How long does it take to get a Divorce in Massachusetts?

There are two types of divorce in Massachusetts. They are uncontested divorces and contested divorces.
Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is where the parties have come to an agreement regarding the division of their assets and liabilities, child custody and visitation issues, if any, and the rights and responsibilities of each party. The couple would file a Joint Petition, the Separation Agreement and other required documents. The filing fee is $215. In most instances the couple can walk into court on an agreed upon day and get divorced. The divorce will become final 120 days from the date of the divorce. The parties will save considerable time and money by negotiating and coming to an agreement. If the parties do not want to spend the money retaining attorneys and want to come to an agreement, an attractive option to help them do so is mediation. Many law firms, including Levine-Piro Law, offer divorce mediation services. In the case of mediation, the mediator who is a lawyer, will act as a neutral third party and help the parties work toward a complete agreement. Once the parties are in agreement on all issues the mediator can draft a separation agreement for the parties and all the filing documents for the parties to bring to court. For more information on mediation, please visit Levine-Piro Law’s mediation page at http://www.middlesexmediation.com/.
Contested Divorce
A contested divorce is where there the parties cannot agree to the division of assets, child custody, visitation and financial rights and obligations. The filing fee would be $215, plus $5.00 for the cost of the Summons. The filing party would have to serve the Complaint for Divorce and accompanying documents on the other spouse in-hand by the Sheriff or Constable’s office in the county where the spouse lives. After filing the Complaint for Divorce, the court sends a Tracking Order, which indicates how long the court anticipates the case will take through the court. Cases that have fewer issues typically take about eight months depending on the court’s schedule. Cases that have significant financial or child custody and visitation issues are anticipated to take about 14 months. It is important to note that there are any number of reasons that the case could take longer. The court uses the Tracking Order to prevent cases from lingering indefinitely due to non-activity or failure to settle.
If the parties in a case are unable to come to a settlement agreement then the case will go to trial. The majority of divorce cases do not go to trial, and the Court schedules Status Conferences and Pre-Trial Conferences to keep the parties on track and to help the parties with settlement. Most of the family courts in Massachusetts now offer conciliation which is a free or low cost mediation program to help parties reach an agreement on contested issues.
If a contested divorce is able to settle within the first six months of the complaint being filed then the parties can can convert their Complaint for Divorce into a Joint Petition and file their Separation Agreement at any time. As mentioned before the divorce will become final 120 days from when the court enters the Judgment Nisi. Contested divorces that settle after the first six months become final 90 days from the date the Judgment Nisi is entered.
For divorce or other family law related questions, or to schedule a free consultation, call the experienced attorneys at Levine-Piro Law at 978-637-2048.

Calculating Child Support In Massachusetts

General Information Regarding Child Support

Generally speaking the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. Child support is calculated by taking into account both parties gross weekly income, the number of children, and giving credits to the parent who pays health insurance and/or child care costs.
You can calculate child support by using the following worksheet: http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/forms/probate-and-family/cjd304-worksheet-child-support-guidelines.pdf.
Before going to court you should use the above worksheet and print the results to bring with you.
In addition to child support the court may order each parent to pay a percentage of the costs for extra-curricular activities, uninsured medical expenses, summer camp, and educational costs.

Joint Custody/Co-Parenting Situations
More and more frequently parents are sharing custody and are working together to co-parent. In this situation the child support calculation is a little more complicated. Using the above referenced worksheet, child support is first calculated with Parent 1 paying Parent 2. The child support calculation is then run again with Parent 2 paying Parent 1. The difference of the two calculations is the amount in child support the higher earning parent pays the lower earning parent.

Deviating From The Child Support Guidelines
In some circumstances the parties may agree to deviate from the child support guideline amount. In these circumstances it is necessary to get permission from the court to do so and there must be a reason for it.

Modifying Child Support
The amount of child support being paid is always subject to modification if there is a substantial change in circumstance or if the amount of child support being paid is no longer consistent with the amount under the Child Support Guidelines.

If you have questions about child support or other family law related issues, please do not hesitate to contact Levine-Piro Law for a free consultation. 978-637-2048.

Common Landlord Tenant Problems in Massachusetts

There are many great benefits to being a landlord. It is a great way to make money if you are smart about it. Getting the rent every month can go towards paying off the property and eventually providing an income although being a landlord is not without some problems. Landlords and tenants can undergo many types of disagreements. Some of these are covered under the law and can be handled with an attorney, while others should be handled with proper communication.

