Massachusetts Divorce Bill Gets Personal

Gavel

A Massachusetts lawmaker recently proposed a bill that dives deep into the personal lives of divorcing couples. Republican State Senator Richard Ross proposed bill S787, which mandates that divorcing couples, who have a child or children, abstain from sexual intercourse or romantic interludes during a separation. According to a report in Kentucky Newsday, Ross created this bill at the request of a constituent. The bill states, in part:

‘In divorce, separation, or 209A proceedings involving children and a marital home, the party remaining in the home shall not conduct a dating or sexual relationship within the home until a divorce is final and all financial and custody issues are resolved, unless the express permission is granted by the courts.’

If the bill becomes law, divorcing parties, with children, will need to obtain permission from a judge before dating or having sexual relations within the marital home. This means that the spouse who remains in the martial house cannot bring any party into the home for romantic purposes. From the language of the bill, it appears that this provision even includes any romantic relations between the divorcing couple. Couples with no children would not be held to this requirement.

The senator has taken substantial criticism for the bill from the media and Massachusetts residents. He answers by asserting that he filed it solely at the request of a loyal voter. Ross explains that the constituent endured a very difficult divorce process and asked him to create this bill that would directly address this sensitive issue among separated couples. The physical bill contains the words “by request,” meaning that the senator is proposing the legislation, even though he disagrees with it himself.

Massachusetts Law About Separation

Currently, under Massachusetts divorce law, there is no prohibition on sexual relations, between a married couple, during the separation period. In some states, divorcing parties are required to give testimony and affirm that they are no longer living together or having sexual relations. If the court finds that the couple engaged in sex during the separation period, the divorce request may be possibly denied. Massachusetts divorce law does not include this mandate. If this new bill is passed, divorcing couples, with children, will not only have to notify the court of any plans for a sexual relationship, but wait for the judge to grant permission before carrying through with their plans. The bill gives no direction about enforcement, which is a substantial problem. Questions abound about how the spouse will request permission and how much information the court will require. In addition, what method of review will the judge utilize to make a determination on the issue?

These issues may explain why the Bill S787 is not seeing much success in the Massachusetts legislature. It was originally proposed in early 2013, but it was not until last week that it was first discussed in Senate hearings. On March, 20, 2014, the bill was granted an extension for consideration until June 30, according to reports. Ross has not expressed much enthusiasm for the success of the bill, stating it is “going nowhere is the legislature.”

Separation and divorce are complex issues. If you and your spouse are considering divorce, call the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC at (781)285-8989 for collaborative representation through the complexities of the divorce process.

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Preparing Your Finances for a Collaborative Divorce

Wedding Hands

A recent report by ABC News discusses the economics of divorce. The end of a marriage can prove financially and emotionally devastating for both parties, especially when the spouses are communicating with one another in a negative and uncooperative manner. A collaborative divorce is one where the parties come to a mutual agreement, without interference from the court system. According to the ABC News report, advanced planning can help make the divorce process easier for all involved.

Separation of Assets

The report advises parties to divide their shared assets by closing joint bank accounts and credit cards. Disagreements about shared debts can quickly derail an amicable separation. Establish personal accounts to protect your own personal assets.

The article also suggests that separated parties monitor their credit reports for any suspicious or unauthorized activity because spouses typically have access to the Social Security number of the other spouse. You want to make sure that your spouse is not opening accounts in your name.

Learn About Your Financial Options

The article points out the importance of financial management during the divorce process. Review the status of all bank accounts and debts with your attorney to establish a clear picture of your situation. Your attorney can assist you with identifying your options and deciding which alternative is best. If you are mediating an amicable divorce, your lawyer may only need to talk with your spouse to make some mutual decisions. If the two of you are unable to reach an agreement, a third party mediator is of valuable assistance during this stage in the process.

CBS Money Watch recently published a similar article to advise consumers about divorce and financial planning. The article discusses the challenges of a divorce and how stress sometimes influences parties to make quick, knee-jerk financial decisions in hopes of promptly ending the marriage. However, settling without a well-thought plan can reportedly lead to financial ruin in the months or years following a divorce. To avoid this conclusion, the CBS money article also provides several planning tips:

Seek Help to Answer the “What If” Questions

According to the article, a certified divorce financial analyst can help you consider the status of your finances under various possible scenarios. The article advises that these professionals are specifically trained to “help you see in black and white what your finances and life will look like under different scenarios.” The analyst can provide your attorney with valuable information to assist in the collaborative process.

