Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Massachusetts

Grandparents

With all of the difficulties that accompany a divorce proceeding, a child’s grandparents are often never considered when it comes to their rights to visitation with that child. However, as many Massachusetts residents know, close relationships with grandparents are often critical components of a child’s successful upbringing. Situations arise in which there may even be an unreasonable denial of the grandparent’s visitation rights. In these situations, guidance from an experienced attorney is a wise and prudent idea.

The Law in Massachusetts

Even though grandparents can play an important role in a child’s development, under the law, there is immense deference to birth parents in most matters. For example, if a family is “intact,” meaning that a mother and father continue together in a relationship while raising their child, then grandparents generally have no right to use the court system to seek visitation.

However, in cases where a family has broken up and a single parent is denying the grandparent access to a child, then Massachusetts statutes include specific provisions concerning visitation and the rights of grandparents to petition the court for visitation. The provision establishes a host of circumstances under which grandparents can seek to gain visitation rights with their grandchildren.

The first step in seeking visitation rights is to file a complaint and “Affidavit of Care and Custody” with the court. It is at this time that the grandparents must show one of two things: (1) An existing relationship with the child that will cause him or her harm if stopped; or (2) Even without that past relationship, contact with the child is necessary to protect them from significant harm. Most successful court challenges in these cases are based on the first option.

Importantly, there are alternatives beyond starting a prolonged court fight that may come at considerable expense and take significant time. Disagreements about visitation between parents and grandparents are often rooted in old disputes. It is easy for all parties involved to get caught up in emotions and fail to truly consider the best interests of the child. By using alternative forms of dispute resolution, like mediation, these families are often able to find common ground and reach agreements that satisfy each side.

Unlike rulings handed down by a judge, mediation is a voluntary process that does not come with any binding decisions from a third-party. Instead, the process is led by a neutral mediator who facilitates discussion, offers suggestions for resolution, and otherwise helps parties reach agreements that avoid a court fight. Mediation can be used in different settings. At times, issues regarding grandparent visitation can be worked into agreements made during divorce. At other times mediation may be used outside of divorce to handle other family law conflicts that arise.

Contact a Massachusetts Family Law Attorney

If you or someone you know is a grandparent and there have been issues concerning your desire to visit with your grandchildren, or if you believe that you have been unreasonably denied visitation, an experienced Massachusetts family law attorney can help you today. Contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy LLC online or by phone at 781-285-8989 to learn more about maintaining contact with grandchildren.

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Divorce Difficulties for Same-Sex Couples

Rainbow Flag

On June 26, 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law. Although the primary effect of the Court’s ruling allowed same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits available to heterosexual couples upon marriage, the ruling extends to cover same-sex couples going through the divorce process. However, even with this latest DOMA decision, there are still many legal hurdles that same-sex couples may face when seeking a divorce in Massachusetts.

Impact on Massachusetts Divorce

Since same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004, all divorces in Massachusetts have been treated the same, whether they involve same-sex or heterosexual couples. This gives same-sex couples in Massachusetts an advantage over others, because most states will not render a divorce decree if the state does not find that the couple was legally married from the beginning.

However, there are several issues that may make same-sex divorce problematic. For example, the length of the relationship is factored into most divorce settlements. But what happens if a same-sex couple has been living together in Massachusetts for 10 or 20 years before same-sex marriage became legal? Should the length of the relationship be considered the length of time the couple was together before the law was passed, or the shorter length of their “legal” marriage?

Furthermore, same-sex couples may face extra costs when attempting to seek a traditional divorce. For example, since same-sex divorce is still a relatively new area of the law, a court may seek additional briefs from attorneys of couples trying to get divorced because they want to ensure they are taking the right steps. This results in increased legal fees for the client. Additionally, same-sex couples are more likely to have their divorce applications rejected, which can lead to appeals and, in turn, more legal fees.

Lastly, many same-sex couples face additional child custody costs, even in states like Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is recognized. Since either one or both of the parents are not the biological parent of the child, an entirely new set of problems may arise with respect to whether or not a partner has the legal standing to argue for custody of the child.

How Collaborative Law Can Help

Many of these issues can be addressed in the collaborative process, which is well suited for people with unique issues and problems that are not addressed in traditional courts of law. Collaborative law allows parties to reach an agreement without ever having to enter the traditional adversarial legal system. This will result in considerable financial savings for the parties. Furthermore, the collaborative law process provides a better environment to make decisions concerning the custody of children because it provides an opportunity to fully explore the best interests of the child, rather than having the outcome determined solely by a judge or the attorneys. An experienced collaborative divorce attorney can help you avoid the legal pitfalls that may occur when seeking a divorce. Contact the Law Office of Martin Murphy at (781) 285-8989 to learn how collaborative law can help you navigate the divorce process.

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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

 

 

What is Convenience?

What Is Convenience?

When one Googles “Convenience of Litigation,” several sites that reference a “convenience store in litigation” are presented- that isn’t exactly what I am searching for.  However, when one Googles “Convenience of Mediation” or  “Convenience of Collaborative Law,” many sites appear that do indeed explain how mediation or Collaborative Law can be considered convenient for a client.  Why is this?  Simply put, litigation, with its delays and often inconvenient scheduling, is not typically viewed as convenient.  Mediation and Collaborative Law are positioned to provide clients the result they seek through a far more convenient process.

