Massachusetts Holds Parents Accountable for “Social Hosting”

posted by Eric Schutzbank

It’s well-known that the legal drinking age in all states, including Massachusetts, is 21. Less know, however, are the liabilities associated with “social hosting”. Social hosting refers to providing alcohol or other substances to a minor that is not your own child on your property or in an environment you control. Especially during graduation time, some parents reason if they provide alcohol at a party at their private residence in a safe environment, ensuring that minors do not drink and drive, they are not committing a crime. Massachusetts’ “Social Host” law says that they are. Consider the consequences and situations covered by this law:

  • You could pay fines and go to jail. The penalty in Massachusetts for “social hosting” is a fine up to $2,000 and/or prison time for up to one year. Of course, if injury occurred, such as if a child died in an accident after leaving your home, you could be convicted of more serious crimes, resulting in a longer prison sentence.
  • You could pay civil penalties as well. Providing alcohol to minors makes you liable for their actions. You could be sued for millions of dollars if that child injuries himself or another person after consuming the alcohol you provided. Since homeowner’s insurance will often not cover injuries as a result of criminal activity, you may be personally responsible for financial damages.

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Longtime Lowell law firm moves to N. Andover

By Dan O’Brien | Lowell Sun

LOWELL — A longtime family law firm has moved its offices from Gorham Street to North Andover.

After 20 years in Lowell, Berid & Schutzbank, LLC, recently made the move to 800 Turnpike St., Suite 304, in North Andover.

In a phone interview Monday, managing member Eric Schutzbank said the move was made to create a more centralized location for a client base that has extended to the North Shore and into southern New Hampshire, as well as for “balance of work-life issues.”

“I live here in North Andover, so this move allows me to work closer to home,” he said.

Schutzbank said the firm was originally formed in 1980 by his former partner, Maxa Berid. He joined the firm in 1995, working in Lowell until a month ago.

“I have a strong affinity and fondness for Lowell,” Schutzbank said, noting he had worked for a time with the National Park Service.

Berid retired from litigation in 2010, and as counsel earlier this year, leaving Schutzbank as the firm’s lone attorney. The only other employee is Alison Dorsey.

Berid & Schutzbank practices family law, including divorce, custody, removal, parenting issues, child support, grandparents’ rights, as well as criminal law, guardianships and elder issues.

Schutzbank, a family-law attorney and criminal-defense lawyer, is a former president of the Greater Lowell Bar Association.

Recording the Police with Your Smartphone – a Constitutional Right or Unlawful Wiretapping?

posted by Eric Schutzbank

In the era of ubiquitous personal technology, it may seem that we have an unbridled right to use our smartphones to photograph or record anything and everything. We may particularly want to record the police to verify that they are serving and protecting the public and not violating individual rights. Be careful, even here in our great state of Massachusetts, the police can still lawfully charge and arrest you for recording them in certain circumstances.

Recently, a woman was charged with unlawful wiretapping by the Springfield police for recording her arrest. The Springfield Republican reported that a 24 year-old woman was arrested for disorderly conduct and the police discovered in her possessions a smartphone with the audio recorder activated. When she was arrested, the police claim that Ms. Dziewit had yelled that she was recording the entire incident. Subsequently, the police further charged her with violating the Massachusetts law prohibiting wiretapping. In Massachusetts, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a maximum $5000 fine to record any conversation without the consent of all parties. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 272 § 99. [Read more…]

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

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.

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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.

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