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.
Complaints for Divorce/Modifications, Motions, Pre-trial Conferences and Trials are words that may all sound the same to any non-attorney going through a divorce, modification or contempt action with a spouse.
In a series over the next few weeks we will explain the following terms:
What are Complaints for Divorce, Modification and Contempt?
What is a Motion and what can I expect?
What is Discovery and what can I expect?
What is a Pre-Trial Conference and what can I expect?
What is the timeline for these cases?
How are divorce, modification and contempt cases settled?
What is a Judgment?
The filing of a Complaint with a Court evidences the opening of a new case. In the Probate and Family Court the Complaint is a form document. Once the complaint for divorce, complaint for modification or complaint for contempt is served on the other spouse or ex-spouse your case is on the court’s tracking timeline.
A Complaint for Divorce comes in two forms: a section 1A Complaint is a complaint jointly filed by both spouses along with the Separation Agreement which indicates that you have reached agreement prior to the filing of the Complaint. A section 1B divorce is a Complaint which is not jointly filed, that is, it is filed by one spouse against the other. The first activity before the Judge is usually a Motion for Temporary Orders which establishes what we call the “new world order”. This motion is followed by discovery, a pre-trial conference and ultimately resolution by a judgment reached by either settlement or a trial before the Judge.
A Complaint for Modification is filed after the divorce is over when one spouse wants to change the current divorce judgment. To succeed in a modification case a person must prove that there has been a substantial and material change of circumstances since the divorce judgment was entered. For example, one could seek a modification for custody, child support, medical insurance or alimony if circumstances have materially changed. Modification cases can be as complicated as a divorce case and is sometimes as long and expensive.
A Complaint for Contempt is filed during or after the divorce when one person fails to do what they are obligated to do by the Court. The obligation can arise by something the Court ordered them to do or which they agreed to do voluntarily, but failed to do. Unlike the other Complaints, one for Contempt results in a hearing date assigned by the Court, not selected by either side. If someone proves that the other side is in contempt the judge can award attorneys’ fees to that person, although the amount of attorneys’ fees awarded may not be the amount actually paid or owed the attorney.
You thought choosing who you would spend the rest of your life with would be the most important decision of your life? Choosing who will help you will help you divorce the person you thought you would spending the rest of your life may just be an even bigger decision. Changing divorce lawyers is unsettling, disruptive and expensive.
The worst advice you could take from a friend or a relative is that it doesn’t matter who your lawyer is, “it won’t make a difference you will get what you get.” Even before filing for divorce, choosing the right Attorney to represent you is crucial to your case.
In order to really judge who the right lawyer is for you, you need to find and interview 3 or 4 lawyers who specialize in family law. An Attorney that has been practicing for 20 years won’t mean much to you if during their career they have only dipped their toes into the Probate and Family Court once every couple of years.
Once you have identified the 3 or 4 Attorneys you are going to meet make sure you come equipped with questions to ask each of them. A basic but efficient list includes the following:
How long have you practiced family law?
How do you approach a new case?
What is your approach to settling a case?
How quickly do you follow up with me if I call or email you?
What retainer do you require up front?Although the retainer should be within your price range, keep in mind that cheaper is not always better.
Who in your firm will work on my case and how much will I pay for their time? Ask to be introduced to others who will work on your case.
How often will I receive an accounting of my retainer?The answer should be at least once a month.
Make notes immediately following each meeting when your memory and feelings are still fresh. Important to note are the following:
Did you feel comfortable opening up to this attorney?
Did you feel intimidated by them?
Were they a good listener, or did they spend the entire time singing their own praises?
Did you feel as though this attorney would take a practical approach to your case?A practical but more expensive attorney is better than a cheaper attorney with no clear game plan.
Were they afraid to tell you something you did not want to hear?
If in the end you still have any confusion about the process, call us, we will help you!
One of the most under-recognized casualties of divorce is friendships. An invisible line is drawn in the sand among friends when rumblings of marriage trouble begin. Married friends begin discussing your marriage with each other, taking notes and comparing their marriage to yours- what they would have done differently, why that will never be them and the big one, where fault is placed.
Whether your friends side with you or your spouse is often determined by whether your friends knew you or your spouse first, and that person is the one who wins the continued friendship.
The demise of a marriage is almost never just the end of your marriage, but often the end of at least a few surrounding friendships you once counted on. But the end is always the mark of a beginning – and all good things have a beginning.
Sex, religion, money, family – the list goes on and on and depending on how many opinions you are inviting, the list will continue to grow. The more google searches you do, the more websites you will encounter with yet more advice on what destroyed your marriage.
After over a decade of working with both men and women going through the divorce process, I have heard hundreds of detailed accounts of how and why each person’s marriage ended AND THE WINNER IS…..there isn’t one.
As frustrating and anti-climactic as that news may be – any other answer would be as accurate as your daily horoscope. Of course there are similarities among all of the stories I hear where there is heartache, deception, manipulation and love lost but often one will fixate on one event or problem as being the lone perpetrator in the death of their marriage. More often than not this one event is the red herring of a combination of so many issues that were really destroying one’s relationship as demonstrated in “His Penis Extension Broke – and 9 More Crazy Reasons People Divorced” .
The good news is that most marriages are not so fragile and one specific issue will not end decades of a marriage partnership between two people. Issues and areas of disagreement exist in all marriages whether they are successful or not, but become red herrings when one or both spouses no longer likes being in the partnership. It most likely didn’t happen overnight, and it is usually not caused by one particular event or bad decision. Just as falling in love and creating a marriage partnership is a process, so too is it’s destruction.
The new buzz in the Aaron Hernandez case is whether he will be allowed to marry his fiancé Shayanna Jenkins in prison. The marriage is an attempt to preclude Jenkins from testifying against Hernandez in his upcoming trial. I was invited to speak with Erick Weber on NECN to discuss the legality of marrying in jail and the concept of spousal privilege which gives a spouse the right to decide whether or not to testify when their spouse is on trial.