Estate and Advanced Care Planning is for Single People too

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Being single doesn’t mean you do not need an estate plan. Single people need to be taken care of if they become incapacitated and also want to have a say in how their property is distributed after their death. Single people often have unique considerations when planning for the future. Married couples most often have their spouses act as their fiduciary in the event of incapacitation or death. Older couples with adult children general have their children designated to make decisions when they or their spouse can no longer do so. Single people without children need to involve friends or other relatives in their medical emergency and end of life arrangements. You do not want to find yourself in a situation where the Commonwealth has to appoint a stranger to make decisions for you.

Documents used to convey what should take place if a single person becomes incapacitated can include a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy or other advance care directive and/or an authorization under HIPPA rules. Employing one or more of these documents will authorize your agent to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are not able. [Read more…]

Child Custody – In the Best Interests of the Children

posted by Eric Schutzbank

Divorce is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and parenting arrangements for children. In Massachusetts, the top priority of the courts is to determine if arrangements are “in the best interests of the children”, but that may not always be as straightforward as it seems. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead, seek competent legal representation and hire an attorney who can ensure that you have a parenting plan that you are comfortable with and is able to meet the necessary legal requirements.

Massachusetts recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody and sole physical custody. When a couple files for divorce, both parents are presumed to be granted temporary shared legal custody. This allows both parents to have equal responsibility (and rights) concerning major decisions like medical care, education and religious development. Legal custody does not cover the day-to-day decisions such as what to have for dinner or what time to go to bed. During what can be contentious times, differing ideas about the schooling or religious upbringing of children can surface. Having an attorney can ensure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law. [Read more…]

White Collar Crimes in Massachusetts

posted by Eric Schutzbank

White Collar Crimes in Massachusetts cover a broad range of financially motivated nonviolent criminal activities including embezzlement, fraud, employee theft, and forgery. They can also include internet-related crimes such as identity theft and credit card fraud. Statistics show these crimes account for over $400 billion in losses to the U.S economy alone.

In Massachusetts, penalties for white collar crimes are especially serious; therefore, it is important to seek the counsel of attorneys who are experienced in defending these types of crimes to ensure the best outcome.

Common Types of White Collar Crimes:

  • Financial Fraud: Conspiracy to commit or committal of insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, insider trading, healthcare/welfare fraud, tax evasion, etc.
  • Corruption: Bribery, violation of laws by a public servant or official, or unethical behavior by a local or government employee for personal gain.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[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.