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Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor

What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

Domestic Violence Redux

Posted in Domestic Violence

Hi there,

I’m writing this on a rainy, thundery Monday, and the gloom feels appropriate for the subject of today’s post. Domestic violence is NOT always male to female. Female to male and same-sex violence happen and are just as bad, but often less reported.

All states now have anti-violence protective laws, but a law is only useful if you take advantage of it. It is human nature to not want to recognize the first steps toward disaster in an important relationship. This is a good list of warning signs. If you saw your relationship in that list, leave. The sooner you do the safer you will be. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get out of an abusive relationship. This quick video shows the terrifying progression of one woman’s abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse is not just physical, it often is financial as well. Controlling money is the beginning, and making the legal exit overwhelmingly expensive can be the end. This article paints a good picture of what financial abuse can look like.

Despite the fact that most states have had abuse prevention laws in place for over 25 years, and despite the fact that lip service is given by everyone to how bad abuse is, responses like this still happen. Not much has changed where sports money is involved since I represented Nancy Saad Parish.

The best advice is still to LEAVE as soon as you realize you are a victim. Say something if you think someone close to you is being victimized. Be careful, think it through, don’t make the situation worse, but understand that victims often don’t realize they are victims and outside support can be a huge help.



Cost-Benefit Analysis of Experts in the Divorce Process

Posted in Divorce Process, Finances and Divorce

Hi there,

From start to finish there is no question that divorce is expensive. Sometimes it is a juggling act; do you spend the money for  the expensive expert or do you agree on a shared one? Or do you skip an expert altogether (which can be dangerous)? The most commonly needed experts, outside of parenting matters, are residential real estate appraisers, business valuation experts, commercial real estate appraisers, defined benefit pension valuation experts, and forensic accountants.

If money is tight – and no matter how much you have, money is tight when you are in the process of divorcing – maybe you can share the costs of a joint expert. This is often a plausible idea for residential real estate because there is a common sense way to reality-check the results. Most folks have a reasonable idea of their residential real estate values, thanks to Zillow.com and your town assessor’s office.

It also makes economic sense to share the cost of the actuary doing the defined benefit pension valuation. There generally will be some form of information from the pension provider which also will provide a good reality check.

But, if it is at all possible, you should have your own expert to value a closely held business. Business valuations are complex and the reality check often comes in the comparisons of  2 competing valuations. This is also true of commercial real estate of any significance. The way to save money here is to, before hiring them, make sure your expert is willing to sit down with the expert for your spouse and try to reach an agreement on the values. If the appraisals come in too far apart to compromise the number then the experts need to sit down and discuss their assumptions and methodology. The good ones can generally work things out if they are allowed to. This is something the court will encourage you to do as well. At the very least this will save you the costs of prepping the expert for trial and prepping for the cross of the other expert, and at a minimum it will save a day of trial costs too.

Obviously, if you need the services of a forensic accountant, this is not something that you can share with the other side. This need arises when the disclosed income or expenses of your spouse do not match what you believe the reality is. Often it arises in a cash business, and this can be tricky as there may be tax implications and concerns that arise from undisclosed income. It is critical to quantify the amount of income or assets you believe are hidden before you hire the accountant. The cost of doing a forensic analysis can be extremely high.

In any case, be sure to discuss with your attorneys the cost-benefit analysis of your needs and options for experts – before an expert is hired.



Grandparent Visitation During and After Divorce

Posted in Divorce Process, Parenting, Children & Divorce

Hi there,

Fireworks grandfather grandchildI hope all of you are enjoying the weather this beautiful Fourth of July week. I took the week off to help care for my grandkids  – there is nothing better!

I cannot imagine how tough it must be as a grandparent to find yourself in the position of having to ask a judge for time with your grandchildren. Thankfully, in most cases grandparents see their grandchildren when the kids are in the custody of their parent (the grandparent’s child), but not always.

If you are one of those unfortunate grandparents, here is a very good article by my partner, Robin Lynch Nardone, which recently appeared on examiner.com:

“Massachusetts law allows grandparents to seek visitation rights with their unmarried, minor grandchildren in certain circumstances. General Law Chapter 119, Section 39D provides that if the child’s parents are divorced, living apart under a temporary court order, if one or both parents is deceased, or if the parents were never married (but paternity has been established) and the parents are living apart, a court may give a grandparent reasonable visitation if it is in the best interests of the child. Interestingly, when the parents are living together, they can make the decision to deny a grandparent access to the grandchild and the grandparent has no recourse. But, once a divorce is initiated, a grandparent gains access under the law to ask the court to grant visitation rights.

A Petition for Grandparent Visitation will be allowed only if there is a showing of a significant preexisting relationship between the grandparent and child such that visitation is in the best interests of the child, or, in the absence of such preexisting relationship, where the visitation is necessary to protect the child from significant harm. To succeed in obtaining visitation, the grandparent must prove that the failure to grant visitation will cause the child significant harm by adversely affecting the child’s health, safety or welfare. A detailed affidavit must accompany the Petition, describing the nature of the involvement and relationship between the grandparent and the granchild; the circumstances surrounding either the curtailment or termination of contact; a description of current level of contact, if any; and a statement describing the significant harm to the child’s health, safety, or welfare likely to be suffered by the child if visitation is not ordered. That affidavit is key to success in a grandparent visitation action.”