Showing posts from December, 2010

Bullying in a divorce

There has been much discussion in Massachusetts lately about bullying in schools. However, bullying is not limited to that arena. Bullying occurs everywhere in society including marriages and divorce. However, in a divorce, bullying can be particularly harmful. Bullying can effect the outcome of a divorce and this can have ramifications for the rest of a person's life. In fact, frequently, bullying is conducted for the sole purpose of effecting the outcome of the divorce.

It is not unusual for one party in a marriage to be overbearing to their spouse. When the parties get divorced, it is typical for the overbearing conduct to get worse. This conduct can vary from merely being rude to being highly destructive to spouse and children. Bullying should be recognized as a form of abuse. It is a course of conduct that is designed to control the spouse and should never be tolerated in a divorce.

Unless this conduct is addressed, you can expect that it will continue and get worse. If there…

Recognition of international custody decisions

In the recent case of CHARARA v. YATIM, 09-P-1189 (Mass.App.Ct. 11-23-2010) the Court refused to recognize a custody determination from a Lebanese Court. A little background helps understand this case.
Prior to the enactment of the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act in the late 1970's, custody disputes frequently resulted in battles across state lines. Since child custody judgments are considered subject to change based on a change of circumstances, states traditionally considered child custody cases even if another state had rendered a decision. This resulted in parties grabbing the children, running across state lines, and filing a new action. This was unique in American law as the Constitution requires states to give full faith and credit to final judgments of other states. A custody decision which appeared to be a final statement was not treated that way. Congress passed the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and required all states to treat custody decisions of other states a…

When should a parent coordinator be used?

A parent coordinator is a neutral third person who is appointed by the court to resolve custody disputes between parents who no longer live together or are divorced. Resolving disputes by a parent coordinator is less expensive than court proceedings and much faster. Either party can "appeal" the decision of the coordinator to a Judge.
A parent coordinator is appointed by a Judge and the order will spell out the specific powers of the PC.  The cost of the parent coordinator is usually split between the parties and the PC process is usually conducted without involvement of attorneys.
A parent coordinator works best when both parties act in good faith. By the time a family becomes involved with a PC, the two parents have developed a history of not working together. In the worst cases, they are frequent users of probate court as they return to have the judge decide minor matters. Often, they tend to oppose each other in parenting decisions and have difficulty compromising. Whil…

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with?

I am frequently asked by clients about when a child gets to decide which parent they will live with. Often, parents inform me that they know that the child gets to decide at a particular age. However, there is no simple answer.  There are many factors the court must consider when deciding child custody or visitation.
A judge will decide custody and visitation for a child based upon the standard of the best interests of the child. A child’s preference for custody is one factor that may be considered by the court. When the child is young, the court seldom pays attention to the child’s expressed preference. As the child gets older, the court gives increased weight to the preference. When the child is 14, the court generally inquires of the child’s preference. This doesn’t mean that the Judge automatically does what the child wants. The Judge must still consider many factors in addition to the preference of the child. For many children, when they are 16 or 17, their preference may become…

Divorce, children & the holidays

Every parent should want to raise their children to lead happy, healthy lives as productive members of society. If possible, divorcing parents want their children to be free of the stress and strife caused by breakup of the family. Unfortunately, the holiday season has the potential to create hostility, turmoil, chaos, and stress. This can cause children to hate the approach of holidays that once heralded joy and celebration. Parents who are separated or divorced need to plan the holidays in a way that is designed to reduce the stress on the children.
Adults, even adults who are not divorced, experience stress around the holidays. We spend too much money, plan events, and eat too much. Sometimes, this stress and tension causes people to take their anxiety out on the people they live with. It is important to understand the extra pressures at this time and that everybody suffers from the holiday season.
During the holiday season, children often dwell on the breakup of the family. This i…