Family Law - FAQ

What is the legal definition of marriage?

Most states define marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman to become husband and wife. The standard way to marry is to get a marriage license from a state-authorized official and participate in a formal civil or religious wedding ceremony. While most states will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the laws regarding same-sex marriage continue to evolve. Contact an attorney at our firm to learn more about the marriage laws in our state.

What is a legal divorce in Massachusetts?

A divorce is a method of terminating a marriage contract between two individuals. From a legal standpoint, divorce will give each person the legal right to marry someone else, legally divide the couple's assets and debts, and determine the care and custody of their children. Each state addresses these issues differently, but there are some relatively uniform standards.

What are the legal effects of marriage?

There are several federal and state laws that benefit married couples. Some examples include the right to file joint income tax returns, create a family limited partnership (FLP) under federal tax laws, create a marital life estate trust, receive survivor benefits, receive a share of your deceased spouse's estate under intestate succession laws, and claim the estate tax marital deduction.

What is a no-fault divorce in Massachusetts?

Traditionally, divorce was granted on the basis of some marital misconduct such as adultery or physical abuse. In these cases, the spouse who engaged in the misconduct was punished by getting a smaller share of the marital property or by being denied custody of his or her children. In a no-fault divorce, however, both parties agree that there is no fault involved in the grounds for divorce. In fact, in no-fault divorce, any misconduct is irrelevant to the divorce proceedings and a marriage can be terminated simply because the couples agree that the marriage is no longer salvageable, and the marriage can be dissolved if either of the partners so choose.

What is a fault-based divorce in Massachusetts?

A fault-based divorce is one in which one party blames the other for the failure of the marriage by citing a legal wrong. Grounds for a fault-based divorce vary by state but typically include adultery, physical or mental cruelty, desertion, alcohol or drug abuse, insanity, impotence, or infecting the other spouse with a venereal disease.

Can I get child support if I never married my child’s other parent?

Yes. Both of a child's biological parents owe that child a duty of financial support. You can work with a family law attorney and your state's child support enforcement office to obtain a support order. If you are a mother and your child's paternity has never been established, you may need to initiate a paternity proceeding and establish paternity before a support order can be entered.

What standards do courts use to decide with whom the children should live?

When parents cannot reach an agreement regarding child custody, most courts try to decide custody based upon an analysis of what arrangement is in the best interests of the child. While statutes and standards differ from state to state, a best interests determination is usually reached by reviewing the parents' wishes, the mental and physical health of the parents, any history of domestic abuse, the child's age and attachment to the parent who has been the primary caretaker, and the child's wishes.

How is child support determined in Massachusetts?

Each state has child support guidelines in place that are used as the foundation for determining the amount of child support. While child support guidelines vary from state to state, courts setting child support orders will generally follow the amount suggested by the guidelines unless a reason to depart from them exists. Most guidelines consider the needs of the child, the relative abilities of the parents to pay support, and the standard of living the child would have had if not for the divorce.

Can I terminate visitation if I am not being paid the support I am owed?

Yes. Both of a child's biological parents owe that child a duty of financial support. You can work with a family law attorney and your state's child support enforcement office to obtain a support order. If you are a mother and your child's paternity has never been established, you may need to initiate a paternity proceeding and establish paternity before a support order can be entered.

What impact should a child’s age have on custody and visitation scheduling?

Development experts generally agree that children of different ages have different needs regarding visitation scheduling. Experts generally recommend a visitation schedule based on a child's age, which may need adjustment for parents with either outstanding or limited parenting skills. When parents enter into a shared parenting arrangement, a different schedule may be used.

 

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