Grandparent Visitation

I often receive inquiries from grandparents wondering what options they have to see their grandchildren. It’s not uncommon for a custodial parent to deny the grandparents (on the other side) time with the grandkids. I often hear things like, “If his parents want to see the kids, it can happen during his visitation!” However, this scenario places the non-custodial parent in the position of having to forfeit some of their [limited] time with the children in order for the grandparents to see the kids. Sometimes parents attempt to establish times the child(ren) can see the grandparents in an Agreement that is filed with the Court under a Complaint for Divorce or Custody-Support-Parenting Time. Unfortunately, as the grandparents are not parties to these types of actions, the Court will not approve such provisions.

Thankfully, there is a statute and case law in Massachusetts that does provide grandparents some rights to visitation in certain circumstances. A grandparent can petition the Probate & Family Court under M.G.L. ch. 119, sec. 39D only if the parents of the minor child(ren) are:

  • Married, but living apart under a Temporary Order or Judgment of Separate Support;
  • Either or both deceased;
  • Unmarried and paternity has been acknowledged and the parents do not live together.

The statute very clearly excludes children of parents who live together.

Upon a Petition for Grandparent Visitation, the Court is guided by the overarching principle of what is in the best interest of the child(ren). There is a presumption that parental decisions regarding grandparent visitation are valid and should be honored. Grandparents seeking visitation must overcome this presumption by alleging and proving that failure to grant visitation rights to the grandparents would result in significant harm to the child(ren)’s health, safety or welfare. The grandparents must also prove that there was a significant preexisting relationship with the child(ren) that should be continued.

If the grandparents are able to establish the preexisting relationship and successfully rebut the presumption, the Court will enter an Order setting out when the grandparents can see the child(ren). The Court will use its best judgment in establishing a fair schedule that serves the best interest of the child(ren) without significantly impeding either parent’s time with the child(ren).

Considering filing a Petition for Grandparent Visitation? Call Broadbent & Taylor for a free consultation today!

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY CATHERINE TAYLOR AND IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP OF ANY SORT.

 

#attorney #lawyer #familylaw #grandparentvisitation

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Courthouse Fashion… Dress for Success

A clerk magistrate once asked me, “Counselor, how do you always have your clients dress so nice?”  I laughed and smiled at the question, acknowledging the overall appearance of litigants inside the courthouse on that day.

It may seem like common sense to dress appropriately for a court appearance, but many individuals really need to take a second look in the mirror before setting foot in court.

Some simple tips will have you looking appropriately and feeling comfortable for your trip to court.

  1. Wear simple clothing.  Keep in mind you will have to go through the metal detector.  This involves taking off your belt, and occasionally taking off your shoes.  You don’t want to wear knee high lace up boots only to have to take them off and sit on the courthouse floor trying to lace them back up.
  2. Wear clothing that fits.  As to number 1, I have seen a gentleman take off his belt to his suit, only to have his suit pants fall around his ankles.  It was embarrassing for everyone waiting in that lobby.
  3. If you are a man, wear a shirt that can be tucked.  There is one judge in particular that will not hear your case until 4 p.m. if you approach him with an untucked shirt.
  4. I usually suggest business casual, or nicer.  A nice polo shirt and khaki pants, or button up shirt or simple dress can show the court you are taking your appearance seriously.
  5. Ladies, stick with flats for shoes.  Many courts do not have a lot of sitting areas in the lobby, and there can be a LOT of waiting.  You will be a lot more comfortable in some cute flats.
  6. You don’t need a lot of flashy accessories.  I saw one day a man trying to go through the metal detector with a belt buckle that doubled as a flask.  Unfortunately the court officers made him leave his belt buckle in the car, and he had a hard time keeping his pants all the way up that day.
  7. Leave the sequins at home.  While you want to dress up, think grandma’s closet, not Friday night out.  You want to look conservative rather than flashy.  Ditto for stiletto heels and leather  pants.
  8. Do not wear shorts and flip flops.  Some court officers will actually make you wait in the lobby until your case is called if you are dressed inappropriately.  Shorts and flip flops fall into the category of inappropriate.

Follow these simple guidelines and you will be dressed to impress at court.

