We Have Moved To Our New North Andover Location

Berid & Schutzbank, LLC is pleased to announce as of July 9, 2014 our new office location will be 800 Turnpike Street, North Andover, Massachusetts.

After twenty years in the great city of Lowell, we are moving to a more centralized location to better serve our clients throughout the Merrimack Valley, Southern New Hampshire, Boston North Shore, and the Greater Lowell area.

As a well-established law firm in this region, we are committed to the continued pursuit of excellence, effective communication, and the strictest personal and professional ethics as well as the utmost concern for our clients.

We continue to concentrate in family law (divorce, custody, removal, parenting issues, child support, contempts and grandparents rights), criminal law, guardianships, and elder issues.

We invite you to contact us at our new office location if we may be off assistance to you now or anytime in the future.

Thank you.

New Office Information

Berid & Schutzbank, LLC
800 Turnpike Street, Suite 304
North Andover, MA  01845

Tel: (978) 655-4282
Tel: (978) 459-8845

Fax: (978) 655-3693
Email: eschutzbank@berid-schutzbank.com
Web: www.Berid-Schutzbank.com

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Divorce without Contested Litigation in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court

Family law disputes such as divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal support are often emotional and can be stressful. When two parties cannot agree, they may believe taking their case to court is the only option. However, litigation is expensive and can be a very lengthy process. Additionally, the courtroom environment empowers the judge to make decisions instead of allowing the two parties involved to decide what is best.

Alternative Dispute Resolution methods provide viable alternatives to litigation and these options often allow the parties involved to determine what works best rather than leaving decisions up to a stranger. Consider these effective alternatives.

1.    Mediation: A productive way for each party to discuss, debate and decide for themselves the issues that are important to them, including child custody, financial support and property division. A professional mediator is a neutral facilitator who helps the parties communicate so they can reach resolution. Through a series of sessions, the mediator helps the parties negotiate an agreement that they have crafted.  The mediator then will draft a formal document outlining what was agreed upon. That document, known as either a Separation/Settlement Agreement, will then be submitted to the court for approval. A Divorce or Judgment cannot issue until the Agreement is approved by a judge. Since a mediator cannot give legal advice (even if the mediator is an attorney), it’s often recommended that both parties separately consult their own attorney to discuss their individual rights and the consequences of certain decisions within the agreement reached through mediation.

2.    Arbitration: A neutral person or arbitrator hears arguments from both sides and makes a decision based on the evidence presented.  It is a less formal procedure than Court litigation and the rules of evidence are often relaxed.  Arbitration can be binding on the parties (meaning no appeal of the decision is permitted).  The process is less expensive than court litigation and often can be finished more expediently given the volume of cases before the Court.

[Read more…]

Massachusetts Takes Cyber Bullying Seriously

The issue of bullying has become a hot topic across the United States in recent years. Tragic events such as victim suicides and violent assaults have turned the spotlight on the debate of exactly when and how bullying becomes a criminal act. At the forefront of this debate is the increasing trend of cyber bullying where often the bullies anonymously attack their victims online through fake profiles and social media accounts.

What is Cyber Bullying?
The Attorney General of the State of Massachusetts classifies Cyber Bullying as “electronically communicated threats and willful and malicious directing electronic communications at a specific person that seriously alarm that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.”

Children and Adults may be Charged with Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying does not end at the toll of the school bell or end of the work day. It continues every time the victim uses their smartphone, handheld device, or computer. The victim cannot escape the bully even in the privacy of their own home. The severe emotional toll that often accompanies these acts is why cyber bullying is considered an extreme form of harassment. The Massachusetts legislature has made laws regarding cyber bullying sweepingly severe, this means children to adults can be charged, convicted, and penalized for Cyber bullying crimes. [Read more…]

