Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Franklin Legal Blog

3 tips to help children feel at home in 2 houses

Children who have to learn how to live across two homes have some big adjustments to go through. This can be a challenging time, but it is likely a bit easier if they are able to count on their parents to help them. You will probably find that helping them to adjust makes your life better since you may be able to enjoy your time with them more.

You have to consider your child's age and maturity when helping them with the transition. One thing that may be beneficial is to have a solid parenting plan that provides consistency for the kids.

Preparing a child to speak to a mediator

A child stuck in the middle of a custody dispute can suffer serious psychological harm if forced to choose between their parents. Trained mediators are well versed in how to approach and question a child as to their own wishes without making them feel as if they are turning their back on either parent. Most judges don't want to question a child in a courtroom, as they realize the dangerous implications it can have. When necessary, they will take the child into their chambers to ask questions.

Occasionally, mediators will need to speak with children. However, there are age appropriate guidelines. It is believed that a child 12 years of age or older should have general input into a custody and visitation schedule. A child 15 years or older should have strong input. In cases where the parents cannot gain a clear understanding of the child's wishes and a mediator feels it would be damaging to speak with the child, a counselor or other child development specialist can provide input into the child's best interests.

How does health insurance coverage factor into divorce?

When splitting up the marital property during a divorce, the spouses must negotiate division of real estate, cars, retirement accounts and other valuable assets. But what about health insurance?

The division of property is often the most technically challenging part of a divorce. The couple must list all their assets and liabilities, sort out any personal property from the marital property, and then negotiate a way to split the martial assets in a way that meets legal standards of fairness.

How much will divorce mediation cost me?

The simple answer to this question is this: far less than going to court. However, the complex answer lies within the participants. A mediator has no way of knowing what emotional factors are going to come into play during divorce settlement negotiations. As these are the factors that will hinder progress, it is difficult to give a straight answer to this question.

Think of it this way. Would you rather receive a bill for one, lump sum agreed upon amount and have your divorce be over, or would you rather be receiving a monthly bill for the hours in which your attorney worked on your case at a rate often well upwards of $100 per hour? Divorce cases that go all the way to a courtroom can last months, or even years. By the time a final order is signed by a Judge, it is not uncommon for clients to have paid or owe many thousands of dollars. Even then, when a Judge is forced to make final decisions, both parties usually do not walk away with everything they fought for.

The rules of real estate in a divorce

It is not uncommon for divorce settlement negotiations to become deadlocked over a marital residence. When both spouses wish to keep the real estate, the claws can come out with a vengeance. There are a few ways in which real estate ownership can be determined or decided by a Judge.

The very first question that will be asked of a divorcing couple is when was the property purchased, and who purchased it. If the property was owned prior to the marriage by one spouse, it may be considered a premarital asset and still belong exclusively to that spouse after the divorce if it was not used for marital purposes. This means that the couple did not live in the home after marriage, nor did they jointly receive rental or any other income from the property. In other words, it was not the marital home, and rental income was not deposited in any kind of joint account. If the spouses lived in the home and it became their marital residence, then it is considered a marital asset and should be split between the parties in some manner. The same is true for property purchased after a marriage.

Social media and child custody: Do you know what you’re doing?

When you decide to divorce, there's a good chance you won't be getting along with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. This can lead you to say things you don't mean, including on social media.

Since there's so much at stake during your divorce, including matters regarding child custody, you don't want to use social media in the wrong way. Here are four tips you can follow to avoid trouble:

  • Refrain from talking poorly about the other individual: As tempting as it may be to disparage the other individual on social media, doing so will only increase tension. Depending on what you say, it can also work against you in regard to child custody.
  • Don't retaliate: If the other person is saying negative things about you on social media, you may be tempted to jump in and defend yourself. Rather than do this, ignore the comments but save them for later use.
  • Don't share your location: Depending on the social platform, others may see where you are located when sharing an update. This can work against you in many ways, such as if the other individual has shown a violent side in the past.
  • Keep it private: The best way to avoid social media trouble is to stay off of these platforms altogether. If this isn't an option, keep your profile private so only you and select people can see your updates. However, even if you take this step, you still shouldn't say anything about the other person. If you have a mutual friend, for example, this person may show your ex what you're saying.

Reasons to avoid family law litigation by using mediation

There is one point we would like to make regarding litigation, which is that it is not often a friendly process. In matters, such as custody, where parties will be required to communicate for years to come, litigation can create feelings of anger or resentment that affect the parties' abilities to act amicably towards each other. Once arguments in a courtroom open, the gloves come off and the very public war begins.

There are many reasons to avoid family law litigation whenever possible, but we would like to give you what we believe are several great reasons to utilize mediation.

How are retirement funds divided in a divorce?

Often times a retirement fund is the largest pot of money at stake within a divorce. Therefore, it probably goes without saying that it is also often a great source of contention. There are rules in place that determine how a retirement account can be distributed, and to whom.

When going through a divorce, the first thing any party should make sure of is that he or she is retaining an attorney who is knowledgeable in retirement fund disbursement procedures and qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO.) The QDRO is very important. It is a document separate from a divorce decree. Its purpose is to specifically set out how much each spouse receives from a fund in the future. It will be the order by which a retirement fund administrator will perform its disbursement. When these disbursements are not completed correctly, they can easily result in disastrous tax consequences for one party.

Divorce through a child's eyes

Children experience divorce differently based on their age at the time of separation. From infant to toddler to pre-teen, each age group has its own perspectives, responses, and understanding. In the paragraphs below, we provide a breakdown of age appropriate responses and potential concerns from each group.

A newborn infant, up to 18 months old, is not going to understand what is happening. Though children this young may not yet express feelings verbally, they can sense tension and conflict. In turn, this can often cause them to become leery of strangers, and very clingy to the parents. They may exhibit more frequent fits or tantrums.

Things to consider before relocating a child after divorce

In our digital day and age, it is quite common for couples to initially meet, and communicate for some time, over the internet. Often, the parties reside miles apart, or even in another state or country. Should these relationship blossom, couples should be aware of a relocation scenario that could take place after a divorce that involving children, as well as the potential problems that could arise from it.

Julie married her high school sweetheart, Mark, 10 years ago, and they had two beautiful children who are now six and eight years old. As Julie and Mark got older, they grew apart and eventually decided to get a divorce. Since the divorce, Julie decided to sign up for a dating website where she met and ultimately fell in love with the man of her dreams. They would now like to get married and live life in the same household. However, she and the children, as well as the children's father, reside in Tennessee. Her soon-to-be husband resides and works in California. He has asked Julie to relocate herself and the children there.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator


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Needham, MA 02494

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