Family Law


The ABC’s of Divorce

It is a rough day when you realize that your marriage is over.  There are so many questions and even when the parties are in agreement about the divorce, no one really knows where to begin.  Here are the basics that everyone getting divorced should know.

Figure Out What You Can Agree On

The first step is to determine whether you and your spouse will be able to reach an agreement to resolve issues of division of assets, custody, visitation, child support, and alimony.  If both parties are willing to work together, you should consider mediation to help work out the details before emotions escalate the situation resulting in a lack of cooperation among the parties which may not be in the best interest of any children.  Even parties with the best intentions run into issues when trying to disentangle their lives from one another.  A mediator can assist the parties in reaching a fair and equitable agreement in regard to assets and a parenting plan that is best for children. This is also, generally, the least expensive avenue to pursue in obtaining a divorce.  If the parties can agree on the terms of the divorce then you will file an uncontested “1A” divorce.  If the parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce then you will file a contested “1B” divorce.

The Importance of Civility Among Divorcing Parents

If the divorcing couple are parents it is important to remember that the more amicable the divorce is the easier and less tumultuous it is for not only yourselves but more importantly for your children.  It is always in the best of interest of children for parents to be able to work together.  Divorcing parents with minor children are required to attend a Parenting Education Program by a Court approved educator.  This certificate of attendance will need to be filed with the Court after the Complaint is filed. The Court will not place your divorce on the calendar for hearing without the Certificate being filed by each parent.  Both parents must take the course and the course is attended separately.  The purpose of the course is to educate parents on how to communicate during and after the divorce to maintain a civility between the parties and to understand the impact of divorce on children.  Thus, I always recommend that clients take this program as soon as possible. The clerk’s office at your local Probate and Family Court will have a list of approved programs.

What Documentation Will I need?

The Probate and Family Court requires disclosure of the following information by documentation within 45 days after service of the Complaint.  (See Rule 410- Mandatory Self Disclosure)

  1. Federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the past 3 years and any non-public, limited partnership and privately held corporate returns for any entity in which either party has an interest together with all supporting documentation for tax returns, including but not limited to w-2s, 1099’s, 1098’s, K-1, Schedule C and Schedule E.
  2. Four (4) most recent paystubs from each employer.
  3. Documentation for the cost and information of available health insurance.
  4. Statements for the last 3 years of all bank accounts of each party or held for the benefit of many minor child.
  5. Statements for the past three (3) years for any securities, stocks, bonds, notes or obligations, certificates of deposit owned or held by either party or held by either party for the benefit of the parties’ minor child(ren), 401K statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements for all accounts listed on the 401 financial statement.
  6. Copies of any loan or mortgage applications made, prepared or submitted by either party within the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint.
  7. Copies of any financial statement and/or statement of assets and liabilities prepared by either party within the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint.


Filing the Complaint

Once a Complaint for Divorce is filed neither party can change, hide, sell, or transfer assets.  The Court will not look kindly upon the party that attempts to hide and deprive assets that are to be divided.  Remember, in Massachusetts all assets are “on the table” including property, gifts, assets, inheritances, pensions, etc. that were received, earned or obtained prior to and during marriage and occasionally those that are anticipated.

Who Has Custody?

It is also important to remember that until the Court orders otherwise, both parents share physical and legal custody of their minor children.  If the parties can work together to reach an agreement, it is advisable to consult with a mediator and/or attorney to assist in the preparation of a separation agreement based upon the wishes of the parties.  Even if you think you can resolve all of the issues on your own, it is advisable to consult with a divorce attorney to ensure you have covered all the issues that are likely to arise so you are not brought back into court to modify agreements based upon future changes.  It is also advisable to consult a divorce attorney so that assets are divided equitably, as this part of a divorce cannot be modified at a later time even if there is a substantial change in circumstances.  Modifications are generally limited to issues of custody, visitation, and child support.

If divorce is inevitable contact us at info@cascanettlaw.com so we can help you through this process.  We will assist you in obtaining a divorce with dignity and respect.

What Does “Equitable Division of Assets” Mean?

In Massachusetts, upon divorce, the Court will equitably divide the parties’ assets, regardless of the source, if they cannot reach their own agreement.  However, equitable division of assets does not mean 50/50. It means a fair division of the assets based upon the following factors:

  • length of marriage
  • conduct of the parties during marriage
  • health
  • age
  • occupation
  • vocational skills
  • station
  • amount and sources of income
  • employability
  • estate
  • debts
  • needs of the parties, individually
  • each parties ability to acquire capital assets and income in the future
  • amount and duration of alimony
  • needs of dependent children
  • action of the parties regarding their respective estates during the marriage
  • contributions to the family unit as a homemaker.


