estate plan planning will power of attorney old republic title company living will Norton Franklin Bellingham Canton Easton Marin School Association Representative Town Meeting Junior League of Boston Contractor Disputes Personal Injury Landlord Tenant  Deed paternity South Attleboro Cub Scout pack 65

 

, , ,

Safety in an Unsafe Relationship

Domestic abuse has been a topic amongst my family law clients long before Ray Rice renewed it as a nationals conversation. I often have consultations with potential clients who come to me for a “simple” divorce and proceed to tell me horrific stories of abuse. For some clients, it’s physical abuse, but for others, it is emotional, verbal, or financial abuse. The individuals are from all races, religions, social economic status, and genders.

My first inquiry in these situations is always related to imminent fear of bodily injury. If such afar exists, a Restraining Order (“209a”) may be appropriate. A 209a is a Court Order that states what parties may or may not do. Typical terms include, but are not limited to, an abuser not contacting a victim, or the friends and family of the victim, by phone, in person, by email, or text; abuser must remain a specific distance from the home and workplace of the victim, and the abuser may not possess any weapons.

Laws regarding 209a vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, the District and Probate & Family Courts allow for walk in requests and have jurisdiction to order a 209a where appropriate. Temporary Orders are usually given for a short period, often ten (10) days, but all Orders have the potential to be extended or made permanent.

What happens to my potential clients? Some never call again and I always hope that they have retained alternative counsel, not become a statistic. Some return months or years later, saying, “I can’t be a victim anymore” or “I have to do this for my child.” It takes courage to leave, because the scariest time for a victim is often the six (6) months following. They are often still terrified of their abusers. They are often isolated and broke. They often have a long history of police visits to their home. They are almost always afraid of what will happen next.

If you or someone that you know is in abusive relationship, please encourage them to seek legal assistance or to call RESPOND @ 617 623-5900 or click here

, , , ,

Text, Tinder, and Twitter….oh my….

Like so many New Englanders, I am excited about the Patriots’ recent Super Bowl win. I actually thought of how to integrate the win into my monthly newsletter. Deflategate was an obvious topic, but it’s been over discussed by every reporter and person in the country. Then, out of nowhere, a photo of fan favorite Julian Edelman started spreading quicker than a Gronk spike. I am not going to speculate whether the photograph was authentic or ponder the ethical issues involved with posting it, but it did get me thinking about the exposure that we all have in our digitally obsessed world.

So many people innocently put information online.We all  post funny stories, cartoons, and photos. We think that our social media  accounts are protected, because we have customized privacy settings and security software. We see the photos that are circulated on Facebook, trying to provide a lesson to young students about how quickly people can “borrow” your content, but think our photos are safe, because of those protections.

The digital world offers less protection than most of us feel comfortable admitting.  Sometimes, it results from the innocent time when your friend copied your photo from Twitter,  to show someone else how cute your children are,  but, somehow, the photo travels into the wrong hands. What happens when a hacker or child perpetrator gets hold of the photo? How would you react if the photo is used for advertising without your knowledge or consent?

Often, potential employers actively search online for “dirt” on perspective employees. For every photo or statement that an employer examines, someone  is interpreting  what they think it says about the character and personality  of  the potential employee. How does a hiring manager react when all they find are photos of you with cocktails in your hand or constant posting during traditional work hours? Do they interpret it differently depending on your work history?

What is rarely discussed  is the privacy of electronic messaging. Many people realize that a text, instant message, or email can be forwarded or copied; however, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the contents of the text, instant message, or email can be found long after it is “deleted.”

In my world, everything is potential evidence. Photos, text messages,  and social media  posts can be used to prove my client’s case or discredit the other side’s argument. Your text and emails are proof of what you say to someone else. As the often quoted Miranda Rights suggest, “anything you say,  can and will be used against you,” under Massachusetts Rules of Evidence Section 901

When deciding if electronic evidence can be used in a case, the Court considers five (5) factors:

  1. Is the electronic evidence relevant to the case?  If you are getting a divorce and your spouse is claiming infidelity, a photo posted online or text, of you with a friend at a Red Sox game,  could be relevant if your spouse suspects that the other person is your new partner.  Moreover, mere membership or profile on a dating website, such as Tinder,  could support that you are unfaithful (or trying to be).
  2. Can it pass the test of authenticity?  If a witness confirms that the evidence is real and accurate, it will likely be allowed to either by the Court to support or discredit your case  Commonwealth v. Oppenheim, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 359 (2014).If someone, who has first hand or expert knowledge, testifies that it was taken on April 10,2014,  at the Red Sox/ Yankees game at Fenway, their statement will likely authenticate the photo as real and accurate.
  3. Is it hearsay? When information is received from other people that cannot be adequately confirmed, it is hearsay. Unless an exception  to the hearsay rule applies, the information cannot be used as evidence. If you heard from Alex that Jeff committed a crime, it is probably hearsay; however, if you witness the crime being committed, your description of the event is not hearsay.
  4. Is the electronic evidence the “best evidence?” If the original document is no longer available, but a copy is, it will likely be allowed by the Judge. If a text conversation is deleted,  but somebody saved a screen shot, a judge would likely accept a copy of it as best evidence.
  5. Is the probative value of the electronic evidence outweighed by unfair prejudice?  If the evidence makes a reasonable person wonder “who DOES  that,” it is likely prejudicial.  If you are engaged in a child custody dispute, where safety is an issue, a text photo of you, happily playing on the swings with your delightful child, is usually wonderful and suggests good parenting. If the photo is of you, with your five year old child,  at a shooting range and the child is firing a weapon,  it would likely cause an intense reaction from most people; however, that prejudice would be outweighed by value of what the  photo is likely being used to prove, such as recklessness.

What should this mean to you? Be careful of what you put online; those online rants about your job or significant other could be a problem later and in an unplanned way. Be careful of how you appear in photos; perspective employers understand that you like to have fun, but do not want to hire someone who is irresponsible. Be careful of what you write in a text, email, or instant message; the words that you write are powerful and speak volumes about who you are, what you do, and how you think.

As always, please feel free to contact me for additional information or a consultation. Please feel free to send this newsletter to anyone who may be interested. Receipt of same is not intended to offer specific legal advise or create an attorney-client relationship.