 

A few months ago I met a couple that came to my office for a free process presentation on a Thursday. They decided to mediate their divorce with my office, and I was able to accommodate them the following Monday evening.  On Tuesday I drafted documents and met with them Tuesday afternoon to finalize and notarize. The agreement was presented to and approved by a judge at the couple’s 1A hearing that Wednesday..   While this story and its timetable is not typical, it clearly demonstrates the potential convenience aspect of Mediation.

 

Last year, I mediated a case for a couple that lasted ten months. While this appears to be in stark contrast to the expediency of the other case, the longer mediation time was the choice for this couple.  Once we initially met and went over the parameters of the mediation, they decided that they would wait to iron out details until their house was sold. During that time we had a few meetings to cover additional matters, and once the house was sold the final agreement was crafted.  Their mediation was convenient for them because its timing met their needs and timetable.

 

In the last couple of weeks, I have completed two different mediations where one of the parties was out of state for the mediation sessions.  While I prefer to mediate in person, sometimes the logistic and financial realities require more creative solutions.  Conference calls, video conferencing and secure document sharing can assist in providing a convenient mediation format.

 

I’ve finished up a Collaborative Law case where one of the parties had a fair level of anxiety over the scheduling of the meetings and the potential impact on their profession.  The team addressed this early on and was able to devise a schedule that removed that anxiety from the equation.

 

Going through a divorce is a stressful situation in and of itself.  Convenience of the process would certainly lend itself to being less stressful.  Choosing mediation or Collaborative Law as a resolution process is a way to minimize that stress.  If you would like to learn more about the benefits of mediation and Collaborative Law, contact my office today.

 

Located in Norwood, MA, The Law Office of Martin Murphy, LLC assists clients from the surrounding areas including Attleboro, Canton, Foxboro, Franklin, Mansfield, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, North Attleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Walpole, Westwood, and Wrentham.  Contact the office today to determine how the principles and benefits of mediation and Collaborative Law may be helpful for you.

How Mediation and Collaborative Law in Massachusetts Give You Control of the Process

Summary:

Mediation and Collaborative Law offer you control of the process that will give you a greater sense of empowerment.

Video Transcription:

One of the most important benefits of mediation and Collaborative Law is that it provides you with a much greater sense of control over the process. In traditional litigation, you are basically giving up your power to make decisions for your future to a judge. In mediation and Collaborative Law, you’re going to be actively engaged in crafting the agreement that you are going to live by not only now but in the future. That provides you with a much greater sense of empowerment that will help you as you move forward into the next stage of your life.

Massachusetts Mediation and Collaborative Law: The Confidential Alternative

Summary:

Confidentiality is a major benefit of mediation and Collaborative Law.

Video Transcription:

Mediation and Collaborative Law can provide you with a sense of confidentiality that you just can’t get through regular traditional litigation. During the process you might need to discuss some very sensitive issues: financial matters, perhaps a problem with one of the children in the family, or even an indiscretion. Those discussions are much better had in a private setting like a conference room rather than in a public forum like a courtroom.

How Mediation and Collaborative Law in Massachusetts are Cost Effective

Summary:

Mediation and Collaborative Law can be much more cost effective than traditional litigation.

Video Transcription:

Potential clients often ask me how mediation and Collaborative Law may be more cost effective than traditional litigation, and there are a couple of ways that that can take place. First, in mediation and Collaborative Law you won’t spend a lot of time standing around a courthouse, waiting with your attorney to be called for a motion or a conference. That’s going to save you considerable money. In addition, in mediation and Collaborative Law, I use what’s often called a “neutral expert.” For example, if a couple needs to have a business valued, or a house valued, we can bring in someone who’s trained, not only in that specific field of valuation, but also is trained as a neutral, which means they’re not working for either side, they’re working for everyone. In traditional litigation, each side would typically hire their own valuation professional, and they would come up with a number, and inevitably the numbers don’t agree and you end up hiring perhaps a third person to referee between the two and come up with the real number. Using that one neutral expert can create tremendous savings for clients that are using mediation and Collaborative Law.

Reducing Holiday Stress

As the holidays approach it is very easy to get caught up in the anticipation of the season.  Festive music, brightly colored decorations, and family traditions often signal a time when families come together and enjoy being with each other.

 

However, what is the impact on the family when this year the experiences will be different than in years past?  Maybe this year the kids will spend time with Mom’s family for a portion of the season, and will then perhaps travel on vacation with Dad for another part of the season. Maybe the traditional pilgrimage to Grandma’s will be forfeited so that both parents will have equal time with their children.  Even in situations when the divorce of two parents brings peace to a family unit, the holidays can still lead to stress since old traditions will most likely change with the change of the family dynamic.  That stress can be translated in subtle ways that causes the happiness of this time of year to be diminished.

 

When couples decide to divorce, one way to help ensure that future holiday happenings bring minimal stress to the family is to engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) rather than the traditional adversarial process of litigation.  ADR processes such as mediation and Collaborative Law focus on the future and prepare a couple to have more effective communications after the divorce is finalized.  A couple in a divorce that chooses mediation or Collaborative Law might work together to prepare a parenting plan that addresses almost all eventualities without dwelling on the past.  They are results focused and realize that when children and a family are involved, the future must be examined and planned for to insure minimal stress.

 

This year may find your family celebrating the holidays in a different way.  Just because something is different does not mean it is wrong.  A different way of celebrating, when anticipated and planned for, can bring happiness and the spirit of the season to all involved.  I wish all of you a healthy, happy holiday season.