3 Tips To Get Ready For Divorce

As with most major changes in life, divorce can be a time of stress and upheaval. However, with a little preparation, you can make the change a little easier and possibly help influence the odds to fall in your favor if you fear your spouse may try to make things difficult. A good divorce lawyer can help with nearly every step of the process.

Find Your Support

Having a support structure you can rely on is arguably the most important thing you can do when going through a divorce. Find friends and family members who will support you and help you when you need a clear head around. You also need to find a divorce lawyer you can trust. Finding the right lawyer for you is important; it must be someone you can trust and be comfortable with, and someone who you think will work well in negotiations with your spouse. You may wish to get recommendations from friends, but keep in mind that the divorce lawyer who worked for them may not work as well for you. The internet is a great resource to look for reviews and opinions on lawyers near you.

Be Civil

This tip cannot be stressed enough. It can be difficult to keep a clear head when tensions are high, but losing your temper, getting angry, or reacting to provocation can have a drastic impact on your divorce proceedings. If things get out of hand and Court Order of Protection (colloquially known as a restraining order) is issued, it can have a hugely negative impact on how you come out of your divorce. Your divorce lawyer can likely give you a time estimate, but in most cases, divorce cases are not over quickly, and can become long and drawn-out, especially if you stand firm in your terms. Finding a way to be civil with your spouse despite any disagreements you may have can make this difficult process much easier.

Knowledge is Power

As soon as you see a divorce on the horizon for you, you should start learning as much about the process as possible. Read books, research the court processes online, and ask your divorce lawyer any questions you might have as you learn more. You also need to know about yourself — knowing your income, your assets, and your property is essential. You can take photos or video around your home or start a ledger of your belongings, in case some of these things disappear. Copy everything, especially financial records, and make sure your lawyer has copies of all of these things as well. Most importantly, know what you want. If you are unclear in your desires or change your mind often, your divorce can drag on much longer than necessary. Make a list of what you want and be clear about which ones you are not willing to budge on. Knowing what you’re willing to fight for ahead of time can make your divorce lawyer’s job easier and make the process go much smoother.

Fast Facts on Child Custody

One of the main issues which need to be decided during divorces is which one of the parents will get the custody over the child. It happens quite often that after the parents get divorced, one of the parents may seek relocation outside of the state of Massachusetts. This can affect both the relationship between the parents and the children and the custody agreement between the divorced parents.

In these types of cases, the Massachusetts` courts usually apply the most common standard of what is in the best interest of the child. The court weighs in all the factors to determine what would be the most proper parenting plan.

There is a bigger legal burden in those cases when one of the parents wants to leave the state together with the child. In those types of cases the parent must get a court approval for moving out or to get consent from the other parent. When the court is called to intervene in the matter, the court applies a test in order to determine what would be the best solution in the given situation.

The court checks at four categories of important information. First of all, it determines what is the best interest for the child. Then it checks whether there is an honest and good reason for moving out of the states` jurisdiction. After that is looks into the interests of the parent that wants to move out and at the end it checks the interests of the parent that remains in the state.

When the court looks into the interests of the child, it considers several different factors. The court needs to decide whether the moving will affect the child physically, emotionally or whether the moving will affect child`s development. Also another important thing is whether the relocation will improve the quality of life of the child. The court also looks into whether the child will have a good opportunity to get a proper education in the other state. These are some of the factors which need to be considered, and the court always looks first into what is in the best interest for the child before moving onto the parents` interests.

When the court considers the interest of the parent that gets the custody there are lots of factors taken into consideration. It is important whether the custodial parent has a sincere wish to move out of the state. What is the main motive for relocation, and what are the advantages from moving out. It is also important whether the move will have any financial advantages or opportunities both for the child and the parent.

A quality law firm such as Levine-Piro Law can help you with legal advice and a proper legal help in family related matters such as child custody. Often these family law issues can be very complicated as well as stressful, so it is always best to seek out the best possible legal help and an attorney that will guide you through the process.

Pet Prenups

Pet Prenups
By Amanda Castro, Esq.

Prenuptial agreements regarding domestic pets are on the rise as more and more attorneys across the country are recommending them to their clients. This is due to the high rates of divorce, and more and more people realizing that their beloved pets must go to one spouse or the other in the event of separation. The problem of who gets the pets following a divorce has been a recent topic in celebrity news, with ex-couples like Melanie Griffith and Antonio Benderas, as well as Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon contesting the rights to their multiple canines.

