Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

Franklin Legal Blog

Child custody: Always do what's best for your kids

Your divorce is a traumatic time for you, but it is also going to be a time of big changes for your children. This can be hard to deal with because you want your children to have a happy life that is filled with security and love. During the divorce, you are going to have to make a concerted effort to make this happen.

Keeping your children protected might be easier if you and your ex can get along and agree on what's best for the kids. If there is a time when you can't work with the other parent, you might find that things become more challenging, but the same principles can help.

Child custody changes for popular reality television pair

Massachusetts residents who watch reality television may be familiar with the drama that surrounds the cast of Southern Charm. While many of the antics that the cast members get involved with are sensational events that drive the show's popularity, two individuals who have been involved with the production are now caught in a very real drama surrounding their kids. Kathryn Dennis and Thomas Ravenel recently went to court and had their child custody plan changed.

The parties share two young children and have had a contentious relationship for several years. Divided by disagreements, legal challenges, and allegations of substance abuse, Dennis and Ravenel shared custody of their kids on a week-to-week basis until recently. A judge recently ordered the pair to retain temporary joint custody of their kids with Dennis having the kids one week night per week and every other long weekend.

How long does it take to complete a Massachusetts divorce?

The decision to divorce is a difficult one, and once a Massachusetts resident decides that they want to end their marriage they may want to bring about that result as quickly as possible. Though divorces can resolve quickly, readers should know that the unique factors that apply to their divorces, as well as the types of divorce that they wish to pursue, can greatly influence its duration. Different divorces will resolve under different time lines, and no reader should take the contents of this blog as advice on how their divorce may unfold.

In order to get a divorce in Massachusetts the party filing the action must satisfy certain residency requirements. Those requirements may oblige them to live in the state for at least one year before they can file, which may lengthen the amount of time that they have to wait to initiate the legal action. Readers should talk to their attorneys about whether they have satisfied the residency requirement for filing.

Put kids first as the school year approaches

Although Massachusetts children may be lamenting that the final few weeks of summer have arrived, their parents may be excited to get back to the routine of school days and extracurricular activities. As families begin to work out the details of their academic year lives, they may discover that changes in school hours, new student responsibilities, and other commitments will affect the child custody plans they are currently using. Before the school year starts, parents may wish to look at their parenting plans and custody schedules to make sure their children will not be impacted.

Attorney Susan Rossi takes a child-focused approach to changes to custody plans and parenting responsibilities. With the understanding that courts attempt to protect the best interests of children when they create and sign off on such agreements and orders, attorney Rossi counsels her clients through difficult decisions that will ultimately give their children the support and care that they need.

The end of a Massachusetts spousal support order

Spousal support is sometimes called alimony and it involves the payment of money from an individual to their former spouse. It can take on several different forms in Massachusetts and its duration can vary greatly from divorce to divorce. When spousal support is ordered during a divorce the paying spouse often wonders how long they will be bound to their ex through spousal support, and outside of individual support agreements and orders there are events that result in the termination of support requirements.

One event that can end a spousal support obligation is the remarriage of the recipient spouse. When a person finds a new legal partner their ex is no longer obligated to support them. Individuals who choose to cohabitate with new partners prior to or in lieu of marriage may also discover that their exes are no longer bound to provide them with financial help.

Are there options after divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is an alternative path to ending a marriage that some Massachusetts couples may wish to try instead of litigation in the courts. Parties that mediate their divorce often find satisfaction in taking control of the process and having a strong role in the outcomes that will dictate their post-divorce future. However, though many couples that start the mediation process end up with workable agreements, others may not reach these goals.

Mediation happens through discussion and negotiation. Parties may choose to start mediation but may later learn that they are unable to have productive and civil discourse with their ex. When it is impossible for the parties to speak respectfully to each other, mediation may not succeed.

Handling a late teen during your divorce: They still need support

As a parent, you know your child best. You know how mature they are and if they are able to recover well when dealing with bad or shocking news. The idea of going through a divorce might not phase you, because you're an adult and have been preparing for it. However, if your teen doesn't yet know, it's time to think about how you want to approach this delicate situation.

Since your teen is already driving and old enough to take care of themselves, you may think that they won't need much support to adjust to this divorce. That could not be further from the truth. While teens may be somewhat better equipped to handle the physical parts of the divorce, like driving to mom's or dad's house or staying home alone for a few hours when their parents are at work, the reality is that the psychological aspects of divorce still impact them.

An invalid premarital agreement can affect divorce proceedings

A premarital agreement, sometimes called a prenuptial agreement, is a contract that two people enter into before they get married and use to settle some of the financial matters they may confront during their lives together. Premarital agreements cannot address issues related to the parties' children, nor may they include actions or activities that are illegal. Massachusetts residents should be aware that premarital agreements, whether deemed valid or invalid, can affect the outcomes of divorce proceedings.

Valid premarital agreements are those that do not contain prohibited content and that demonstrate the true agreement of the parties concerning certain topics. A valid premarital agreement may truncate divorce proceedings to the extent that certain decisions, often concerning property and money, have been addressed therein. When parties to a divorce have executed a valid premarital agreement they have already addressed certain divorce-related matters and settled them.

What is separate property in a divorce?

Although a divorce is an opportunity for individuals to find new beginnings in their lives, they often require sacrifice and compromise on the part of both parties. Some couples choose to mediate their divorces, while others use the courts to litigate the ends of their marriages. No matter how a Massachusetts couple decides to bring about a divorce, the parties must address certain important issues, one of which is how to settle the division of their property.

Any property owned by both parties or property that is considered marital property is subject to division during a divorce. Massachusetts follows the principles of equitable division for divorce-related property matters, which means that the courts seek to find a fair resolution to property division matters. However, when individuals own property separate and apart from their soon-to-be exes, that property will be considered separate property and will not be involved in the property division process.

Custody, parenting, and matters of faith

Not every Massachusetts family chooses to affiliate with a church or set of religious beliefs. In some families, the parents of shared children may actively practice different religions or be members of different religious institutions. Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals have the freedom to choose what religion, if any, they will incorporate into their lives.

While religious freedom is a right enjoyed by adults, children are often expected and required to participate in the religious practices of their parents. Despite their protestations, a child may be taken to church every Sunday, enrolled in various faith-based classes, and expected to achieve religious advancement over time. When parents agree on how faith will be incorporated into their child's life, this may be a relatively straightforward practice. When parents cannot find a common ground on matters of faith, religion may become a contested parenting issue.

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Susan Rossi Cook, Attorney and Mediator

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Needham, MA 02494

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