Top Family Law Attorney; Thorough and Fully Invested in My Case

I changed to Attorney Schutzbank from a previous family law lawyer. Finally it seemed that somebody was on my side. Till now he has handled my case through the pre-trial conference. I am extremely satisfied by his grasp of all the issues and by the manner in which he is dealing with the opposing counsel. Will update more when the case is done. The case was settled recently. I wanted to add to my previous comments about Attorney Schutzbank. I am totally and completely satisfied with the agreement that he worked very hard to get me. He was able to get me all that I had required which my previous attorney thought was impossible. Through out the process he was on top of the matters and seemed fully involved and invested in my case. He has great negotiating skills which made this agreement possible. He uses his time efficiently to minimize client expenses. I plan to retain him for my future requirements. I would definitely recommend Attorney Schutzbank to anyone.

Misha D.

The Right Attorney For The Job

I had a great experience with attorney Schutzbank. I was referred to him through another attorney who did not practice in New Hampshire. I knew that after my first visit that he was the right attorney for the job. Thank you again.

Thomas G.

When Caring for an Elderly Relative becomes undue influence

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Taking care of a deceased person’s assets and business affairs adds stress to an already emotional situation. Adding to the anxiety, families sometimes discover their loved one has been taken advantage of or manipulated by the relative they entrusted to provide care. A vulnerable elderly person is easy prey to someone who wants to manipulate them by seeking to be a beneficiary of their estate to the possible exclusion of the rest of the family. If a family member suspects this has occurred, do they have any legal recourse and/or means to protect the Elder who is being financially exploited? Yes. The first step is to make a report to your local Elder Services Agency so that a protective services investigation can be initiated in accord with M. G. L. c. 19A.  Please keep in mind that if the Elder is deemed competent, he or she can legally refuse to accept the services/protections provided by the mandated Elder Services Agencies in Massachusetts.  What is undue influence and how can it be proved?

Undue Influence Defined

As the name implies, undue influence means that a vulnerable person was influenced in a manipulative way. Generally, a powerful individual has used unfair means such as deception, exploitation of the elder’s disabilities or weaknesses, has fostered dependency, played on fears, emotionally embarrassed or blackmailed the elder or isolated the elder from other honest family members or others the elder would ordinarily trust.  The perpetrators use various techniques and manipulations to gain power and compliance, exploiting the trust, dependency and fear of older adults. Over time, the perpetrators gain control over the decision making of their unwitting victims. [Read more…]

Spousal Support Modification: What You Need To Know Whether You Pay or Receive Spousal Support

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Alimony is a word that most divorcing parties do not want to hear. The higher income earning spouse doesn’t want to pay to and the lower income earning spouse either doesn’t want to ask for it or isn’t getting enough in support to meet his or her bills. Until the Alimony Reform Act of 2012, family law practitioners could not give their clients any concrete guidance on how much alimony they would pay or receive. Even how long they would pay under a settlement was a guessing game at best. The Alimony Reform Act established durational limits, set an end date for alimony in long-term marriages and established that the amount should be between thirty and thirty-five percent of the difference in income between the parties. The law also set out varying effective dates for when parties paying alimony could seek to terminate or modify their alimony based on the new statute. Those dates are stacked between the date the law went into effect last year and March of 2015.

Grounds for Modification:

Remarriage of or Cohabitation by the Recipient

Under the Alimony Reform Act, alimony terminates automatically upon the remarriage of the recipient. There is no longer a need to go to Court to have alimony terminated in this situation. In many cases, if the spouse who is receiving the support cohabitates (moves in) with someone else with whom they are involved in a romantic relationship (so platonic roommates do not count as cohabitation but could be an economic change in circumstances) before the alimony period ends, the support can be suspended or terminated. Whether or not the Payor needs to file a Complaint for Modification and go back to Court, however, depends upon the language in the parties’ Separation Agreement or Divorce Judgment. In this situation, it is up to the Payor to take the other party to court to request that alimony be suspended or terminated due to the cohabitation of the Recipient Spouse.