In many instances, who gets the pets is one of the most heated issues to resolve, much like custody of children. However, unlike child custody, the court looks at pets as property and will divide it as such. Usually this means the person who paid for the pet will get to keep it. Using a pet prenup will resolve this problem by indicating exactly where the pet will go if a divorce occurs, as is the case with all property included in a prenuptial agreement. While prenuptial agreements cannot be used with regard to children and where they will reside in the case of a divorce, these types of agreements can be used with regard to our cherished pets, and should be utilized to avoid the future heated argument over who gets to keep that pet.

This problem isn’t just one that comes up in a divorce. Many people in different relationships, such as roommates, non-married couples, and siblings, share the responsibilities and love for their pets while living together. Some attorneys are now recommending that all people who jointly buy a pet or care for a pet set out an agreement in writing regarding what will occur in the case that the two, or more, people go their separate ways.

These agreements, or pet prenups, have many times included one of the caretakers receiving “custody” of the pet one weekend per month, or alternating weeks, much like child custody. This type of agreement is highly recommended when the couples expect partial custody of a pet after a breakup or divorce, as a court is unlikely to ever grant such a custody-like situation when it comes to pets. However, the most likely scenario is where the couple agrees to one person keeping and caring for the pet in the event that the two individuals are no longer living under the same roof.

If you are in a situation where someone may seek ownership of your beloved pet in the future, consider having an attorney set out a pet prenuptial agreement or a contract between you and that person indicating where your pet will end up in the event of a separation and any visitation rights that person is entitled to receive, in order to protect your own interest in your pets.

What Kinds of Cases Meet the Definition for Civil Litigation?

Levin-Piro Law is a Massachusetts based law firm providing many different litigation services. No matter if the dispute is small or big, our attorneys always have a professional and offer a devoted approach in every civil matter and any general litigation. Civil litigation is a part of the law which handles the disputes or issues between two or more people where there is no criminal sanction. Most of these cases can be settled outside of the court, but if an agreement cannot be reached then the case goes to a trial.

Civil litigation involves disputes over property, professional misconduct, work-related disputes, and most of the civil cases start after a contract has been breached. This often includes a failure in acknowledging of a right or a failure to pay an invoice or a bill. Civil litigations involve any kinds of payment problems between businesses or individuals which are bound by the contract or by the law.

The disputing parties commonly seek legal advice about the matter in question. When this occurs, the lawyers examine the claims and if they find that the matter requires a written submission, they will draft it, then file it and will notify the other party of the dispute. The formal documentation of the litigation process is also known as pleadings.

The next step of the process is usually the mediation. Mediation is an attempt to resolve the matter out of the court, and this burden to resolve the matter is usually on the non-breaching party. For example, the non-breaching party can offer some better payment plan to the other party instead of immediately requesting a full payout. Mediations are not always successful, but they are a good attempt to resolve the issue before going with the case to the court.

Civil litigations do not have any specific time frames in which they need to be finished. In some cases litigation trials can go on for several years. Clients in these cases need to be prepared for litigation costs and expenses if they wish to fight a trial for a longer period of time. At the end, it is always up to the two opposing parties to resolve their case and reach a settlement. If not, then they should be both prepared for a long battle in the court.

Levin-Piro civil litigation attorneys can handle any work for you in court. At the end of the case is the matter of enforcing a court judgment or paying off the debt. This often does not come easily, however. In case if the party that lost the case refuses to pay, they can be ordered by the court to discuss details about their finances. If they still refuse to pay or are unable to pay then a judgment can result in a seizure of assets or money. In any case, Levin-Piro civil litigation attorneys have plenty of experience and skills to help you in protecting your property or rights if you are found that you have to pay, or to ensure an enforcement if you win your civil litigation case.

President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration and Frequently Asked Questions

Social security and permanent resident card

President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration and Frequently Asked Questions

On November 20, 2014 President Obama announced his much-anticipated executive plan on immigration. According to reports, more than 4 million undocumented immigrants would benefit from the plan. However, even with such a high number of potential beneficiaries, millions of immigrants are still left out. This is because the President’s plan comes with cut-off dates and age ceilings. In addition, some categories of immigrants are not mentioned at all such as those who were not childhood arrivals and those who do not have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child. Having said that, the President’s plan is huge and it is a step in the right direction.