Don’t Let the Divorce Consume You

Parties to a divorce tend to become completely consumed by the process and the feelings involved. Particularly in a contentious divorce, negative thoughts and emotions can smother one’s well being. The article suggests that parties continue to participate in activities that they enjoy throughout the divorce process. “Whatever it is that gave you joy and fulfillment, add it back to your schedule,” advises the author. Maintaining a healthy balance can be beneficial to the process as well. High emotions and stress can lead to irrational and non productive encounters between you and your soon to be ex-spouse. When both parties are emotionally and mentally balanced, a collaborative process can be beneficial to everyone.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, call the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC. With mediation services and collaborative representation, the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC stands apart from other divorce firms. Contact the office at (781) 285-8989 for a consultation today.

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Paltrow’s “Conscious Uncoupling” May Benefit Children of Divorce

Gwyneth Paltrow

Earlier this week, actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced that she and musician husband, Chris Martin, are separating after ten years of marriage. While the tabloids excitedly reported about the break up announcement, her words to describe the separation caused even more of a stir. In a joint statement on her lifestyle website, Paltrow and her husband stated, “We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.”  It is the phrase “consciously uncouple” that is at the center of the controversy.

According to a CBS News report, “conscious uncoupling” is a term created by Los Angeles family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. The relationship author is the creator of a website that purports to provide a five step program for couples to consciously uncouple from one another. Thomas states that she has never counseled Paltrow and Martin. However, she applauds the couple’s commitment to an “honorable ending” of their marriage. Though news outlets are buzzing with criticism of Paltrow’s statement and Thomas’ theories, numerous studies support the value of the message that they are sending.

Effects of a Contentious Divorce on Children

Divorces are notoriously characterized as contentious and messy. It is a situation where two people, who once loved each other enough to exchange vows, are now pitted against one another in a heated battle, each trying to gain leverage over the other. The website, TwoOfUs.org, is a project of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC). According to a report published on the site, parental behavior during a divorce greatly influences the effects of divorce on the children. Often, the only positive aspect of a divorce, from a child’s perspective, is the end of an embattled household. If negative interactions continue during the divorce process, the children continue to be affected by the parents’ bad behaviors, instead of being freed from the negativity of the marriage. The “honorable ending” promoted by Katherine Woodward Thomas is seemingly advantageous for the children of divorce. According to the NHMRC report, the development of a respectful co-parenting relationship is vital to a child’s well being and emotional health.

Mediating an “Honorable Ending”

Divorcing individuals can promote a positive post-marital relationship by starting the divorce process with a respectful and collaborative approach. Mediation can be an effective tool during the dissolution of a marriage. The process includes the parties and a neutral mediator who works to create a mutual agreement between the parties, negating the need for intervention by the courts. Mediation provides a valuable opportunity for divorcing parents to show their children how to resolve disputes in a respectful and cooperative manner.

If you and your spouse aspire to have a respectful and peaceful divorce, let the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC guide you through the process. Offering mediation services and collaborative representation, the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC stands apart from other divorce attorneys by offering its clients cost-effective representation. Contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC at (781) 285-8989 for a free consultation today.

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Cohabitation Does Not Lead to Divorce

Recent research by the Wedding RingCouncil on Contemporary Families, a nonpartisan family research organization, suggests that premarital cohabitation is not an accurate predictor of divorce, without additional considerations. According to the report, there has been a long held perception among social scientists that living together before marriage increases the likelihood of divorce in the future. Despite the continuous increase in cohabitation, many relationship experts have relentlessly warned couples against “shacking up,” claiming that the practice will most likely result in a broken marriage. Researchers are now finding that the age of a cohabiting couple is a better indicator of marital longevity.

Professor Arielle Kuperburg of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, was one of the lead researchers on the study. She asserts that the best predictor of divorce is the age at which a couple begins living together. Couples who move in together prior to the age of 23 years old are more likely to divorce in the future. This reportedly holds true whether they begin cohabiting before or after marriage. Kuperburg explains that the lower maturity levels and economic instability of younger people contribute to this result. Alternatively, older couples who live together, before or after marriage, have a significantly higher chance at a long lasting marriage. Additionally, the study indicated that the longer a couple waits before cohabiting, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage.

To explain the years of reportedly inaccurate information, Kuperberg explains that couples who live together before marriage tend to be younger and that little research has been completed with a controlled age variable. Therefore, studies suggested a direct correlation between cohabitation and divorce rates. The Council on Contemporary Families was the first to study cohabitation trends, with a controlled age variable, and thus the results were significantly different. Other independent studies also dispute the correlation between cohabitation and divorce. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control released a study that supported the notion that living together during an engagement does not increase the chances of divorce.

