Lisa strongly believes that mediating your case in a neutral setting out of court is the preferred approach whenever possible, as mediation allows a client to control the process and obtain a desired result at the lowest cost possible without waiting months for the Court to resolve your case. Lisa can assist you in resolving your case without court intervention as a trained mediator.
Divorce/Division of Assets and Liabilities
It is presumed that all assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage will be divided equitably between the parties.
Depending upon the circumstances, the Probate Court will make an equitable division that may be equal or may be disproportionately greater to one spouse if the facts of the case warrant it.
Whether you settle the division of marital assets or debt with your spouse or go to trial, the property you receive will have a long-lasting effect on your financial security as all agreements relating to property division are non-modifiable and forever binding on the parties absent fraud, misrepresentation, or failure to disclose hidden assets.
Lisa has the familiarity and experience to assist you in making informed decisions in all aspects of property division, including high net worth estates, asset valuation of businesses, real estate, retirement assets, and compensation assets. Lisa will assist you in uncovering hidden assets and income when required.
As a result of the Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, same sex marriage became legally recognized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts more than 10 years prior to the United States Supreme Court striking down all state bans on same sex marriage and declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The divorce process and applicable law now applies to all married spouses, regardless of gender.
Lisa has represented numerous clients in same sex divorces and has the knowledge and experience to achieve a solution that best fits the needs and goals of her client.
On March 1, 2012, the Alimony Reform Act implemented for the first time has provided the Probate and Family Court with a formula for determining the amount and duration of alimony orders.
The Alimony Reform Act prescribes different types of spousal support including "general term alimony" for long-term marriages of 20 years of more, and spousal support to be paid for a marriage of shorter duration including "reimbursement alimony" to compensate a spouse for economic or non-economic contributions to the marriage; "transition alimony" to transition a spouse to a lifestyle they have been accustomed to as a result of the marriage; and "rehabilitation alimony" to allow a spouse to become economically self-sufficient.
The Alimony Reform Act sets forth a presumptive end date for payment of an alimony obligation which is a payor's becoming fully eligible for social security benefits otherwise referred to as "full retirement age". However, for marriages 20 years or more, general term alimony may be ordered for an indefinite period of time, but in no event beyond the death of either party or remarriage of the alimony recipient.
The duration of an alimony obligation for marriages less than 20 years in duration is determined by the number of months from the date of the marriage to the date a divorce complaint is served. The Alimony Reform Act also allows the Court to terminate an alimony obligation if the party receiving alimony has cohabited with at third party for 90 days or more.
A spouse receiving alimony will receive a percentage of the difference between the parties' pre-tax gross income.
The Alimony Reform Act sets forth guidelines for spousal support orders, but every case is fact specific. Lisa will fully discuss your options and advocate for the best possible outcome.
Massachusetts General Laws 208, Section 31 is the governing statute with regard to legal and physical custody of children.
Legal custody involves decision-making authority regarding the children. Massachusetts law provides that both parents are presumed to share legal custody of the child with an obligation to consult each other on major decisions regarding the child's welfare including religion, medical needs, and education.
Shared legal custody is the norm unless the parents show an inability to communicate or cooperate with each other or a restraining order and/or no contact order has been issued by the court precluding communication between the parties.
Physical custody involves the day to day contact and time spent by each parent with the child. "Sole physical custody" occurs when a child resides primarily with one parent with reasonable parenting time given to the other parent that may include weekdays and weekends depending on the facts and circumstances which accommodate both the parents and child. "Shared physical custody" occurs when the children have frequent and continued contact with both parents both during the week and on weekends. Massachusetts law presumes that the rights of both parents are equal in the absence of misconduct, and the happiness and welfare of the children shall determine their custody.
Lisa represents both fathers and mothers in custody matters and will advocate for a parenting plan that not only serves your needs, but is in the best interests of the child.
In Massachusetts, child support is calculated pursuant to a mathematical formula and is based upon several factors, including:
- Gross income of both parties
- Number of unemancipated children born of the marriage
- Age and whether the child is under or over the age of 18
- Cost of medical/dental/vision insurance
- Cost of daycare
- Other support obligations being paid
- The time each parent spends with the children
As of June 15, 2018, a new statutory guideline provides for three distinct calculations depending upon the parenting schedule in effect and whether the children reside with a parent for approximately 2/3 of the time; whether the parents share equal parenting time with the children; or whether, in a family with more than one child covered by the order, each parent provides a primary residence for at least one child.
A parent is eligible to receive child support until a child reaches the age of 18, 21, or 23, depending on whether the child is attending college or vocational school as a full-time student or the child is between the age of 18 - 21 and is principally dependent upon a parent for support.
The child support guidelines do not allow a parent to avoid a child support obligation regardless of their financial circumstances and/or lack of income and provides for a presumed minimum level of support totaling $25.00 per week.
Lisa will advocate to ensure that child support is being paid at an appropriate level based upon the circumstances of your case.
Removal of Children
One of the most emotionally charged issues in a divorce case occurs when a parent wants to relocate the children to another state.
A parent seeking to relocate out of state with the children must petition the court for approval. The court will consider a number of factors in determining whether a parent's request to remove the children to another state is warranted, including whether there is a good reason for the move or "real advantage" to a parent, and whether the move is in the best interests of the children.
Lisa has represented parents in a number of cases involving a request to move a child to another state as well as parents opposing such requests.
Lisa will take the time to provide an in-depth, realistic analysis of the likely outcome of a parent's request for removal and provide skilled, experienced representation at trial in the event that your dispute cannot be resolved fairly and equitably by negotiation.
If the parents of a child are unmarried at the time of a child's birth and a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity has not been signed, then a parent who wants to enforce their rights to parenting time with the child or receive child support is required to file a Complaint to Establish Paternity with the Probate Court.
In cases where parentage has been acknowledged, a parent can file a Complaint for Custody, Visitation and Support pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 209C to enforce their parental rights. Once a complaint has been filed, the court has the authority to order parenting time and custody, establish a child support order, and make orders pertaining to health insurance.
Lisa has represented both fathers and mothers in paternity actions and will provide you with experienced advice on your rights and options.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed by two parties contemplating marriage which sets forth the obligations of the parties including property division, guidelines regarding financial support, and any other relevant financial issues in the event of divorce.
The court does apply standards in determining whether the agreement is enforceable at the time of divorce. The agreement must be "fair and reasonable" at the time the agreement was signed, and the court will consider whether each party made a complete disclosure of their income, assets, and liabilities to the other, in addition to whether one party was forced into signing the agreement.
The court will also examine whether the agreement is "fair and reasonable" at the time of divorce including whether the terms of the agreement would leave one spouse with most if not all of the income and assets, including those assets acquired during the marriage, resulting in the other party being destitute and unable to support him/herself.
Lisa can help you with a prenuptial agreement that will solidify and resolve your financial issues in the event of divorce, saving you the time and money associated with litigating these issues in a divorce action.
You can obtain a restraining order pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 209A in any district, superior or probate and family court in Massachusetts upon proof of "abuse" which is defined as:
- Actual physical abuse
- An attempt to harm another
- Placing another in fear of serious physical harm
- Causing another to engage in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress
The court can order an abuser to:
- Stop or refrain from abuse
- Have no contact with the victim
- Vacate or remain away from a house or workplace
- Surrender all firearms
Over the years, Lisa has successfully represented numerous clients who desire to obtain/ extend a restraining order as well as defend against the issuance of a restraining order and will utilize her experience and legal knowledge to obtain a desired result.