Specifically, President Obama’s plan spans various aspects of immigration policy and enforcement including the expansion of eligibility for unlawful presence waivers, promotion of citizenship to encourage more LPRSs to become U.S. citizens, and the modernization and reform of the employment based visa system. However, the most talked about, and perhaps the most far-reaching aspects of the plan, are the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability  (DAPA).

With respect to DACA, President Obama’s plan will expand the program by eliminating the age ceiling of 31, required in the initial DACA program. This means that qualified individuals who arrived the U.S. before their sixteenth birthday but who are now more than 31 years of age are eligible provided they meet all other requirements. In addition, persons who have been resident in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 are now eligible, thus eliminating the initial cut-off date of June 15, 2012. Finally, qualified individuals will now receive employment authorization for three years instead of the initial two years.

On the other hand, DAPA is an entirely new initiative designed to keep immigrant families together. Under DAPA, parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents born on or before November 20, 2014 may qualify for work authorization and for deferment of deportation for three years provided they have maintained continuous presence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, and are not an enforcement priority for removal from the U.S.

Following President Obama’s announcement, DACA and DAPA hopefuls have been asking questions about their eligibility for these programs.  Here are a few such questions and likely answers.

Q: Does the plan apply to those who have been deported?

A. Unfortunately, no. The plan covers only those people living in the U.S. on or before November 20, 2014.

Q: Can someone who lived in the U.S. for several years but left in 2010 and then returned in 2014 and who has U.S. citizen children qualify for DAPA?

A. Probably not. Cut-off date for DAPA as indicated above is January 1, 2010. The fact that the person lived here before is not likely to count.

Q. Can an F-1 student who has a valid student visa and a child who is a U.S. citizen apply for DAPA?

A. Not likely. If this person’s student visa is still valid, then he/she is not an undocumented immigrant. DAPA and DACA apply to those who are here illegally.

Q: Can a beneficiary of DACA or DAPA travel outside the U.S.

A. The plan is silent on this question. You may likely need to apply for a parole before you can travel.

Q. What happens after the three years expires? Will I be deported?

A. Hopefully not, but we do not know. Hopefully, there will be an extension of both plans.

Finally, just a note that USCIS has not started accepting applications for DAPA or DACA. However, potential applicants may begin gathering evidence of their residence in the U.S. so they will be ready when the time comes.

If you have further questions about this initiative or if you have other immigration questions, contact Attorney Rachel Dan-Harry for a free 30-minute consultation.

The Role of Parent Coordinators

The Role of Parenting Coordinators post-Bower
By Amanda Castro, Esq.

The role of a parenting coordinator can be puzzling for parents going through separation or divorce. Many parents will ask themselves: “Why would I want someone else besides myself and my former spouse making important decisions regarding my children’s lives?” Right off the bat, the situation can sound rather undesirable; however, parents should seriously consider the true role of a parenting coordinator and the benefits he or she can provide their family.

Having a parenting coordinator is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is centered on making decisions that involve the children of divorce or separation. The parenting coordinator is a neutral third-party professional who is used as a mediator between high-conflict parents to assist them in implementing their parenting plan.

The main purpose for having a parenting coordinator is to avoid parents making numerous court appearances to file claims of contempt, or for minor temporary adjustments to the existing parenting plan. Going into court and having a judge make these decisions is much more costly and time consuming than having a parenting coordinator on hand to mediate such conflicts as they arise.

Prior to September 2014, judges in the Commonwealth would use their authority to involve a parenting coordinator to mediate these high conflict cases. However, in the case of Bower v. Bournay-Bower, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Probate and Family Court judges can no longer grant parenting coordinators binding decision-making power over the objection of one of the parties. What this means is that only the parents themselves can agree to have a parenting coordinator make binding decisions regarding their parenting plan.

Practically speaking, a parenting coordinator enters the picture through the separation agreement. The parents can agree in their divorce agreement that in the event that the two cannot agree on issues regarding the children, the parenting coordinator will make a recommendation that will be binding on the parties. Of course, because it is an agreement, the parents can request that their attorney’s adjust the language and provisions as they see fit. However, because either parent is always allowed to then take that recommendation to court if they do not feel it was in the child’s best interest, many attorneys recommend that there also be a provision awarding attorney’s fees to the other parent if the parent who appeals the parenting coordinator’s decision to the judge loses their appeal. In this way, there is less opportunity for bad faith claims against the parenting coordinator to be brought into court, which would defeat the whole purpose of having a parenting coordinator involved.