Massachusetts’ Consideration of Cohabitation

In the state of Massachusetts, cohabiting individuals are not given the same protections or rights as married couples. However, cohabitation is considered in Massachusetts domestic law. In the divorce case, Moriarty vs. Stone, 41 Mass. App. Ct. 151, the court noted that a family court judge may consider the “circumstances [of the parties] prior to the marriage and, more specifically, the parties’ contributions during a period of cohabitation in fashioning an equitable division.” This means that, if you are in the midst of a divorce and you cohabited with your partner prior to marriage, your premarital contributions to the relationship may be considered by the judge when making a determination about property distribution.

Hire an Experienced Family Law Attorney

An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether your financial contributions during cohabitation should be considered for property distribution. The Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC stands apart from other divorce attorneys by offering its clients skilled and cost-effective representation. Contact the Law Offices of Martin Murphy LLC at (781) 285-8989 for a free consultation today.
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Who are the Parties Involved in a Collaborative Law Divorce?

Divorce

Depending upon the situation, there may be several different parties involved in a collaborative law divorce. Each individual’s participation in the collaborative session is geared towards helping the parties reach a fair agreement in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Collaborative Lawyer

Even though one of the main goals of collaborative law is to avoid going to court, the settlement the parties reach at the end of a collaborative session remains a binding legal agreement. Accordingly, it is important to have an experienced collaborative attorney to assist the parties on all matters of law, including spousal support, child support, and child custody, as well as financial settlements and property distribution. The couple and their collaborative attorneys commit to share necessary information to work towards an agreement that best represents the needs and desires of each party.

Divorce Coach

In Massachusetts, typically one neutral coach is used in a collaborative law divorce case. A divorce coach is a licensed mental health professional that brings specialized skills to the collaborative session. The divorce coach’s role is to help the parties prioritize their concerns and needs, deal with their feelings and differences in healthy ways, stay focused on their goals by neutralizing or minimizing destructive emotions, communicate effectively with each other, with their lawyers, and with their children, and provide them with tools for positive co-parenting going forward.

Financial Specialist

The guidance of a financial specialist in a collaborative law case will help protect each party’s financial interest. A financial specialist is someone with one or more financial certifications, who acts as a neutral expert in a collaborative law case. The financial specialist reviews each party’s assets and incomes, as well as debts and liabilities. A financial specialist will also analyze how different scenarios for property division, child support, and alimony would play out in the future. The financial specialist then assists the parties in analyzing and evaluating viable financial options for the parties’ futures.

Child Specialist

A traditional divorce is especially difficult on children. This is partly due to the fact that children are not well equipped to understand or express their feelings, and communication with their parents during a divorce becomes difficult. In a collaborative practice, however, the welfare of any children takes top priority. A person skilled in understanding children’s wants and needs, known as a child specialist, will meet with children privately, helping them express their feelings and concerns about the divorce. The child specialist encourages children to think creatively about the future. The child specialist then relays the children’s feelings, concerns, and hopes to the collaborative team. By utilizing a child specialist, the team is better equipped to plan for the children’s lives after the agreement is finalized.

Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Collaborative Law Attorney

All parties involved in a collaborative law case share a common goal: to work with the parties in a results-focused environment, in order to reach an agreement without having to enter the traditional adversarial court system. If you or someone you know is interested in this results-oriented approach to resolving disputes, contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy or call (781) 285-8989 today.

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Divorce Celebrations – Harmless Fun or Potentially Damaging?

Head in Hands

The end of a marriage often brings mixed emotions: disappointment that the dream of happily ever after has ended; relief to be moving on from a relationship that was fraught with tension, anger, and acrimony; and if the couple had children, sadness that time spent with the children will be split in a custody agreement.

But for some members of the newly divorced crowd, when “‘til death do us part” ends before the couple’s actual death, it’s not a time to mourn – it’s a time to celebrate.

Divorce Parties

Divorce parties are alive and well, judging from the most recent spate of photos depicting divorce cakes collected on The Huffington Post’s divorce page. Many are created with the same elaborate detail that went into choosing the wedding cake, and depict everything from the bride pushing the groom in a freefall off the top of a three-tiered cake, to beheaded husbands, to a husband happily driving off in a sports car, his bride looking dejected as he zooms off, leaving her behind in a pool of shattered dreams and frosting. There are even party planners who focus solely on throwing celebration bashes for the newly single.

But are they really a good idea?

Negative Impact on the Children

It’s true that some couples are better off divorced. For those living with an emotionally or physically abusive spouse, a serial philanderer or one who continually squanders the family finances, the relief felt at the marriage’s demise is understandable. And some couples may want to formally close that chapter of their life as they turn the page to the new one. But depending on how nasty the celebration is (cheering a husband on as he trades in his wife “for a classier model” is, at the very least, incredibly insensitive), it could negatively impact the children.

