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Law Office of Leila J. Wons, P.C.
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Experienced Legal Services for All Family Law Matters
Experienced Legal Services for All Family Law Matters

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What is "Nesting" in the Context of a Divorce or Separation?:
Almost everyone has heard the term "Nesting", but they usually associate it with preparing a home during pregnancy. In the context of a divorce or separation, Nesting is when the parties agree that the children (and all of their things) will remain at the primary residence. The parents then come to the home and enjoy their respective parenting time there, while the non-custodial parent leaves for that day/week. As such, the children are impacted as little as possible, since they spend every day and night in their home.
Nesting is not ideal for everyone, and there are instances in which it would be detrimental for the parties to remain so intertwined financially and logistically. However, Nesting can be a good temporary solution for parties when they first separate, or while they are in the process of finalizing their divorce, custody agreement or financial division. It can also be very helpful for parties who need to physically separate, but are unable to sell their primary home off-season, or who may need to keep the children in a certain school district until the end of the year. Prior to making the decision to try Nesting, it is important to speak with an experienced and qualified Domestic Relations Attorney and determine the implications and logistics of this decision.
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I Want a Divorce....Now What?:
The start of a new year often brings with it reflection, goal setting, and tough decision making. For many people, this includes the decision to begin the divorce process. While coming to this realization is in itself an incredibly hard and emotional event, the rest of the journey is not necessarily any easier. In fact, if not handled well, the coming months (or years) can be some of the most emotional, difficult and traumatic in one's life. What follows are some steps you can take to make the best of this tough situation.
First and foremost, it is important to get informed about the law. Knowledge is indeed power when it comes to divorce, as without accurate information, one can start to be controlled by fear and anxiety. This can also lead to one spouse feeling threatened or bullied by another, more informed (or ill informed) spouse. Find a local, experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can go over Massachusetts Domestic Relations Law and how it applies to your situation. Second, get informed about your finances. Make a list of your assets and liabilities. Get copies of your 3 most recent tax returns. Check out Zillow or another online site for an idea of what your home's fair market value could be. Look through past bills to determine what your expenses are. In summary, create a complete financial picture so that you can give that information to your attorney. If you don't usually handle the finances, get involved and learn how to access all of the above information. Third, explore the different divorce options available to you. Not all divorce has to be litigious, bitter and drawn-out, especially if both parties are in agreement with ending the marriage. Learn about Mediation and Collaborative Law as alternatives to litigation, and schedule your consultation with an attorney who is supportive of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Last, be kind to yourself. People don't enter into a marriage hoping to divorce one day. Regardless of the cause of divorce, it is still a sad, disappointing and often devastating experience for everyone involved. Remember that divorce does not reflect on who you are a person, and it does not signal failure. Especially if there are children involved, a divorce could signal an end to a tense and unhealthy environment for them, which will be alleviated by eventually living apart.
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On Friday, Congress released a final tax bill that will likely make its way to the President's desk before Christmas. Among other significant tax consequences is one regarding Alimony. Starting in 2019, new alimony orders would NOT be deductible for payors or reportable as income to payees . This change could significantly alter the way that parties negotiate financial settlements, as well as how courts will calculate appropriate alimony orders. Unfortunately, this would ultimately mean less money staying in the family, and more money going to the IRS.
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How to co-parent effectively during the holidays and always::
As the winter holidays approach, many co-parents are addressing the issue of how to effectively share or divide special events with their children. For some parents, this is the first holiday season that this situation and other custody issues have come up. During parenting time discussions - and all discussions involving children - it is important to remember that two parties will never stop being their children's parents. This means that they will be intertwined to some degree for the rest of their lives, regardless of whether or not they are divorced, separated or in new relationships.
For that reason, a good starting point is to look at issues from the other side's perspective, and also consider how the children will be affected by different decisions. Is there a special Christmas Eve tradition that is always done with dad's family? Is the first night of Hanukkah regularly observed with Mom and her family? Would both parents want to see their young children open their presents Christmas morning? Is a young child having trouble being away from one parent for long stretches of time? You and your co-parent will have to address these and other difficult parenting decisions for many years. By seeing things from each other's perspective, and also by considering how the children will be impacted, you can maximize and improve on your co-parenting relationship. A few options for the holidays: - Split each holiday in half, alternating the morning and afternoon each year - Alternate the entire holiday each year (may not be good for the children if they will miss out on special traditions or cannot be away from a parent for long periods of time) - Spend Christmas morning or Christmas Eve together, so the children can enjoy being with both parents
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Is collaborative divorce right for you?:
Collaborative divorce, as an alternative to traditional litigated divorce, is in the news today. It certainly sounds attractive, judging by articles in the press. It is less stressful, less expensive, more private and less destructive to the relationship between the two principals.
