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Worcester Family Law Blog

Abuse of Discretion: A "More Accurate" Standard

Without much fanfare, a case came down from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in December of 2014 in which the abuse of discretion standard was revised (or "earned its retirement" as noted by the SJC). L.L. v. Commonwealth, 470 Mass. 169 (2014); specifically, footnote 27.

Length of the Marriage: For the Purposes of Alimony or Division of the Marital Estate?

   When determining how to divide the marital estate, the Probate & Family Court relies on M.G.L.A c. 208, §34. Chapter 208, §34 provides a number of factors that the court can consider in order to equitably divide the marital estate, including but not limited to, the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties.

What is the standard to terminate a permanent abuse prevention order?

Preservation of the fundamental human right to be protected from the devastating impact of family violence is the public policy of the Commonwealth as reflected in numerous statutes addressing the problem of domestic violence. General Laws c. 209A sets out a statutory scheme intended to protect victims of abuse through the issuance of abuse prevention orders.

To text or not to text, that is the question!

   A recent opinion from the Massachusetts Appeals Court establishes that in many cases, it is possible to introduce text messages at trial, or at the very least, the content of a text message. In the case of Commonwealth v. Toney, Mass.App.Ct. (No. 13-P-275, Feb. 5, 2014) the Court held that a text message may be introduced based on the testimony of the recipient of the message and does not require a subpoena to the cell phone company. However, this opinion is an unpublished opinion of the Court and can't be used as precedent. Nevertheless, the logic used by the Court should guide judges and lawyers when attempting to provide evidence of communications via text.

Considering a post-nuptial agreement?

In the 2010 case, Ansin v. Craven-Ansin, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized that post-nuptial or marital agreements are not invalid per se, but rather, they are permissible, and fully enforceable if created in a way that it will survive "careful scrutiny".

Legal Impacts of DOMA

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its decision on United States v. Windsor, which struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This section, which defined "marriage" specifically as a union between a man and a woman, was found to be unconstitutional, with the majority opinion calling it "a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment."

Social Media and Disparaging Comments

When parents are getting divorced, most Separation Agreements will include language prohibiting a parent from making disparaging comments about the other, especially in the presence of the children. In general, any violation of such a provision can be difficult to prove. Essentially, you're relying on a child to report such behavior and, therefore, involving them in the underlying litigation.

Do I Have to Attend the Parent Education Program?

If you have children and are getting a divorce, then the short answer is: yes. Standing Order 4-08 mandates that all parties to a divorce action (contested or uncontested) in which there are minor children, must attend and participate in an approved Parent Education Program.

Can a Probate & Family Court Judge Really "Appoint" a Parent Coordinator?

In a September 16, 2013 decision, the Appeals Court found that the Probate and Family Court had the power to appoint a parent coordinator based upon the language contained a separation agreement executed by the parties and entered as a Judgment of Divorce. Ruddy v. Ruddy, 84 Mass.App.Ct. 1110 (2013)

Divorce After DOMA

The Supreme Court's recent decision in United States v. Windsor, 2013 WL 3196938 (Jun. 26, 2013), dramatically changes the landscape of federal laws regarding same-sex marriage and greatly impacts same-sex divorce in Massachusetts by declaring a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") unconstitutional.

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