Posts



We can’t tell you how often we’ve been at a party or event and someone is talking about a pending legal matter. At some point during the conversation, someone will often say that the person should work with us; more often than not, we are either already their attorney or we have connected them with their attorney. We cannot confirm or deny whether we work with someone unless they volunteer the information. That said, we will disclose with some reasonable comfort that we are not working with Bill & Melinda Gates on their divorce but we do potentially know something about their situation.

Rumor has it that the Gates’ do not have a Prenuptial Agreement. Knowing nothing about the validity of that statement or the law in the State of Washington, we wonder if they didn’t sign a Prenuptial figuring that it would be deemed unreasonable at the time of divorce anyways. In Massachusetts, Prenuptial Agreements are scrutinized in two steps:

1. Was the Agreement reasonable at the time that it was signed by the parties?
The court will determine if the terms were reasonable at the time that the Agreement was made. If the terms of the Agreement are objectively unfair and without reason, any specific term could be overturned.

2. Are the terms of the Agreement still reasonable and fair at the time of the divorce?
Even if the terms of the Agreement were fair at the time of signing, they may still be objectively unfair at the time of divorce. For instance, if one party had agreed to provide health insurance to the family but the other has been providing it for most of the marriage OR alimony was agreed to by the parties but is no longer needed, it may not be reasonable or fair to uphold a term of the Agreement . To the contrary, one party may have become ill during the marriage and has a greater financial need than expected, making alimony necessary where it was waived prior.

If the State of Washington applies same two step analysis, the Gates’ may have figured that any terms that they signed 20+ years ago may not be reasonable now given the expectation that Microsoft would continue to skyrocket in value.* At the time of the marriage, Bill Gates had approximately ten billion dollars. Imagine that the parties had agreed that Belinda Gates would get four billion dollars at the time of a potential divorce. Was that fair then? Sure. Would that be fair now? Probably not (keeping in mind that four billion dollars is still a LOT of money) because his current estimated net worth is 130 billion dollars. While these numbers are insane to think about for the average person, it is their reality and the same rule would apply to the more typical family also.

As always, please let us know if we can help you in any way.

Warm regards,
John & Faye

* They could have also agreed to terms that accounted for massive growth, whether in dollar value or percentage.

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.

Co-Parenting During the Corona Pandemic

Parenting during the Corona pandemic is a challenge for everyone. Chances are good that your family is spending a lot of quality time together in (fairly) close quarters and may be starting to get one another’s nerves. It’s also possible that your children are trying to play more video games than you ever thought possible and you’re possibly starting to see the nutritional value of a peanut butter cup. What can complicate this already challenging time? Co-parenting by divorced or separated parents.

How should you handle co-parenting during this time?
1. Stick to your typical parenting schedule. Your kids need some regularity, predictability and stability;
2. If you know that your situation is going to be changing (ie. nurses and doctors are working longer hours, people are being laid off temporarily, child care centers are closing), communicate that to your ex as soon as possible;
and
3. Work together to adjust and accommodate one another. We know that it’s not always easy to help out the other person, but remember that this is about your children, not your ex.

The Today Show had a great segment on this as well:

www.today.com/parents/how-divorced-parents-handle-custody-coronavirus-t176236

As of now, the probate and family courts are closed except for emergency hearings; however, many of these scheduling issues can be resolved by talking with one another. *

We hope that you stay safe and healthy!

Regards,
John and Faye

* Except where there is a restraining order in place and the parties cannot communicate. When parties are going to be co-parenting, we often ask that restraining orders permit for the parties to communicate via text about the children only; this allows the parties to communicate but allows for evidence of all conversations.

You might be surprised how many people go through a massive life overhaul all at once. They are in the middle of getting divorced, potentially moving into a new home and then WHAM, they quit their job or get fired. This happens ALL-THE-TIME but why?

For some people, they are trying to reinvent themselves for a multitude of reasons;
For others, they are trying to manipulate child support or alimony obligations (we don’t recommend this); or
They get fired.

Divorce can be an emotional roller coaster regardless of whether you wanted it to happen and how amicable the situation has been. The stress can have a massive effect on your body and mind, often leaving people distracted or absent minded. What can you do to help yourself before your divorce becomes an issue at work?

1. Communicate with your boss or human resources department to let them know what is happening. Not only will they potentially need to be involved with providing insurance coverage information, but they are more likely to be supportive and understanding if they they are aware of the situation and if you have reassured them that you will still get all of your work done in a timely manner;

2. Do not make a grandiose announcement or talk about your divorce at work, but if you do, only talk with a select group of close work friends and keep it to a minimum, especially during work hours;

3. Handle personal and divorce matters outside of work hours. Occasionally, you may need to respond to an email or call, but be mindful of your volume and content if you do so;

4. Do not use your work email for communication with your attorney. Some companies monitor their employees’ email and it will not benefit you for your company to know your personal business;

5. When you need to miss work to attend a divorce related meeting or appearance, inform your employer as soon as possible;

6. Put in the extra time at work if needed. If you are an hourly employee, don’t request over time pay if the extra time is needed to finish things that you would have normally finished but for the divorce;

7. If and WHEN you feel stressed or anxious, take a few minutes to refocus by getting some water or going for a quick walk;

8. Keep your emotions under control. We can assure you that if you get fired for poor performance or yelling at your boss, your spouse’s attorney will find out and will use it against you;

9. Get more involved with group projects if you can. Not only will it force you to be more accountable and keep you on schedule, but it will also give you an excuse to interact with others.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions about this or any other legal matters.

Regards,
John & Faye

Many, many years ago, when I was quite young, my parents went oversees for about two and a half weeks. While they were there, I stayed with my grandparents. When they returned, I filed my first written Complaint with the proper authority (aka my mom) regarding the cruel treatment that I endured at the hands of my grandparents: they *forced* me to go out for ice cream sundaes every night and I suffered a bit of a belly ache. I tell you, it was horrible.

Jokes aside, I was lucky to have grandparents who wanted to spoil me rotten, but even luckier that they lived well into my adulthood and got to know my children. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have their grandparents to involved in their daily life and for so long.

It is rare, though not uncommon, that grandparents have to fight for the right to see their grandchildren. In order to file a Complaint for Grandparent Visitation in Massachusetts, the following conditions must be met:

1. The parents must be divorced or separated;
2. A parent must be deceased; OR
3. The child was born out of wedlock; AND
4. Paternity has been established;
5. Visitation has previously been denied;
6. The best interest of the child is to have a relationship with the grandparent(s); and
7. The child would suffer harm if the contact and relationship were denied.

Let us know your favorite memory or memories with your grandparents. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Warm regards,
John and Faye