Will I be entitled to anything when we divorce?

Additional Info:  We have been married for 6 months and I realize it was a mistake and want a divorce. We got married because I am pregnant with his child. We rent an apartment in Lowell. He has some money in savings, I do not.

Attorney Answer:

Once the child is born, you will be entitled to child support assuming he earns more than you and you are the primary custodial parent of the child.  With respect to asset division, this is a short term marriage, so it is likely that the Court would look to put the parties in the financial situation they were in before the marriage (in other words you each keep what you have).  That being said, if you need to move and he has more in assets and earnings, it is possible you could receive some money to assist with your move.

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Can my ex prevent me from moving out of the country with our daughter?

Additional Information:

My ex and I have a 6 year old daughter.  He sees her every other weekend and occasionally during the week.  We live in Acton, MA but I have met someone who lives outside of the US and we are getting married this year.  I am also pregnant with his child.   I want to move with my daughter to be near him.  What are my legal responsibilities in this situation?  I’d still like my daughter to be able to see her biological father, but obviously it’s not going to be as frequent and can he prevent us from moving?


The short answer to whether or not you can be prevented is that it depends on what the current Court Orders state and the nature of your relationship between your ex and the child.  If you were married to the father of your daughter, you will absolutely have to file a Complaint for Modification seeking permission to “remove” the child from the Commonwealth for residency purposes.  There is strong case law that outlines the factors that are considered by the Court in determining whether or not to permit the removal.  The fact that you are pregnant and engaged to be married may or may not be sufficient grounds to justify the granting of the relief you’re seeking.  The Court will look at the advantage to you and the child as well as what is in the best interests of the child.  The closeness of your daughter’s relationship to her biological father will play a significant factor as well.  The exception to the above would be if your ex agreed to the removal in writing.  I would strongly suggest that you consult with a family law attorney as soon as possible.  [Read more...]

Who has visitation rights?

Recently, many states have passed laws that give grandparents certain visitation rights with a child after a divorce or after the death of the child’s parent.

Predictably, this has given rise to questions about whether this right should be extended to other close relatives, such as aunts, uncles and cousins.

The issue came up recently in Minnesota, when a woman asked for visitation rights with her niece – the daughter of her recently deceased identical twin sister.

The woman argued that since Minnesota has a law that gives visitation rights to grandparents, it only made sense to include other family members as well.

But the Minnesota Supreme Court said that the law was to benefit grandparents and shouldn’t be extended to other relatives – except perhaps in unusual cases where another relative had previously been acting in place of the child’s parents.

What are consequences for minor daughter arrested for petty theft?

Additional Information:

What are the consequences for petty theft in MA for my teenage daughter (under 18 years old)?  It is her first time getting in trouble.  Some girls had dared her to steal from a store in Tewksbury and challenged her to see how much she could steal.  She was arrested for merchandise totaling $200.


It depends on how old your daughter is.  If she is under age 17, she will be charged in the Juvenile Court.  If she is 17, she will be charged as an adult in Lowell District Court.  There are a wide range of possible consequences.  Under the facts as you present them, it is likely that she would be looking at a dismissal upon payment of Court costs and any restitution.  She could also receive pretrial probation (which is when a Defendant is placed on probation without any type of admission in Court and the case is subsequently dismissed if she complies with the terms of probation) or receive what is called a Continuance without a Finding in which she admits to sufficient facts to find her guilty but is not found guilty.  If she complies with any probationary terms for the continuance period, the case is dismissed.  Massachusetts law allows for more significant penalties such as a conviction or incarceration but those are extremely unlikely for a first offense for someone with no criminal record.  [Read more...]

Can you change your children’s name after divorce?

After a couple divorced, the wife asked a court to change their two children’s last name to her maiden name. (The children had been given the husband’s last name at birth.)

The judge agreed, saying that since the mother was the primary residential parent, it should be presumed that she was acting in the children’s best interests, and her decision should be respected.

But the father appealed, and a higher court sided with him.

The appeals court said that this result might make sense in the case of a child who was born out of wedlock. For instance, if a child were born as a result of a momentary physical relationship between a couple, or during a very brief relationship, then the parent who later assumed responsibility for the child might have a right to choose the most appropriate name.

However, where children are the product of a marriage, and were named by a “marital partnership” with the intent that their names be permanent, one parent can’t simply reverse that decision without the other parent’s consent, the court said.

Will I be responsible for half of my wife’s school loan when we divorce?

Additional Information:

My wife took out a loan so she could start her own business.   She had hoped to apply earnings toward the mortgage on our North Reading home, and stuff for the kids.  We are now getting a divorce and besides writing a business plan, she hasn’t launched her business.  Will I be liable for half of the loan?


The answer is maybe.  In terms of the divorce itself, if you are not getting an interest in the business, it would likely not be considered equitable for you to be responsible for the loan.  The problem, however, is that the lender is not going to let you off the hook merely because you were divorced if you co-signed for the loan.  Any settlement reached should include a provision that your wife has a set amount of time to remove you from the loan by either assuming the loan or obtaining a new loan to pay off or refinance the original loan.  [Read more...]

Be sure you’re legally married

These days, a growing number of couples are opting out of traditional church weddings and are choosing instead to be married in less formal ceremonies, often presided over by a friend or relative rather than a priest or rabbi.

That’s fine if that’s what the couple wants – but the problem is that some such weddings might not be technically valid under state law. A couple could live together for years assuming they’re legally married, and only find out otherwise much later when something unfortunate happens, such as a death or a divorce.

Typically, a valid marriage requires a license, witnesses, and solemnization by someone with the legal authority to do so. “Legal authority” is the problem. In many states, this means either a justice of the peace or a person who has been ordained by a recognized religion.

Many people believe that they can perform weddings if they’ve been ordained by the Universal Life Church, an Internet “religion” that has no particular belief system but that allows people to fill out an online form and quickly become “ordained.” The ULC’s website proudly touts that its “ministers” can perform weddings. But just because something appears on a website doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. [Read more...]

When we divorce, will my husband be entitled to half of a gift check?

Additional Information:

My husband and I were both in our 40s when we got married, and having an elaborate wedding didn’t seem right, so we eloped. My parents gave me a gift check which we then put toward a house we bought together in North Andover. We are now getting a divorce.  Will my husband get half of this asset?


This is a difficult question to answer with the information provided.  Without knowing the length of the marriage, equity in the house, amount of the gift, other assets involved, amount of liabilities and other pertinent issues, it is impossible to answer.  Massachusetts law provides for an equitable division of the marital estate in a divorce.  While that is often a 50/50 split, it is not required.  If you can provide more information I would be happy to answer the question. [Read more...]

We were both charged with assault. Can we refuse to press charges?

Additional  Information:

Can we refuse to press charges? I was involved in a fight with a friend and we’ve both been charged with assault.  My question is, can we just refuse to press charges so the case goes away? Our parents are still neighbors in Tyngsborough and are good friends, and he and I were best friends since elementary school but now we don’t get along any more and neither one of us wants to press charges.


It is not as simple as merely refusing to press charges.  Once the police forward the matter for prosecution, the named complaining witnesses no longer control the process.  It is up to the District Attorney’s Office.  Where both parties have been charged with an Assault, each of you may be able to assert your Fifth Amendment right to remain silient and not testify in Court.  I would strongly urge you both to consult with your own attorneys who can best advise you whether or not you each have legitimate Fifth Amendment issues that can be asserted.  [Read more...]