All this is true enough. Collaborative divorce truly is a team effort. But your outcome will still be better if you choose the right team. The team consists of the two people seeking an agreement, a licensed mental health professional who acts as a divorce coach, and a financial neutral when necessary. Two collaboratively trained attorneys, each representing one side, complete the team. Commitment to collaboration Problems arise when these team members present themselves as steeped in the collaborative approach – but they're really not. Any professional can add the word “collaborative” to their advertisements. But if they carry over strong competitive instincts from their non-collaborative work – pitting one side against the other, not sharing information, seeking to win at all costs – you will not get the outcome you hoped for. That is why it is imperative that you consult with and retain attorneys and professionals that have taken the collaborative training and who are members of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Leila J. Wons is no stranger to this process. As co-chair of the Worcester County Collaborative Law Practice Group, she knows what works and what does not work. Her experience is your best assurance of a clear outcome acceptable to both sides. Positive mental attitude Collaborative divorce requires that everyone maintain a respectful attitude, and that the process be fair and transparent. At the same time, you want your collaborative attorney to be a capable lawyer -- experienced, knowledgeable, creative in addressing the problems that present themselves. Finally, both sides in the divorce have to be open to seeking an honest, respectful, above-board outcome. If one side drags its feet, you will not arrive at the buy-in that makes the collaborative approach succeed. Attitudes of coercion, domination, or negativity will be major obstacles in achieving the agreement you are after.
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Helpful apps that can make co-parenting easier:
With the new IPhone X scheduled to be released soon, we find it appropriate to highlight a few smartphone apps that can make co-parenting easier. We find that the root of many problems between parents stems from communication, or the lack thereof. A parent can feel resentful when left out of the loop, and this resentment can grow and harm other facets of the co-parenting relationship. With that said, there are a number of apps that can help divorced and separated parents keep track of important pieces of information so that they can avoid toxic disagreements, especially with difficult co-parents.
Talking Parents - While we emphasize the importance of timely communication, some co-parents may not maintain civility or keep a good record of conversations. In high-conflict situations, this app can provide a safe medium for communication that creates a complete record that can be provided to the court. Cozi- This is a free online calendaring app that goes beyond the capabilities of Google calendar. Parents can include to-do lists, specific instructions, and other helpful notes to assist in co-parenting. My Family Wizard - Parents may be familiar with this because the desktop version was one of the first communication programs available. But with the proliferation of mobile apps, it was only a matter of time before MFW developed a mobile counterpart. This program keeps a shared calendar and also allows parents to exchange lists of expenses and a joint journal. Google calendar - With Google mail (Gmail) becoming a standard among most parents, it is easy to create a calendaring system that keeps track of events and appointments. In some cases, parents may opt to obtain a shared e-mail account that is then provided to all providers and caregivers. Communication is thereby streamlined, and the shared google calendar is limited to just this account. If you have questions about the best ways to communicate with a co-parent, an experienced family law attorney can advise you.
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Revisiting parenting time difficulties during Halloween:
A few weeks ago, we posted on some of the difficulties that divorced and separated parents may encounter when Halloween comes around. Essentially, disputes may arise when both parents want to take the child trick-or-treating in their respective neighborhood. With Halloween coming next Tuesday, we thought it prudent to reiterate the messages that can help in resolving disputes. In many cases, it could be fairly easy to resolve these problems. For instance, parents can compromise and have Saturday afternoon for a Halloween party or event with one parent, while trick-or-treating on Tuesday may be with the other parent.
Another solution is to agree to alternate the holiday each year, regardless of whose parenting time it falls on. A third option is to have the children get ready in one parent's home (so that they can take photos and bring them to a few houses) and then have the bulk of trick-or-treating take place with the other parent in his/her neighborhood or selected location. Like with all other holidays, Halloween can be very important to some families and the priority should be ensuring that the children are not negatively affected. While it may be too late to resolve Halloween parenting time differences this year, the holiday is a good reminder to review the entire parenting plan and think ahead for other potential conflicts. You can then address them with ample time to seek assistance from a judge if necessary. We hope that our readers do not encounter these issues during Halloween, but if you have questions about how to resolve future parenting time issues, an experienced family law attorney can help.
