The divorce process is never as quick as one expects it to be regardless of how amicable the Parties are with one another. The fact is, most divorces are not amicable and the timeline for the process could range from one to a few years before a judgment of divorce is granted. Given the length of time a divorce could take from the initial break-up to the final divorce it is not uncommon for one or both of the Parties to date. Depending on the contested issues between you and your spouse, dating during your divorce could be a very delicate situation and your divorce attorney should be made aware of any romantic relationship you are engaging in.
My advice to anyone on dating while going through a contested divorce case would be “don’t do it”. It’s not that it’s “illegal” to do so, but only that dating during this time is inflammatory to the other spouse who may be unusually hostile, uncompromising or defiant in response. Dating while the children are experiencing the family divorce can also create additional insecurities and conflicts, including interrogations of the children by the other spouse about your dating life.
However, if you must date here are a few basic dating Do’s and Don’ts you should be aware of:
Keep all finances separate, and do not pay for any dates, trips or gifts until your divorce.
Keep your romantic status off of social media – this includes pictures, status updates and address changes.
Most importantly, keep your dating life separate from your family life…in other words do not introduce your significant other to your children, your divorce attorney will thank you for it!
Most likely your divorce agreement/judgment will have to be modified at some time in the future, especially if you have children. Issues such as child support, parenting plans, and health insurance benefits are likely “merged” into your final divorce agreement and therefore are modifiable.
The most common reasons for modifying a child support order are:
If, under the current Massachusetts child support guidelines, the amount owed is less than or greater than the amount of child support in the original divorce;
Your health insurance premiums have increased or decreased since the date of your last child support judgment OR the other parent can now get more affordable health insurance than he/she could have in the past; or
A material and substantial change in circumstances has occurred since your last child support judgment which would warrant an increase or decrease in your child support order. The most common change in circumstances are an increase and/or decrease in the incomes of either parent, a change in the child’s living arrangement, and a child’s attendance at college.
It is important to remember that you should file a Complaint for modification of child support IMMEDIATELY following the change in in circumstances. A Judge can only apply the new child support amount retroactive to the day the Complaint for Modification was served on the opposing party. In other words, if you lose your job but do not file and serve your Complaint for Modification until six (6) months later , a Judge will not be able to modify the child support amount for that six (6) month period.
If you or someone you know is looking to modify an existing agreement or order, please call Grossman & Associates, Ltd. at 617-969-0069.
Break-ups bring about many emotional challenges, regardless of whether you are the “break-uper” or the “break-upee”. The additional challenge of having your relationship played out in a courtroom and feeling as though every one of your actions are being monitored can be overwhelming. Understanding, identifying and releasing your emotions can be therapeutic in dealing with a broken heart, but this should be a private matter. The truth is that when you are going through a divorce or paternity action your actions ARE being monitored and the best legal advice we can give you is: Never, ever put anything in writing you don’t want published on the front page of the newspaper.
Emotions can take control of your thinking, behavior and actions. As a result your judgment is impaired. Texting, emailing, Facebooking or using other forms of social media to air your feelings about your ex into the late hours of the night must STOP. I don’t know of one time that any social media posting or text/email writing to an ex was helpful, but I do know of many, many, many times it has hurt the writer’s case. Writing in a journal, talking to a friend or a therapist are healthy ways to express your feelings and help your case. DO NOT compromise your case by sending nasty, hostile or threatening communications to your spouse during the divorce.
One of the biggest challenges facing clients who are involved in a custody dispute is remembering to keep their children, the subject of the dispute, out of it. How successful or unsuccessful you are with this challenge could make or break your position with the judge in your case.
3 important things to remember:
While honesty and open communication is key to continuing a healthy relationship with your children, the play by play or status of your on-going custody case should never be a part of any conversation that you have with your children. Instead, reassure the children that you and your spouse are working together and will let the children know when there is resolution.
Discussing your ex’s past transgressions or their lack of parenting skills in the presence of your children will only hurt your children. These “conversations” that you may be having with your friends or family members while your children are within earshot are what judges often refer to as “disparaging remarks” and judges have little patience or tolerance for and neither parent should disparage the other parent in front of the children. Set an example for how your children should act. While you may have nothing good to say about your spouse keep your real feelings to yourself so you not fueling the fire.
