Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Worcester MA Divorce Law Blog

Divorce mediation Q and A

When figuring out how to approach one's divorce, it is easy to get overwhelmed at the options that are actually out there. There is more than one way to divorce. For Massachusetts residents who are looking for a nontraditional route, divorce mediation may be the answer. This week's column will address some common questions about the mediation process.

Question number one is: Is mediation really an economical choice? Litigation can be very expensive. If a couple can avoid going to court by being willing to negotiate the terms of their divorce, yes, mediation can save them money in the long run.

Child custody: Do fathers get the short end of the stick?

Nationally, there is a movement to offer mothers and fathers equal access to their children when the couple's relationship fails. This movement is not new, so one would think that more fathers would feel that they are being treated equally in the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, according to a recent report, many fathers do not feel this way. When it comes to child custody, are fathers in Massachusetts and elsewhere still getting the short end of the stick?

Technically, family courts have moved to offering shared custody agreements in all cases where they are deemed appropriate. The keyword here is appropriate. In other words, it has to be deemed to serve the best interests of the child. 

Paying child support in Massachusetts: How to

When faced with an order to financially support one's children due to divorce, separation or paternity establishment, one might have a lot of questions. For example, one might want to know how child support is to be paid. Every state does things a little differently. Here is how child support payments work in Massachusetts.

One would like to think it is possible to hand over cash or a check to the other parent. That is not how child support works here. In fact, this practice is strongly discouraged as it would be too easy for the receiving parent to deny ever getting the money.

When a child custody case goes to court

While many custody issues can be resolved privately, there are some parents in Massachusetts who end up needing the courts to decide with whom their children will live and how parenting plans will be set up. If this happens, it is okay. Parents can get through this and even walk away with the child custody agreement they were hoping for if they approach the situation just right.

So, what should parents whose child custody cases end up going to court do to help themselves? First, always arrive to hearings on time and be prepared. Second, show a willingness to collaborate with one's ex. Third, exercise one's parental rights. Finally, fourth, understand that appearance and representation in court matters.

When a child's needs require a child support adjustment

The one thing you can expect in life is that change is inevitable. Things happen and adjustments need to be made sometimes. This is certainly true when it comes to child support. If you have a support order in Massachusetts and your child's needs have changed, you may seek to have your order modified.

The thing with child support is that an order is written for a family's situation at that time. What happens if a child experiences a medical event? What happens if a child gets involved in an expensive sport or hobby? What happens if there are changes to a custody plan? A number of things may happen between the time an order is entered and a child turns 18 that require both parents to reconsider how much each is required to provide in financial support.

Growing your family the nontraditional way: Adoption

You want to grow your family and you have chosen to adopt in order to do that. Growing your family in this nontraditional way can be challenging. The adoption process often takes much longer than people expect it to, and it is filled with a million little hoops that need to be jumped through before a child ever finds his or her way into your home. There is no way to really fast-track the adoption process in Massachusetts, but with the assistance of legal counsel, it is possible to make sure everything that needs to be done is done right in order to avoid any delays.

If you want to adopt, there are a few ways to go about it. No matter how you choose to handle it, there are standard procedures that need to be followed. Filling out paperwork and having home studies completed are just the beginning. When all is said and done, it can take months or even years before the courts allow you to take a child home as your own.

Child custody options that fit your needs

The state of Massachusetts understands that, when going through a divorce with children involved, figuring out custody can be difficult. The state offers four different types of child custody arrangements so that parents can reach custody terms that are the right fit for their families. What are those four options?

Option number one is: sole legal custody. This type of custody gives one parent the right to make all important decisions for the children. Where the kids will go to school, what medical procedures they will have done, what religion they will practice -- it will all be up to one parent.

Be prepared before starting divorce mediation

If you are one of the many Massachusetts residents who is ready to file for divorce and who wishes to utilize the mediation process, you may think that filing now and figuring things out along the way is the way to go. The truth is, before you start divorce mediation sessions, you should have a plan in place for how you are going to take care of yourself during the process and after your divorce is finalized. Divorce simply takes more preparation than people tend to realize. 

Wondering how you can prepare for the mediation process? First, gather documentation regarding all assets. You cannot achieve a fair division of assets if you do not even know what assets are on the table to begin with.

Child custody and a child's wishes

When children are young, they may not think too much about which parent they live with when their parents get divorced. As they get older, they may start to express their opinions on the matter. In Massachusetts, does a child's wishes regarding child custody matter to the court?

In some states, the courts do not take a child's wishes into consideration at all when establishing a child custody plan. Massachusetts is not like those states. Here, under the right circumstances, a child's wishes may be taken into consideration.

Massachusetts child support: What is the PIP program?

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue works diligently to ensure children are receiving the financial support owed them by their parents. The sad reality is, many parents who are ordered to pay child support fail to do so. Enforcement options are in place that allow the DOR to intercept money meant for the parent and transfer it to the children. The payment intercept program is one way that the DOR does this.

The payment intercept program requires insurance providers to work closely with the DOR to identify individuals who are behind on child support payments and expecting insurance claim payouts. The money can be intercepted and sent to the DOR in order to satisfy the debt. Surely there are those who feel this kind of thing should not be allowed, but the state allows it to ensure children have their basic needs met.

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