We are Massachusetts Divorce Lawyers
Our attorneys have years of combined experience in practice as Massachusetts divorce and family law lawyers, including divorce, guardianships, domestic violence proceedings, and cases involving custody, visitation and support of minor children between unmarried individuals (sometimes known as “paternity” or 209C cases). In any family law case involving minor children, the court must determine which parent the children will live with (“physical custody”), whether the parents have an equal say in major decisions affecting the children (“legal custody”), and the frequency, duration and conditions dictating the non-custodial parent’s parenting time (“visitation”). The legal standard for determining all of these issues is the “best interests of the child”, a test that is influenced by numerous factors. If you need a Massachusetts divorce lawyer, call us today. Read more about divorce and family law in Massachusetts on the Lynch & Owens Blog.
We are Child Custody and Parenting Time Lawyers
In any family law case involving minor children, the court must determine child custody: i.e. which parent the children will reside with, how major decisions affecting the children will be made, and the frequency, duration and conditions dictating the non-custodial parent’s parenting time. Although the precise legal standards can differ for legal proceedings involving non-parents seeking custody (such as a petition for guardianships or grandparent vitiation), in the cases involving biological parents, a judge generally has wide discretion to enter orders pertaining to custody and parenting time consistent with the “best interests of the child”.
The primary statutes controlling custody determinations in Massachusetts fall under the divorce statute, the law affecting children of unmarried parents, and the Massachusetts guardianship statute. In cases involving biological parents, the law recognizes two forms of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Under the Massachusetts divorce statute, shared legal custody is defined as the “continued mutual responsibility and involvement by both parents in major decisions regarding the child’s welfare including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.” Further, the divorce statute provides that in entering a temporary order in a divorce case, married parents shall have shared legal custody of a child unless the judge finds that shared legal custody is not in the best interests of the children. In contrast, the Massachusetts statute affecting children of unmarried parents provides that a court shall only enter an order of shared legal custody if “the parents have successfully exercised joint responsibility for the child prior to the commencement of proceedings pursuant to this chapter and have the ability to communicate and plan with each other concerning the child’s best interests.”
Probate and Family Court judges have broad discretion to fashion physical custody and parenting time orders on a case by case basis. Generally, the single biggest consideration in making orders relative parenting time is the roles each parent played in the child’s life prior to their separation. The parent who was the child’s primary caregiver prior to the commencement of the legal action is generally favored by the judge once the case commences, however, it is not unusual for judges to modify the parenting schedule in response to events in the parties’ and/or children’s lives. If you need a Massachusetts custody lawyer, call us today. Read more about child custody in Massachusetts on the Lynch & Owens Blog.
We are Child Support Lawyers
In Massachusetts, child support the amount and duration of child support is dictated by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. In most cases, a parent who is granted primary physical custody of a child will be entitled to child support from the non-custodial parent. Massachusetts last revised its Child Support Guidelines on August 1, 2013. Most observers agree that the most significant changes in the 2013 Guidelines involved a reduction in the amount paid to a custodial parent under a basic order, as well as reductions in support orders for non-custodial parents who have parenting time more than 33% of the time.r
Our attorneys have been appearing on behalf of Massachusetts residents in child support cases for years. We understand the intricacies and limitations of the Child Support Guidelines, and we fight to ensure a fair child support outcome for our clients. If you need a Massachusetts child support lawyer, call us today. Read more about child support in Massachusetts on the Lynch & Owens Blog.
We are Property Division Lawyers
The Massachusetts divorce statute provides that a Probate and Family Court “may assign to either husband or wife all or any” poperty owned by either party. Accordingly, all property acquired by either party at any time, including property acquired before the marriage, is subject to the division of assets as part of a divorce. However, there are numerous considerations that judges consider in entering a final division of assets. These include “the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and the amount and duration of alimony … [as well as] the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage [and] the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.”
Complicating factors in an asset division that frequently arise include hard-to-value assets, significant marital debt, real estate and title related issues, and hidden and/or complex assets. If your divorce involves any of these factors, or if you are uncertain about how you or your spouse’s assets should be valued and divided, you should consult a qualified family law attorney.
Although Massachusetts appellate courts have ruled that no one factor identified in the divorce statute will control a court’s division of assets determination, it is generally acknowledged that the most critical factor in such cases is the length of a marriage. In a short marriage, courts will often seek to “unmake the omelet”, which is to say, return the parties to the financial positions they were in prior getting married. In a long-term marriage, courts will routinely equally divide all of the assets owned by both parties 50/50, deviating from an equal division only modestly to account based on the circumstances of the particular case. Our divorce lawyers know and understand these Massachusetts legal standards. If you need a Massachusetts property division lawyer, call us today. Read more about asset division in Massachusetts on the Lynch & Owens Blog.
We are Alimony Lawyers
Since 2011, alimony in Massachusetts has been dictated by the Alimony Reform Act (ARA). As demonstrated by the thousands of words we have dedicated to analyzing the ARA on the Lynch & Owens Blog, the Act is a complex statute. Our attorneys have been litigating and settling alimony cases since the days before the ARA, and stay on the cutting edge of appellate decisions and legislation affecting how the ARA impacts our clients. If you need a Massachusetts alimony lawyer, call us today. Read more about alimony in Massachusetts on the Lynch & Owens Blog.
We are Personal Injury Lawyers
Our personal injury attorneys have made recoveries totaling in the tens of millions of dollars for Massachusetts personal injury clients since 1987 when Attorney James M. Lynch tried his first motor vehicle case to a Plymouth County jury. Before they ever represented their first personal injury victim, Attorney Lynch and Attorney Lisa A. Galas spent years defending accident claims for insurers. They know how insurers think and how they approach personal injury cases like yours. That is a valuable skill to have on your side working for you and so most people do not realize that the overwhelming majority of the clients we represent do not see their cases go into suit. Most are resolved with insurance companies as negotiated settlements – simply and efficiently.
We offer free one-hour consultations for personal injury inquiries and we believe that the best time for a consultation is as soon after the accident as possible. Even if you are not sure you want to pursue a personal injury claim, you should make your decision an informed one – and the best time to have the information you need is at the very beginning. Because our consultations are no-obligation and confidential, you have nothing to lose and perhaps much to gain by calling us. If you need a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, call us today.Read more about personal injury in Massachusetts on the Lynch & Owens Blog.