Repairs
One of the most common landlord and tenant issues is who is going to handle the repairs. This could be anything from a broken garage door to a dishwasher that is leaking. Usually, the leasing contract will specify who is responsible for repairs, although some may not. When a contract is devoid of these details, it can be a mess trying to go back and forth regarding who should take care of it. This is why it is so important to spell out each parties responsibilities right from the start.

According to the law, tenants are responsible for keeping the home habitable. If repairs need to be made to the home and the landlord refuses to handle it, the tenant is able to hold rent until the repairs are made. The tenant even has the right to sue the landlord in the event the landlord refuses to handle it properly.

Lease Breaking
Another common issue between landlords and tenants is lease breaking. At times, tenants must break their lease. This could be due to a job change, lack of money, or other issues. Tenants are responsible for fulfilling their contract by staying in the rental for the entire term.

As a landlord, they are able to take action against a tenant to ensure the lease is fulfilled. The landlord has several options to ensure it happens. They can withhold the security deposit, ask that the rent be paid in full, or even have the tenant help find a replacement. If the landlord fails to keep the home habitable, the tenant does have a right to move out.

Cleanliness
It is important that the home remain clean. This means the tenant is responsible for taking care of the premises and not damaging anything. They are also responsible for cleaning the home including sweeping, vacuuming, washing dishes, and emptying the trash. Failure to do this could result in a loss of the security deposit, an additional fee on top of the rent owed, or eviction. If the home is not kept up properly, the landlord could lose money on the home. A landlord relies on curb appeal to keep the value of the home intact. When a tenant refuses to keep a nice looking home, this can devalue the home.

If you find yourself in the middle of a dispute with your landlord or tenant, it is important to know how the law perceives it. You also want to have the contract readily available so you have the proof that is needed to guide your course of action. If nothing else works, it may be time to hire a lawyer to help.

What Do You Need to Know About the Lemon Law in Massachusetts?

The State of Massachusetts defines a lemon as a new or leased vehicle that impairs the use, the safety, or the market value and which has not been properly fixed even after a reasonable number of tries. Lemon law cases are very common in Massachusetts and the Lemon Law is designed in a way to give protection to the customers that have serious defects in their new or leased vehicles.
Lemon law applies to new motorcycles, cars and trucks which are bought or leased in the state of Massachusetts from an authorized car dealer for personal use. The law does not cover vehicles that are used for business or for off-road purposes. Also, the law does not cover accidents, acts of vandalism, or unauthorized repairs from the manufacturer or authorized agent. Also, be aware that not all car problems are serious enough to qualify for the law’s protection. The coverage is valid only for one year from the original date of the delivery or fifteen thousand miles of use after the original date of delivery, whichever comes first.
If you want to take advantage of this lemon law, you have to specifically point out how the defect impairs the usage of the vehicle, how it endangers those who use the vehicle, and how its market value is depreciated. You also must provide proof that there were at least three tries for fixing the vehicle and to show that those tries had not improved the situation in any way.
In case of a dispute, arbitration is an informal and less expensive way to resolve the matter. Both sides have a chance to provide evidence regarding the vehicles condition. You have an option to do this with a manufacturer-sponsored arbitration or with a state run arbitration. The main difference between these two arbitrations is that the state arbitration is basing its decision on the standards from the lemon law, while the manufacturer does not. Decision can be expected within 45 days if the arbitration is done by the state, and an additional three weeks are necessary if the manufacturer decides to file an appeal. The time frame for completion in manufacturer sponsored arbitration is much shorter.
You may refuse the arbitration and take this issue to the court. However, you need to meet some requirements from the lemon law in order for the judge to easily bring a decision that will be in your favor. If you do not meet certain requirements, that can lead in some possible penalties and fines for you. That is why it is best to consult Levine-Piro Law as a quality Massachusetts-based law firm that can properly handle your case.
If the lemon law is on your side, then you can hope to get a replacement vehicle or you could get a money refund. If you get a replacement vehicle, it usually comes in a similar make and model. You will also get reimbursement for sales tax and registration fees. If you want a money refund, you will get a full price on the purchase including the allowances and the credits, but lowered based on the mileage that you have driven the vehicle.

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.
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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

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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.