It is imperative to remember that the Family Court has broad discretion on these issues and an Appeals court would only overturn a decision when it is PLAINLY WRONG. In Massachusetts, all assets are on the table.  That is all assets, inheritances, gifts, real estate, pensions, 401Ks, etc. that were received before and during the marriage. This applies regardless of whether the party kept it separate from marital property and assets that were received or obtained together during the course of the marriage.  It is also important to remember that the division of assets is a ONE-TIME event.  It cannot be modified such as alimony or child support later on when there is a substantial change in a parties’ situation or circumstance.

As you will not get a second bite at the apple it is imperative that you consult with a divorce attorney and disclose all information regarding each parties’ assets as early as possible.  The division of the parties’ assets will likely impact each parties’ quality of life and lifestyle following the divorce.  For questions or assistance regarding divorce, division of assets and other related issues contact us at info@cascanettlaw.com

A Non-Custodial Parent’s Guide to Child Support

A non-custodial parent is a parent whose children do not live with him/her the majority of the time. In other words, your children live with the other parent or some other guardian more often than they live with you. In Massachusetts, both parents are financially responsible for their children’s support. As a result, the non-custodial parent usually must pay child support for their children, which is used for housing, education, food, clothing, child care costs, medical needs, etc.

Child support is generally determined by the combined income available to both parents. To get an idea as to what your child support payment would be you can access the child support guideline worksheet that can be found at http://www.mass.gov/courts/forms. Simply input child support guidelines worksheet in the word search box. It is easier to input the income information into the document than to complete it on your own, as it will automatically calculate the amount of support you will likely be responsible to pay.

A Court can order you to pay more or less than the child support you would be responsible for according to the Child Support Guidelines. However, if the Court is going to diverge from the guidelines it must file a form entitled Child Support Findings for Deviation from Guidelines. This will include the reasons for the deviations.

If there is a Court Order for child support or an agreement for child support that a Court has accepted (a Judgment) it can only be changed by the Court. You are responsible for the ordered amount of child support until it is changed by the Court. Once a Court Order for child support is in place, your payments will be made through the Department of Revenue (DOR). Most courts have an office on the premises. Make sure to keep the DOR apprised of changes in address, employment, income, etc. In order to change your child support payment there must be a change in circumstance. An example of a changed circumstance would be an increase or decrease in one parent’s income. Another likely cause for change is a change of one parent’s income due to unemployment, disability or other acceptable reason. Sometimes, the DOR can assist you in assessing whether you are likely entitled to a change in child support or with assistance in seeking a modification.

If you have questions about child custody, child support, or need assistance with modifying your child support, contact a family lawyer at info@cascanettlaw.com.

Parent Coordinators and Their Role and Limitations Regarding Custody and Visitation

If you are involved in a high conflict divorce or high conflict custody battle with the other parent of your child a parent coordinator can be very helpful. If the Court has not suggested a parent coordinator to assist in custody and visitation disputes it should be an option that you consider and request. A parent coordinator can assist in avoiding ongoing conflicts, possible contempt charges, and expensive legal fees.

A parent coordinator is a neutral party that generally has a background in family law, mental health, mediation, and/or other relevant fields who assist separated or divorced parents in resolving conflicts that arise in the implementation of custody and visitation arrangements or orders in a manner that reduces the impact of the parents’ conflict on their children. For instance, parent coordinators can help to resolve disputes about “day-to-day” custody and visitation issues. Such as determining how to adjust visitation if school is unexpectedly canceled, which family members will attend a special event such as an award ceremony or athletic competition, whether both parents may attend a parent-teacher conference or how accommodations will be made if a parent or child becomes ill.

As parents with the best of your child or children at heart one of your primary goals after the safety, security and health of your child or children should be to reduce the conflict between yourself and the other parent, as no child likes to be stuck in the middle of two feuding parents. Even if you and the other parent try to keep your child or children out of the disputes it is inevitable that they are aware of it and have strong feelings as a result of the ongoing conflict. Thus, a parent coordinator can be a very helpful tool when there is high conflict regarding a child or children between separated or divorced parents.

Nonetheless, you should be aware of your rights and that a parent coordinators role can be limited. In September of this year the Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in Massachusetts, stated that Judges of the Probate and Family Court do have the authority to appoint a parent coordinator where doing so can conserve limited judicial resources, aid in the probate court’s functioning and capacity to decide cases, or if such referral is necessary to ensure the best interests of the children in a divorce or custody related proceeding. However, it also ruled that a Court could not order parties to submit to a parent coordinator or be bound by the decisions of a parent coordinator without the agreement of the parties.

Thus, parents involved in high conflict custody and visitation disputes should consider and request the assistance of a parent coordinator for the benefit of their child. However, it is imperative that you understand the parent coordinator’s limitations in ordering resolution of conflicts between parents.

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