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Long ago, in a law school not far away, Mark Lawton taught Juvenile Law at New England School of Law. He was giving a lecture and, as usual, was sharing stories from his time as a judge. Usually quite animated anyways, his face lit up when he started talking about adoptions and described the typical scene in the courtroom: photos being taken, laughter, bow ties and cute little socks with ruffles.*

 

Judge Lawton (ret.) was 100% correct. Adoption Day *is* very different than others that occur in the courts. The court room is closed to anyone not directly involved and sometimes the judges will let the kids play with their gavel or spin in their chair during proceedings. We have even seen judges play hide and seek in the court room with the kids! Honestly, the hearing is usually a lot of fun because people are in a good mood and the biggest concern is who is taking photographs.

 

Getting to Adoption Day is a bit of a journey. Massachusetts has specific laws and procedures that must be followed; our laws might overlap with the laws of the biological parents if they are not Massachusetts residents but the laws and procedures of both states must then be followed.

 

What to expect if you are considering adopting in Massachusetts:

  1. Massachusetts does not require a minimal age or marital status. ** of the prospective parents;
  2. Any person who is younger than the prospective parent can be adopted, with some exceptions, like current spouse, sibling, aunt or uncle. Some people have tried to use this broad language to manipulate financing for higher education but many lenders have become aware of this activity and handle accordingly, including allegations of fraud;
  3. Adults and children over the age of 12 must offer consent to the adoption;
  4. Massachusetts allows for prospective parents to pay reasonable birth expenses of the biological mother. All expenses will be reviewed by the court prior to the adoption to make sure that they are reasonable (ie. pregnancy messages may be considered reasonable but granite counters would not). Adoption Disruption Insurance or Risk Sharing Programs may be available and provide some financial stability for the adoptive parents should the adoption plan be disrupted or ended for any reason;
  5. Prospective parents must be approved by a professional licensed to do a  home study. The family will have background checks done, as well as family interviews and home inspections;
  6. Biological parents must wait at least four (4) days to give consent for the adoption;
  7. The parties may agree to an “open adoption.” If the parties want to, they may agree that there is an opportunity for the biological parents to get occasional photos, updates and sometimes even an annual visit. These agreements may also allow for adoptive parents to reach out with questions about genetic conditions or if the child ever asks to meet or communicate with the biological parent. Adopted children do not automatically have a right to access identifying information about his or her biological parent(s) and need to show good cause to access that information. *** and
  8. When a biological parent consents to an adoption, it does not terminate the duty to financially support that child. Yes, you read that correctly. Although the law as written is actually silent on the matter, it was determined by the courts that the public policy reasons behind the law allow for enforcement; child support is most often enforced when a biological parent surrenders custody to the other biological parent (ie. Biological Mom surrenders to biological Dad and his wife).

 

* You may not be surprised to know that this is not the typical scene in courtrooms. Often there are crowded benches, frowning faces, tension and harsh words.

** In 1993, the SJC determined that the statute did not preclude same sex cohabitants from jointly adopting a child (Adoption of Tammy,416 Mass. 205 (1993).

*** This was determined by Fineberg v. Suffolk Div. of Probate and Family Court Dept., 38 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1995).

 

**** As determined by Adoption of Marlene, 443 Mass. 494 (2005).

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

If you haven’t already figured it out, inspiration for our newsletters often comes from pop culture or current events; this one comes from channel surfing in between innings and randomly catching a question on Family Feud.

What caught our attention? “If your husband told you that he wanted a divorce on Sunday, what would be the first thing that you do on Monday morning?” Of course, we were curious how people answered.

The answers that didn’t find a spot on the survey were entertaining: throw a party, go on a date, have sex with my spouse’s best friend and bad mouth the person.* We can’t tell anyone what to do, but generally speaking, we recommend not doing any of those things.

What *should* you do in the short term?
1. Call a lawyer to familiarize yourself with your legal rights;
2. Take care of yourself by remembering to eat, sleep, exercise and maintain your appearance;
3. Speak positively about your spouse in the presence of your children;
4. Try to avoid hostile confrontations with your spouse;
5. Remind your children that you love them and divorce will not change anything;
6. Seek out a therapist;
7. Answer questions that your spouse may have about things that may have occurred during the marriage in a respectful manner but be careful about asking questions while you are still angry;
8. Start collecting financial information about marital assets; and
9. Retain an attorney.

We realize that some of our suggestions may not be easy to do in the heat of the moment when you are hurt or angry. Chances are good that you will have some heated discussions, but civil discussions are usually more effective and productive.

As always, we are here to help you with any legal questions that you may have. Please feel free to call the office or email us at faye@wjslegal.com.

Regards,
John & Faye

Nicholas Cage clearly believes in the idea of marriage. He has been married four times, with his most recent marriage lasting only four days prior to filing for an annulment. According to reports, the movie star married a makeup artist in Las Vegas. What is most eyebrow raising about this most recent marriage is that his wife is disputing the annulment, but instead asking for a divorce and alimony.

Alimony is generally not awarded when the marriage is short term, including if an annulment is granted. Why is this case different? The wife is claiming that her reputation has been damaged by the annulment and that her future income will limited for that reason. We have no knowledge of Nevada law or specifics of the case, other than what was reported in the MSM, but Massachusetts courts would likely deny her request for alimony.

Massachusetts allows for alimony based on the length of the marriage and the needs of the parties. We allow for several types of alimony:

1. General Alimony: Support is paid to an ex -spouse who is financially dependent on the former spouse.
2. Rehabilitation Alimony: Support is paid to an ex-spouse who is expected to be self sufficient within a predicted amount of time.
3. Reimbursement Alimony: Support is paid to an ex spouse after a marriage lasting less than five years to make up for costs or expenses that helped him or her start a business, receive an education or similar.
4. Transition Alimony: Support is paid after a marriage of less than five years to help the spouse settle into a new location or life style post divorce.

There are few hard rules regarding alimony because all situations are so different. Whether alimony is appropriate can depend on many things, including child support orders, personal needs, age of the parties and the terms of the overall agreement.

Please let is know if we can answer questions about family law or any other legal matters.

Regards,
John and Faye