If you are going through a separation or divorce and you and your former spouse are experiencing many conflicts with regard to parenting decisions, attorneys suggest you strongly consider agreeing to have a parenting coordinator involved in the decision making process. In this way, if you and your former spouse cannot agree on issues involving the children, a neutral third party can mediate and make recommendations in order to avoid numerous court actions. As such, the benefits of parenting coordinators far outweigh the costs in these high-conflict situations.

DHS Designates Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for Temporary Protected Status

By Attorney Rachel K. Dan-Harry

As many of us know, the ebola virus has killed more than six thousand and sickened more than sixteen thousand people in the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Despite this huge number of casualties and interventions by humanitarian workers and governments from around the world, the deadly virus continues to spread unabated. The situation, no doubt, is a huge source of concern for individuals from those countries who are currently in the United States temporarily. They have to make tough choices as to whether they should remain in the U.S. and by so doing overstay their visas or return to their countries at the risk of getting infected with ebola. To help those who would prefer to remain in the U.S. until ebola is contained, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on November 20, 2014 announced that the agency would be granting individuals from these three West African countries Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

DHS grants TPS to persons in the United States who are nationals of countries where there is ongoing-armed conflict, environmental disasters or epidemic, or other extraordinary temporary conditions. In the past, DHS has granted TPS to nationals of Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, and several other countries. TPS is usually granted for a designated period and during that period eligible individuals are protected from detention or deportation from the U.S. In addition, they can be granted authorization to work in the U.S. during the designated period.

It must be noted that TPS is a temporary measure and does not lead to the grant of permanent residency or any other immigration benefit. However, TPS holders can adjust their status to other nonimmigrant or immigrant status if they chose. Also DHS can extend the designated period if the situation in the country continues or worsens.

Individuals from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone who are interested in the TPS are required to apply between Nov 21, 2014 and May 2015. To be eligible an applicant must have resided continuously in the U.S. since Nov. 20, 2014, and must have had “continuous physical presence” in the U.S. since Nov 21, 2014.

Thankfully, individuals from these countries do not have to live in the shadows for fear of deportation. They can stay in the U.S. for the designated period and earn a living as they hope for the best for their countries.

For more information visit: www.uscis.gov or for further information regarding immigration issues, contact Attorney Rachel K. Dan-Harry at Levine-Piro Law, 978-637-2048.   Levine-Piro Law offers free 30 minute consultations either on the phone or in person.

Common Questions Regarding Prenuptial Agreements Answered

“Prenuptial agreement” is probably the last phrase you want to hear your future spouse utter However, pre-nuptial agreements can be in the interest of both parties entering into marriage. A pre-nuptial agreement is one way of having the division of assets addressed in advance of death or divorce. But before you get angry at your future spouse for uttering those words, read through the following post and think about the possibility that perhaps a prenuptial agreement is an appropriate legal mechanism for protecting yourself in event of divorce or death.

Q: What is a prenuptial agreement?
A: By definition, a prenuptial (“prenup”) agreement is simply a written agreement between two people who are about to marry. In the event that the marriage is dissolved, it focuses on the possession of assets, treatment of future earnings, control of the property of each, and potential division.

Q: What can I include in my prenup?
A: Prenups include provisions for all types of financial, property, and personal assets. As long as it is fair and consistent with the laws of Massachusetts, you can include any and all items or assets that already exist or that may exist in the future (anticipated inheritances etc…). Additionally, a prenup can include a provision for future alimony or even a waiver of future alimony.

Q: Do I really need a prenuptial agreement?
A: The risk of not having a prenuptial agreement is that in the event of a divorce or death, you run the risk of the State deciding how your estate should be distributed. Should you have children from a prior marriage, there are some scenarios where the State can grant most if not all assets to the surviving spouse, leaving little to nothing for children from that prior marriage.

Q: Aren’t prenups just for rich people? Do I really need one?
A: Anyone looking to protect any premarital assets should consider a prenuptial agreement.

Q: What if I want to change the terms in the prenuptial agreement later on in my marriage?
A: Prenups can be changed or even cancelled later into the marriage. However, both people in the contract need to agree to the new terms.

Q: I found a sample prenuptial agreement online. Can’t I just write my own based on that one?
A: This is where things can get tricky. While there are plenty of sample prenuptial agreements online, it is questionable whether or not they will be validated in a court of law or if they really protect your individual interests. Additionally, it is hard to tell if the agreement will withstand it being challenged. This is why it is strongly recommended to seek attorneys to help draft your prenuptial agreement. Having a Massachusetts attorney represent you will help ensure that your prenuptial agreement would be consistent with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and increase the changes that it withstand being challenged. The terms of the prenuptial agreement must be deemed fair when it was written and when it is being enforced. Only an attorney can help you draft such a contract. Additionally, we always recommend that both parties should have their own counsel review the agreement.