Asking your children to choose between you and your ex is never acceptable – never. Your responsibility as a parent is to prioritize your children’s well-being before your own. Divorce makes children feel vulnerable and fearful. Reassure your children that they are important and you will always take care of them.
The Probate and Family Courts in Middlesex and Norfolk Counties (which are located in Cambridge and Canton) have developed a Lawyer of the Day Program in partnership with the Administrative Offices of the Court and various Bar Associations. Attorneys like us are asked to volunteer our time to provide justice to pro se litigants (i.e., those representing themselves).
As part of our firm philosophy, Suzana and I served as Lawyers of the Day in 2016 and annually before this, each providing a full day of legal services to those who appear at the courthouse and are in need assistance. It was a grueling day full of sad circumstances. My experience included two sisters in their early twenties who needed help becoming guardians for their 13 year old brother and disabled sister. Their father recently died and their mother had disappeared. The disabled sister was in a facility which wanted to transfer her but her Mother was unavailable to authorize the move. The brother was being raised by his older sisters and the school needed to know who was legally in charge. Other cases were similarly heart-wrenching.
Volunteering in the court made it clear how hard our court personnel work to help the public, and the toll it takes dealing with the circumstances of the less fortunate.
While Suzana and I volunteer our legal skills, and I volunteer as a Board member at two non-profit organizations, Patryce volunteers and serves as an Ambassador for the Newton/Needham Chamber of Commerce and at her church where she serves on the scholarship committee. She is in charge of welcoming new members to the Chamber and promoting community development. There is no question that Patryce makes them feel welcome.
The decision “when to say when” with regards to ending your marriage is not a decision that is made after one day of thought, but rather over weeks, months and sometimes years. Moving forward with a divorce is a life altering decision. Because divorce affects almost every facet of your life it is not uncommon that we share our thoughts and feelings with friends, family members or even our attorneys prior to moving forward. No one other than you can make that final decision, but there are 3 questions you should certainly ask yourself before starting a divorce:
No regrets – One of the main reasons why making major life changing decisions is so difficult is that we are afraid that we will regret the decision in hindsight. However, if you exhaust every option to make your marriage work, i.e., effective communication with your partner, marriage counseling, etc. prior to making your decision, it will help relieve you of future feelings of regret.
Choosing yourself over your partner – It is not uncommon that while one person is incredibly unhappy in their marriage, their partner is happy, or at least sufficiently tolerant, with the state of their relationship. Disregarding your genuine feelings of marital unhappiness and dissatisfaction to avoid the guilt you may feel in disappointing your partner can lead you to depression, resentment and other physical symptoms. To stay true to your heart and to yourself some action might be needed prior to choosing divorce. Taking action is empowering.
What is best for your children – Staying together for the sake of the children is an outdated idea and a bad one. The fact that both of you are not sleeping in the same room, or under the same roof, is not reason enough to stay in an unhappy marriage. What is best for your children is to ensure that they grow up with parents who are stable, focused, and able to provide guidance and love to their children.
Contact Grossman & Associates, Ltd. for guidance if you are thinking about a divorce at 617.969.0069.
One of the most challenging issues a parent going through a divorce has to deal with is what and how to tell their children about their divorce. The heartbreak and sadness a parent feels as a result of the breakdown of the partnership they once had with their spouse often pales in comparison to the stress and concern one goes through when they think of their own child’s heartbreak and sadness over their divorce.
Although not an easy conversation to have with your children there are a few pointers that are important to keep in mind when discussing divorce with your children:
Honesty is the best policy – Telling your children the truth about why their parents are breaking up without disparaging the other parent can be a hard pill to swallow. Sticking to simple and honest explanations like “We can’t get along anymore” is enough information to ensure your children that your divorce is not a result of anything your children have done.
Reassurance – You can never say “I love you” too many times to your children during this time. Reassuring your children that although the feelings both you and your spouse have for each other may have changed, the feelings you and your spouse have for the children will never change.
Prepare them for the new normal – The uncertainty of what to expect in the future can create anxiety in children. Laying out a plan regarding living arrangements and parenting schedules can help ease a child’s concerns about their relationships with each of their parents, and their day-to-day routines.
Divorce can be heartbreaking, traumatic and painful for both spouses regardless of who initiated the break-up. The length of time that it takes for a person to move on and heal from their divorce varies case by case and person to person.