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How is property divided in a divorce?:
Question: My husband and I have separated and are talking about getting the divorce process started. Both of us were older when we were married and already had 401k's and other retirement savings. I also received 10K from my grandmother's estate recently, which I have in a separate bank account. Lastly, we have purchased quite a bit of stocks and bonds over the years--we used my ex's inheritance to purchase many of them, though they are in both our names. Answer: It's important that you start your new life on a firm financial footing. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts uses the legal doctrine of "equitable division." In addition, Massachusetts recognizes that all property of the parties, whether individually or jointly owned, is subject to division in a divorce. Let's look at how those apply to you.
First, in states that use equitable division, marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The goal of equitable division is to leave each individual with enough assets to be fiscally solvent, and to enable them to maintain the standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. If, for example, a parent stayed home to care for the children and gave up many years in the work force, a bigger settlement may be awarded to that individual to account for their inability to acquire as much retirement or assets in the future. Similarly, if one parent has a health issue that prevents him from working, either temporarily or permanently, that person might have greater living expenses and, consequently, would be apportioned a higher amount of the martial estate. As mentioned, Massachusetts recognizes that all property owned by the parties--whether it was pre-marital, received during the marriage, in one party's name or in both names jointly--is subject to division. However, in many instances (and especially in shorter-term marriages), property and assets that were owned prior to the marriage will remain with that person. Therefore, the retirement accounts you both owned before marriage will most likely belong to each of you respectively. It is important to remember, however, that any marital money that was added to those accounts would be available for division. For example, if you began your marriage with 20K in an IRA and you never added money to that account after you were married, the entire balance would likely still belong to you. If, however, you added money from your salary, that portion would likely be divisible in a divorce. You mention an inheritance you have received. Inheritances and gifts are subject to division, but they are usually left out of the asset division. So, as long as that 10K is in a separate account with no other funds added to it, you should be fine in asserting that money is yours, and yours alone. The stocks, however, are a bit more complicated. In situations where inherited assets were "interwoven into the fabric of the marriage" they become martial property and are usually divided. Since the stocks and bonds were purchased with money that came from your husband's inheritance, he could argue that the principle used to purchase the stocks is non-marital and that the accrual over the years is marital. On the other hand, since the stocks were put in both names, you have a strong argument that the funds were comingled with marital assets, and that they are now half yours. This asset division would depend on many factors that would need review by a qualified attorney. As you can see, there are no easy answers regarding who gets what in a divorce. Your best bet for protecting yourself and your future, is to seek experienced family law legal counsel.
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What is considered in relocation cases?:
Child custody disputes can be particularly difficult when the prospect of relocation arises. It is fairly common for a parent to want to move to another city to pursue a new job, or simply to start a new life. Indeed, the prospect of this can be emotionally painful for the parent left behind. Depending on the nature of the relationship, a custodial parent may have to seek the court's permission before executing a move. If a child is born of a marriage or a parenting time order exists, a custodial parent generally has to petition the court and serve the other parent. After all, Massachusetts law gives parents the right to contest moves that will substantially impact existing parenting time.
In relocation cases ( also known as move-away cases), a family court judge will consider a number of factors, including:-Whether the move will enhance the child's quality of life (i.e. moving closer to school and/or extended family). -The custodial parent's reasons for moving, as well as the non-custodial parent's reasons for opposing such a move. -How far away the moving parent will be going (i.e. within the same county, region or state). - Whether the move will significantly affect the non-custodial parent's time with the child. - The children's preferences, if they are old enough to register a reasonable opinion. Relocation cases are very fact specific, meaning that it is especially difficult to predict the outcome of your case based on what you know about another case. If you have questions about executing a potential move or defending one, an experienced family law attorney can help.
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Should you be first to the courthouse?:
Many potential divorcees may wonder if there are any advantages to being the first to file for divorce. After all, no one wants to be the spouse who is blindsided by a divorce petition. Besides being able to avoid the emotional anguish of being served out of the blue, there are some legal and financial advantages to being the first to the courthouse. This post will identify a few. Having the proper documents together – One tactical advantage is having all the relevant financial documents in your possession, thus likely reducing the need for costly discovery requests. By having the most recent bank statements, brokerage statements and insurance policies, you can paint an accurate financial picture without being on the defensive.
Having the right team assembled – Indeed, having the right family law attorney is essential, but in complex financial divorces, having a qualified financial analyst can help in maximizing your chances of success. Having access to important funds –From a financial standpoint, being the first to file means that you have the ability to protect marital funds through an automatic restraining order. This may also prevent an angry spouse from hiding assets during a divorce. Getting to choose the jurisdiction – For parties who have residences in different states, this may be an important factor. It is also critical to file in a location where children currently live or attend school, in order to limit the possibility of them being moved. If you have additional questions about the advantages of filing first, an experienced family law attorney can help. The preceding is not legal advice.
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