[Read more…]

When can a Divorce Decree or Separation Agreement Approved by the Court be Modified?

posted by Eric Schutzbank

While lawyers like to plan for all contingencies, the reality is that life is extremely fluid and we cannot predict all of the possibilities. A parenting plan that works when the children are ages three (3) and five (5) may not work very well when the children are seven (7) and nine (9). When a Separation Agreement is drafted or a Judge issues a ruling after a divorce trial. The decision is based on what is equitable and/or in the best interests of the parties and/or children at the time of the divorce. Certain matters, such as property division, are final and are never modified. The reason that property division is not modified, absent a fraud upon the court, is that both parties to a divorce need to fully be cognizant of their assets and liabilities so that they can best move forward with their lives. If it was possible to change how the property was divided, it would be impossible to move forward or plan for the future. Issues such as custody, parenting plans or child support are modifiable in order to ensure that the best interests of the children are always being met. In addition, the Courts recognize that the income of child support Payors or Recipients can change.

What Can Be Modified?

Whether or not a portion of your Agreement or the Decree can be modified depends on whether that issue merged with the Judgment or Survived as an Independent Contract. In layman’s terms, merger basically means it is modifiable and survived basically means it is not modifiable. Property division always survives. Child custody, child support and parenting plans are always merged and always modifiable. Alimony is a hybrid as it can either survive or merge.

Legal Standard for Modification

The legal standard is a phrase meaning the level of proof required for the Court to rule in your favor. To modify custody or parenting plans, you must have a material change of circumstances to go to court regarding a modification and what you are requesting be ordered/modified must also be found to be in the best interests of the children. This material change of circumstances can equal a major geographical move, a job change that affects the current custody arrangement, the desires or needs of the children changing, a parent becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol or anything else that may make the current arrangement not in the best interest of the children. Talk to a qualified attorney first to determine if your circumstances warrant a modification to avoid unnecessary time in court. [Read more…]

New Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Effective August 1st

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Under Massachusetts law, the Child Support Guidelines must be reviewed every four years to determine if revision is required.  The Chief Justice of the Trial Court appoints a Child Support Guidelines Task Force every four years for this purpose.  The Court has approved revised Child Support Guidelines which take effect on August 1, 2013.  The Child Support Guidelines are used by Trial Court judges in setting temporary, permanent or final orders for current child support, in deciding whether to approve agreements for child support, and in deciding cases that are before the court to modify existing orders.  The Trial Court recently announced these changes and summarized the key changes.  The goal of the task force was to analyze the relevant data and produce revised guidelines based on the current economic climate for families raising children in Massachusetts.  The review process included input from the public and the bar, and reviewed case files, economic analysis, as well as judicial and staff commentary.   The Guidelines were last revised and promulgated in 2009.  Additional information on the quadrennial review of the state’s Child Support Guidelines can be found at http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/index.html.  What follows below is a statement from the a press release from the Chief Justice of the Trial Court listing a summary of the most important changes.

[Read more…]

Family Law: Parenting Through Your Divorce

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Our children are an integral part of our lives and keeping them safe is what parenting is all about.  Parenting together after divorce presents new challenges to an already difficult process, but navigating painful emotions to maintain a united front is an essential part of the job.  The bottom line is, kids feel healthiest when their parents get along.

Breaking the News

Depending on age, discuss the process openly in your family.  If possible, include both parents in the discussion.  Emphasize that while the family is changing, it is not ending.  Divorce means that a marriage is over, it does not mean that a parent’s relationship to his or her child is over.  Your children should feel secure that both their parents love them and neither parent will leave their lives.  Make sure they understand that the divorce is not their fault, that there is nothing that they can or should do to change things.  Remember to answer their questions with as much care and honesty as possible.  They will probably have quite a few questions, and answering them, repeatedly if necessary, will help them regain the sense of security that they’ve lost.  [Read more…]