Most children of divorce – especially the very young – often feel that the divorce was their fault, despite their parents’ repeated assurances that it was not. Recent studies show that children of divorce reported having a less secure relationship with their parents, and grow up to have anxiety in their own romantic relationships.

A child who witnesses their parent openly celebrating the end of their union – especially in some of the nastier renditions, such as a husband burying his wife, or a wife celebrating that she got everything while her husband is relegated to living in a tent – could cause even greater feelings of confusion.

Negative Impact on Custody

Divorce celebrations may also negatively impact the outcome of custody proceedings.

There are a number of factors that go into a judge’s determination of which parent should be awarded primary physical custody of the children. The courts often take into consideration the ability of each parent to support a loving, ongoing relationship with the other parent, and the mental health of each parent. The non-celebratory spouse could use the outward display of celebration, especially those with an undercurrent of anger and injury, as proof that the other parent cannot meet these two criteria, and therefore should not be awarded primary custody.

If you do feel the need to celebrate the end of your divorce and usher in this new chapter of your life, talk to your Massachusetts family law attorney first to discuss whether such a celebration could negatively impact your divorce or child custody proceedings, either now or in the future.

For help on these matters, contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy at (781) 285-8989 to speak with an experienced collaborative law attorney today.
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Collaborative Law and Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreement

The past few years have seen an increase in the number of prenuptial agreements. A prenup is a contract signed by two people who are about to marry or enter into a civil union. A prenup can include a variety of different terms, but most contain provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of a divorce, death, or separation of the parties.

Prenuptial Agreements in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there are several requirements for a valid prenuptial agreement:

·      The agreement must be fair and reasonable to both parties when it is created;

·      Each party must make a full and fair disclosure of their financial status to the other party;

·      The agreement must specifically set forth the waiver of certain marital rights (e.g., the right to a court-determined alimony provision and property settlement);

·      Each party must be represented by their own attorney;

·      There must be sufficient time for each party to consider the effects of the agreement;

·      The agreement must be conscionable at the time of enforcement (i.e. the court considers whether circumstances occurring during the marriage would leave one spouse without sufficient property, maintenance, or employment to support themselves).

The Traditional Approach

Traditionally, prenups are adversarial in nature. The attorney for the party initiating the prenup believes that it is his or her duty to protect the assets of their client from the other party, instead of focusing on the joint goals of both parties. An article likens the traditional approach to “drafting a partnership agreement that contains only the ‘exit’ provisions in the event of the dissolution of the partnership.” Furthermore, prenuptial agreements often make people uncomfortable because, by their nature, the agreements include provisions that limit or eliminate altogether certain rights and assets that would belong to the other party at the end of the marriage.

Benefits of a Collaborative Approach

Collaborative law, on the other hand, offers a much simpler and more manageable approach to drafting prenuptial agreements. Under the collaborative approach, the actual agreement is drafted only after the parties have discussed what issues and concerns are most important to them. Each party has the benefit of the advice and assistance of their own collaborative attorney throughout the entire meeting. The attorneys have specialized training in working together to arrive at the best solution for both parties. By participating in these collaborative discussions, the parties are in the best position to plan for foreseeable events during their future together, such as buying a home, having children, establishing careers, and planning for the family’s protection in the event of death of one of the spouses. The entire process thus becomes more about planning for the marriage itself, instead of planning for the possible event of a divorce.

Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Collaborative Law Attorney

If you and your significant other are considering entering into a prenuptial agreement, there are many benefits to using collaborative law. If you are interested in a results-oriented approach without having to enter the traditional adversarial legal system, then collaborative law may be the best approach for you. Contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy at (781) 285-8989 to speak with an experienced collaborative law attorney today.

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The Right Parenting Plan

The kids heading off on a Disney cruise through the Bahamas with one parent may seem completely reasonable, but how about the other parent wanting to visit relatives with the kids…. in Somalia?

International travel is one of the many areas in a parenting plan where parents have to be particularly thoughtful and considerate of the future. Parents headed through a divorce might want to consider this and other important issues.

Drop Off Duty
Which parent is responsible for dropping off the kids? What happens when the kids are intentionally running late? One way to avoid the “waiting in the driveway” syndrome is to have the parent with the kids be responsible for delivering them to the other parent.

Time Off vs. Time With
In today’s economy with both parents usually working, the primary or custodial parent is often looking for some “time off.” Making sure the other parent lives up to his or her allotted time allows for the custodial parent to rest and recharge their batteries.

