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For everyone who knows us, you know that one of us has a shoe obsession*. There is a massive love of high heels but also a strong affection for sandals, wedges, loafers, flip flops, ballet shoes and even cozy slippers. Given this obsession, you may be surprised that this is the first newsletter that we have ever written about shoes.

The great thing about about shoes is that there is a pair of shoes to fit your personality, mood and lifestyle. The same can be said about child custody agreements; there is an agreement to fit every “pair” of parents..

Although the specifics terms of the plans can be as different as stilettos and flip flops, custody can generally be defined several ways under M.G.L. c. 208:
1. Sole legal custody: One parent has the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions about matters that have a significant impact on the life of their child(ren), such as education, medical care and religious upbringing. Sole legal custody is more rare than you might expect. We see sole custody most
often if one parent has a history of drug use, physical abuse, untreated mental health issues or if there is a restraining order currently in place;
2. Shared legal custody: Both parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions about matters that have a significant impact on the life of their child(ren), such as education, medical care and religious upbringing. This is the default unless there is something significant happening within the family as suggested above;
3. Sole physical custody: The child(ren) resides only with and supervised by only parent but may have visitation with the other parent unless visitation would not be in the best interest of the child(ren). We occasionally see parents who live in different states who will have shared legal custody but only one parent has physical custody;
4. Joint physical custody: The child(ren) reside in the homes of and supervised by both parents on a regular basis. What this model looks like can vary greatly from family to family. While some parents have the child(ren) rotate homes every couple of days, others stick to the classic one dinner during the week and parenting time every other weekend. Sometimes, parents with joint physical custody will choose a “primary” parent for the child(ren) in order to determine school choice. There is no “correct” schedule for co-parenting.

As always, please let us know if you have questions regarding a family law or other matters.
Warmest regards,
Faye and John

* We will let you decide which one of us loves shoes!

Pretty much every time that we talk about child custody or parenting, the phrase “Best Interest of the Child” is either uttered or written. IF you have been divorced within the last decade or so, you have attended a parent education class which focuses on co-parenting.

 

We can actually tell a lot about our clients depending on how they react to the parenting class. Great parents seem to take the class hoping to gain some ideas and bad parents often think that they information doesn’t apply to them.

 

The principles should be basic but we want to share them nonetheless. If you are a co-parent, there are things that you should never ever do:

1. Never talk negatively about your co-parent. Your child loves both parents and, if you talk trash about their other parent, they will potentially internalize it as disapproval of who they are as an individual;

2. If the co-parent starts dating someone or gets married, do not criticize that new person to your child.  Children need to form their own opinions and build their own relationships;

3. Do not cancel out on parenting time if you can avoid it. Things happen: people get sick, work runs late and emergencies happen. Cancellations should be the exceptions, not the standard;

4. Do not set rules in your home that are drastically different from the home they have with your co-parent. Will there be some minor differences? Of course. The best things for a child are stability, structure and predictability. It doesn’t make a huge difference if one home eats at 5pm versus 6pm, but bed times that are hours apart will create a grumpy and confused child;

5. Do not spoil your children too much during your parenting time. It’s really tempting to be the “fun parent,” especially if you are not with your child on a daily basis. Kids do not love you because you sneak them extra cookies (though many grandparents would disagree);

6. Do not leave your homework to the other parent. Almost nobody enjoys Common Core math but chances are good that one parent doesn’t mind it as much as the other. Work together to use your talents, skills and knowledge whenever possible. Your children will benefit academically and they will know that both parents make them a top priority;

7.  Do not ignore your children when you have time with them. Consider playing XBox WITH your child instead of just letting them sit in the basement alone. Quality time is almost more important than quanity;

8. Do not forget to have fun together while also teaching life lessons. Chores are not really fun, but they are important and can be done together. Teach your child to mow the lawn, do laundry and other life skills, then celebrate a job well done together; and

9. Do not introduce your child to ever person that you date. If you are serious with someone, it might be appropriate that your child gets to know this new person. Before you introduce that person to your child, talk with the other parent and the child to let them know that this is going to happen so that everyone can support the child emotionally. If your child is not comfortable meeting someone, take that cue and wait. When you do make an introduction, keep it light and short. Allow your child and your person to develop a relationship on their own and at their own pace.

 

Kanye.

It’s very odd to sit down and write a newsletter about Kanye West. Sure, some of his songs are pretty catchy. Yes, he is super famous and his family is every where on social media. Normally, we don’t think about him at all though BUT his recent, erratic behavior makes him worth discussing from a legal perspective.

In case you have been cut off from social media and traditional news, West has experiencing some animated, manic behaviors as of late. His wife has confirmed that he is bipolar and his behavior suggests that West is currently manic and off of medications which would control the extreme range of behavior.