Known Sperm Donor Agreements

In today’s day and age, many individuals choose to use sperm donation in order to conceive. Often, a woman may choose to use a known sperm donation rather than an anonymous donor from a sperm bank. There are many benefits from using a known sperm donor, but it also opens the door to many potential pitfalls. A multitude of protections are provided when using a sperm bank, including, but not limited to anonymity of the donor, genetic screening and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. These protections are not necessarily present when using a known sperm donor; however, that does not mitigate the necessity of these protections. In these situations, it is essential to enter into a sperm donor agreement.

A Known Sperm Donor Agreement will contain the terms of the arrangement and should outline, at a minimum, the following:

  • Whether the donor will  sever all legal rights to the child and the responsibilities associated therewith, including: visitation, decision-making regarding the child’s health, religion, schooling, or anything else, and child support;
  • What medical and genetic information the donor will provide;
  • whether the donor will undergo any pre-donation testing (medical, genetic, STD) and who will pay for the testing;
  • Whether the donor’s identity will be shared with the child, and at what point this information will be shared.

The use of a Known Sperm Donor Agreement will assist in preempting any future disagreements between the donor and the Mother. It is important that there be a mutual feeling of trust between the Mother and the donor. Thorough discussions are imperative, and it is highly recommended that both sides engage private counsel to assist with all negotiations.

This post was written by Attorney Catherine Taylor and is for informational purposes only. Nothing contained within this post should be construed as legal advice.

 

Modification of Existing Child Support Orders

One of the most common questions I am asked by clients is: when will the judge grant a Complaint for Modification regarding child support?  There are several situations in which a modification is appropriate.  According to the 2009 Child Support Guidelines, an existing order for child support may be modified in any of the following situations:

1.  the existing order is at least 3 years old; or

2.  health insurance previously available at a reasonable cost is no longer available; or

3.  health insurance not previously available to a party at a reasonable cost has become available; or

4. any other material change in circumstances has occurred.

HOWEVER, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, s. 28 provides that “orders of maintenance and for support of minor children shall be modified if there is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the child support guidelines…”

In deciding cases for modification of existing child support orders, judges have adhered to the language of the Guidelines rather than the statute, and granted modifications (not falling into the first 3 categories) only when there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the order was entered.  This all changed on March 12 when the Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Morales v. Morales (SJC 11104). Writing for the court, Justice Botsford, held that the 2009 Guidelines are not consistent with the standard set out in Section 28, thus eliminating the need for a “material and substantial change in circumstances.”

So what exactly does this mean?  This does not mean that a complaint for modification may be used as a substitute or alternative to the normal appellate process.  Appeal is still the appropriate avenue to challenge the validity of a child support order.  Nor does it mean that a complaint for modification is appropriate when nothing has changed other than the payor’s desire to reduce their support obligation.  The ruling in Morales v. Morales simply enforces that the statutory language in Section 28 – commonly referred to as the inconsistency standard – is what courts need to be applying when deciding modification cases.  Some change in circumstances must occur in order for a modification request to be properly made, otherwise, there would be no inconsistency with the Guidelines.  If either party’s salary has changed, or there has been a change in health/dental insurance, child care costs, or other support obligations, a modification will be appropriate.

If you think you are eligible for a modification of your existing child support order, please contact our office today for a free consultation.

Family Law Mediation

Family Law Mediation can be an excellent way to resolve a divorce, child support issue or child custody issue.  The parties meet with a mediator in an informal setting.  The mediator is impartial.  He listens to the concerns of both sides and aids the parties in coming to an agreement.  

The mediation may be completed in one session, or may need a few sessions to work out all of the details, depending on the complexity of the matter.  

The biggest benefit to mediation is that the parties avoid the costly process of litigation associated with a divorce or other family court matter.  

If you have any questions about the mediation process, or would like to schedule a mediation with one of our attorneys, contact Broadbent & Taylor today for details.

The attorneys at Broadbent & Taylor are certified to represent Family Law clients on a limited representation basis.

Limited representation means that a client may be represented for a portion of the case, or for a specific hearing. For example, if a client needs help drafting the complaint, the client may hire the attorney to do that specific task. Also, if the client is looking for representation at just the pretrial hearing, or motion hearing, they may hire the attorney for that limited purpose. A client involved in a complicated divorce may hire the attorney to represent them on only the financial portion of the case, or only to deal with child custudy matters.

If you are looking to hire an attorney on a limited basis for a Family Law Matter, contact Broadbent & Taylor today for a consultation.

Family Law limited representation