Sick Days, Doctors’ Appointments and No Power Days
Providing for “surprise days” and scheduled doctors’ appointments will make for a better parenting plan.

She’s a Teenager!
Preparing a flexible parenting plan that allows for the needs of a sociable teenager is wise. At the same time, it is equally important that the parents try to have a consistent voice about what is permitted behavior and what is not!

Family Traditions
If your spouse’s family has a tradition of spending the 4th of July with multi-generations in New Hampshire, are you sure you want to demand alternating all such holidays? At the same time, divorce can be all about starting new traditions with your kids. Finding the best parenting plan for your family is an important part of the divorce process.

Mediation and Collaborative Law can provide you with the best opportunity to come up with the best plan for your family. If you have any questions on finding the right parenting plan, please contact my office for a free process presentation.

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues. The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com

5 Things You Need To Do To Get The Most Out of Your Divorce Mediation

1. Be Flexible

Don’t begin a mediation fixated or stuck on one outcome for a particular topic. Whether it relates to the kids, the house, or the retirement accounts, flexibility can often lead to options that result in a better outcome than what you “had to have” at the beginning of the process.

2. Be Prepared

Most seasoned mediators will provide their clients with an agenda for each meeting containing a list of topics that have been agreed upon. Be ready to discuss those topics as best you possibly can. Being unprepared will often lead to a meeting that is far less productive.

3. Be Advised

While a mediator may help educate a couple on a particular topic, neutrality prevents him or her from advocating for either party. Someone going through mediation is often best served by meeting with an attorney twice: once at the beginning of the process to understand his or her rights and responsibilities and again at the end of the process to review the proposed agreement.

4. Be Proactive

Your mediation is an opportunity for you to help plan for your future. Parenting issues, the fair and reasonable division of assets, and the handling of marital liabilities may all have a very significant impact on your new life moving forward. Truly engage in the process and help set the course for your new future.

5. Be Forward-Looking

While there are many times in life to “look back.” mediation is often not one of them. While you may need to briefly speak about the past to inform the present, mediation is really about coming up with a plan for the future. You have begun the divorce process because you don’t want to keep repeating the past. Let mediation be one of the first steps away from the past and towards a brighter future.

 

While this is not an exhaustive list of approaches, if you follow these five steps you will maximize the benefits you receive from your divorce mediation. If you have a question about how these steps may help you or about mediation in general, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues. The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com

Every Minute Counts

My wife and I enjoy the HBO series called Nurse Jackie. The show stars Edie Falco who plays the role of Jackie Peyton. Jackie is a nurse who suffers from drug addiction, and the show demonstrates the impact that the addiction has on her career, on her family, and on her marriage.

 

This week’s show focused on Jackie’s response to being served papers for divorce. In one scene Jackie meets with her new divorce attorney along with her friend Dr. O’Hara. The scene takes place in a conference room with world-class views of the New York City skyline. The attorney makes a number of jokes about her $700 plus rate and how “every minute counts”

 

During the discussion Jackie is pressed to recall violent events in her marriage that were the fault of her husband. While at first refusing to acknowledge any such events, Jackie is pressed by her attorney and Dr. O’Hara to make sure she comes up with some since she, as a known drug addict, should try to elevate her position in relationship to her husband’s.

 

Jackie returns to work, and with the assistance of Dr. O’Hara recalls an instance where her husband expressed his anger in a violent way to the man with whom Jackie was having an affair.  In both scenes Jackie’s hesitation to disparage her husband may be a reflection of her concern for her two daughters and how this violent characterization of their father will affect them.

 

In the end, it is the process they have chosen that creates this stress.  Litigation is adversarial, and characterization or character assassination can often be part of the process.  In cases where only two spouses are involved, they end up being hurt, angry or frustrated.  In cases like Jackie’s where children are involved, the collateral damage can be devastating.

 

Jackie is working hard on her sobriety.  Both of the parents on the show seem to be working towards keeping the best interests of their children in focus.  Where the divorce process will go and what the detrimental impact will be to the family is yet unknown.

 

For most families going through divorce, the impacts and struggles will not end with a show or a season.  Making the best choice of divorce process will most likely impact the rest of someone’s life.  It will definitely impact the children of a marriage going through divorce.

 

Martin Murphy, Esq. is a collaborative attorney and seasoned mediator. He is dedicated to using the principles and benefits of mediation and collaborative law in the general representation of businesses, their owners and in helping families facing divorce, child custody and other family law issues.  The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC located in Norwood MA, serves clients in the surrounding communities including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham., Marty can be reached at marty@martinmurphyatlaw.com