People often believe the overwhelming feelings of sadness and unhappiness that they experience while going through the divorce process are the result of mourning the loss of their spouse and the life they had once shared together. It is not uncommon that we recreate and distort our memories, subconsciously filtering our recollection of events through rose-colored glasses while completely dismissing the negative memories.
Although no two divorces are the same, the breakdown of any marriage is rarely, if ever caused by one single event, followed by an immediate filing for divorce from one or both spouses. The path that leads people to divorce is usually a long, sad and lonely one and as creatures of habit we gradually adapt to accepting whatever life we find ourselves in instead of looking for a happier and more satisfying life. Unfortunately, sometimes the path to living a satisfying and happy life can only happen by confronting the sharp pain of ending a chapter in your life in preparation for a new beginning. Just like ripping off a band-aid, it hurts in the beginning – a lot– and then one day it doesn’t. You soon find that you are able to look forward and not back, replacing the sad and lonely days that you thought you missed, with happy and fulfilling ones.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Gautama Buddha
Experienced divorce attorneys know what holding onto anger looks like from the eyes of a betrayed spouse. The betrayed spend emotional energy defying, resisting, delaying and even punishing their betrayers. Despite the warnings and guidance of their attorneys, the betrayed are on their own emotional journeys while their attorneys follow at a close distance with a broom and dustpan to manage the mess. Volatile emails and text messages between spouses escalate. Sometimes the spouses enlist the children for support. Excessive spending on legal fees and other expenses increase. These are the most common ways the betrayed will attempt to punish their exes and the most damaging to them both emotionally and financially. Sometimes an apology soothes the anger, and on other occasions it is a disappointing exercise.
The betrayer is no better. Instead of contrition, the betrayer is emboldened by the new relationship, encouraged to fight back, inflames the conflict by introducing the children to the new relationship, or becoming less available to them, and retaliates with financial withholding and communication black-outs.
How can these reactions be managed? Here are our top 3 “Helpful” techniques:
Take Care of You First – Find a therapist to acknowledge and redirect emotional reactions; make time for yourself; exercise; meditation; a healthier lifestyle.
Avoid Engaging with Your Ex – This is more difficult when children are involved but isolating yourself from their social media websites and intentional run-ins will ease your anxiety and heighten your ex’s curiosity. Take the emotion out of your interactions. Adopt new flexibility techniques and avoid being too reactive.
Keep Busy – Time heals wounds. Being busy makes your time more constructive and reduces your focus on the conflict. Forming new and building on current friendships brings new dimensions to fill in the missing pieces.
Getting divorced is one of the worst times in a person’s adult life. It can rarely be considered a positive experience. Minimizing the bad experience and keeping you healthy to live happy again is the goal.
Although not a common occurrence, a Motion to Dismiss is an available tool to a pending Complaint for Contempt or Modification. If the motion is allowed the pending complaint ends by dismissal. The motion usually involves an additional hearing, a hold in litigating the underlying complaint, and additional legal fees.
A Motion to Dismiss may be asserted as a defense for any of the following reasons under Rule 12 (b):
Lack of Jurisdiction over the subject matter;
Lack of jurisdiction over the person;
Insufficiency of process;
Insufficiency of service of process;
Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted;
Failure to join a party under Rule 19;
Misnomer of a party; and
Pendency of a prior action in a court of the Commonwealth.
Although all of these nine (9) defenses are theoretically available, number six (6) – Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted – is most commonly used. This defense forces the court to evaluate the facts claimed in the Plaintiff’s complaint and determine whether the facts, if true, would lead to the relief the Plaintiff is seeking. If so, then the Motion to Dismiss must be denied. If not, the motion is allowed and the case is over. Filing a Motion to Dismiss is an appropriate tool to throw out a frivolous case.
There are certain cases where a Motion to Dismiss will certainly fail. For instance, on a defense of laches (delay in bringing an action) for unpaid child support and/or alimony. In other words, one can file a Complaint to collect unpaid child support and/or alimony even though a long period of time has passed. Grossman & Associates, Ltd. recently defeated a Motion to Dismiss brought by an ex-husband/father who unilaterally terminated his alimony/child support obligation in 1998. The case will go on to determine how much he still owes.