Rumors are spreading quickly that a divorce is on the horizon. If a divorce does happen, we would expect that there will be a discussion about custody of the children and some bumps in the divorce process (even if there is a prenuptial agreement).

Mental Health May Have an Effect on the Divorce Process 
The courts will not force someone to stay married to anyone, including a person with a mental health condition; however, the process is often a bit more of a roller coaster.
1. Concern over physical safety during the process and when that person lives alone. Depending on the person’s condition, he or she may be more likely to harm themselves or others. There are safe guards and orders that can be put into place to keep everyone as safe as possible;
2. Financial needs of the person with mental health concerns may require that a greater portion of the marital assets be allocated to him or her. Alimony may also be necessary if he or she is unable to work or has significant medical expenses; and
3. The process itself may take longer.  The person may not participate because they can’t find the strength to do so; this can be extremely frustrating for a party who just wants to get through the process as quickly as possible.

Mental Health May Have an Effect on Child Custody.
The courts evaluate each case individually to assess the best interest of the child(ren), which may include a variety of factors related to mental health of a parent:
1. Whether the condition is a short term matter or a lifelong condition;
2. Whether the parent  is actively committed to her treatment or therapeutic plan;
3. Whether the parent’s ability to care for himself or herself is compromised by the condition;
4. Whether and how the condition of the parent effects the safety and overall best interest of the child(ren) and their general safety; and
5. Whether the condition is being caused by use or abuse of drugs.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions regarding how mental health effects child custody and divorce or anything else.

 

“When can I start dating?”
– Approximately 60% of clients during divorce consultations (based on totally unscientific studies)

We suggest that people use common sense when starting to date during the divorce process. If you think that your dating might create anger in your spouse, it likely will; that anger often leads to prolonged proceedings and increased legal fees.

We recommend keeping the divorce moving towards resolution by following these simple guidelines:
Protect your Assets: If you want to date, remember that you are spending marital assets to pay for the dates. You have the right to move on and to enjoy life, but it may ultimately effect division of marital assets. Typical dating and entertainment expenditures are typically not an issue, but we recommend nothing extravagant, especially if it interferes with your ability to support your family;
Be Smart and Discrete. If you want information to remain private, do not advertise what you are doing on social media. Not might your spouse see it, but potentially your spouse’s attorney (of course, under ethical boundaries). The quickest way to discredit an argument about lack of money are photos of fancy dinners, vacations and adventures;
Be a Parent First: This is not the time to start introducing new “friends” to your children. First of all, children experience a range of emotions during (and after) a divorce. They will often “blame” the first person that they meet for keeping their parents apart, even if that person has nothing to do with the split. Also, rebound relationships are common and it is not in the best interest of the children to be introduced to many “friends.” Lastly, anyone who meets the kids will be open to scrutiny by your spouse and the court for any influence that they might have on your children;
Know Yourself: Everyone wants companionship. In the short term, it may mean surrounding yourself with family and friends or a new puppy; however, at some point in the future, you may want romantic companionship. Even if you wanted the divorce, you may still may not be ready to date beyond something very casual.
As always, please let us know if we can guide in you in any legal matters.

Warm regards,
John & Faye

While driving through the Baltimore/ Washington D.C. area, there was a billboard that said, “Don’t get a divorce…get a bigger house.” Four days later, the advertisement is stuck in my head.

Although we are all for buying the house of your dreams, it will not save your marriage. What really happens to your house in a divorce?

1. The marital home is the most sought asset during a divorce. At the beginning of the divorce process, everyone wants to keep the marital home; however, it is rare that that both parties can afford to keep the home on their one income, often determining who could actually keep the house;
2. One spouse keeps the house. If one of the parties can afford to keep the home, they should refinance under their own name and based on their individual income. At the time of refinance, the ownership is often transferred by Quitclaim Deed;
3..Get your name off the mortgage if you don’t own the house. If you have signed a Quitclaim Deed to relinquish ownership rights, make sure that you don’t have any financial responsibility for the mortgage or taxes. We recommend this for both security (in case your ex doesn’t pay the mortgage for any reason) and because any financial obligations will limit your ability to secure your own credit for a future rental or purchase;
4. Sell the house. This can be done either before or after the divorce occurs, but it’s easier if the parties agree how the proceeds will be divided before the house is put on the market;
5. It gets more complicated when the mortgage exceeds the value of the home. Couples that cannot afford to pay the overage due usually have to choose a short sale, renting the home or continuing to live together;
5. Buying a house during the divorce process isn’t always a great idea. The home will be considered a marital asset and subject to division. Also, mortgage underwriters may be a bit concerned about your future income and assets, which could cause delays.

As always, please let us know if we can assist you with any concerns or legal matters.

Warm Regards,
John & Faye