Q: I heard that Levine-Piro Law is really good. Can’t I just go to them?
A: While we are more than happy to help you draft your prenuptial agreement or review an agreement that has been drafted by another attorney, it is advised for each spouse to seek out separate attorneys (don’t worry, we can point you in the right direction). The reason for this is to increase the likelihood that the prenuptial agreement will be validated. It would be a conflict of interest for our firm to represent both parties.

Q: Will I spend all of my saved assets on attorney’s fees for this prenuptial agreement?
A: The cost to draft and/or review a prenup will vary depending on how much time is required and the time required is based on the length and complication of the agreement.

While no one wants to think of the possibility of divorce or death, either of those possibilities brings forth an onslaught of difficulties. With the use of prenuptial agreements, people can have one less thing to worry about during the stressful times of death and divorce.

Rights to the Engagement Ring When the Wedding is Called Off

engagement ring with diamond eps10

Rights to the Engagement Ring When the Wedding is Called Off

In Massachusetts an Engagement Ring is usually considered a conditional gift. What’s a conditional gift you ask? A conditional gift is a gift that is dependent on something happening. In this circumstance the engagement ring is conditional on marriage taking place. Historically the court has looked to who and why the wedding was called off in determining if the ring should be returned. In the landmark case of De Cicco v. Barker, 339 Mass. 457 (1959) the court held that if the “contract to marry” is terminated without fault or the doing of the person who gave the engagement ring (“the donor”) then he/she may recover the ring. A later case, Poirier v. Raad, 1995 Mass. Super. LEXIS 843, 3 Mass. Law Reporter 265 (Worcester Superior Court), determined that the party terminating the engagement isn’t necessarily at fault. In any event, the individual circumstances surrounding the termination of the engagement will govern.

After marriage, the gift is complete (i.e. no longer conditional) and therefore becomes a part of the marital estate subject to property division. The court considers many factors in determining how property should be divided. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to: the age and health of you and your spouse, the conduct of both of you during the course of the marriage, both your needs, both your debts, both of your abilities to earn money in the future/acquire assets, both of your education levels, both of your current occupations and your current and future earning potential.

If you have a legal issue call the experienced attorneys at Levine-Piro Law today at (978) 637-2048.

Mixed Physical Custody Arrangements and Child Support

In the family law courts there is a tendency of parties, attorneys, and even judges to award physical custody of multiple children as an all or nothing situation. That is, if there are two kids in a family the award of physical custody will likely be the same for both. Often times this is in the children’s best interest. However, sometimes children do better with one parent than with another while another child does fine with both. In these situations mixed physical custody may be appropriate.

An example I’ve come across is where a couple agreed to shared physical custody of one of their one children but one parent retained full physical custody of the other. This custody arrangement was in the children’s, and parties’, best interests given the circumstances. The problem came in calculating child support.

Child support is calculated according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines are normally run with the parent having physical custody of the children being the recipient of child support. However, there are other custody situations that arise. Commonly parties will share physical custody of their 50/50. In this case the guidelines are run “both ways” which means that both parties will run the guidelines with themselves as the recipient. The difference of those two calculations is then paid to the party who earns less. The problem arises then in calculating situations where one party has physical custody of one or more of the children, but shares custody of other children.

Thankfully, the guidelines account for such a situation. The guidelines require that “[w]here there is more than one child covered by this order and each parent provides a primary residence for one or more of these children, child support shall be determined by calculating the child support guidelines twice, first with one parent as the Recipient using the number of children in his or her care, and second with the other parent as the Recipient using the number of children in his or her care. The difference in the calculations shall be paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount.” This means that if there are two kids, for example, and one parent has sole physical of one child and shares custody of the other, they will run the guidelines with them as having 2 dependents (since they have full custody of one child and share custody with the other). The other party will run the guidelines with them having only 1 child as a dependent (since they share custody of one child). The difference is then paid to the lesser earner.

If you have a child support issue you should contact and experienced family law attorney to discuss your case. Levine-Piro Law handles all aspects of family law, including child support and offers free consultations. Contact Levine-Piro Law at office@levinepirolaw.com or call 978-637-2048.