Category Archives: Child Support

Conflicts With Court Ordered Parenting Time

It is frequently asked by parents living under parenting schedules ordered by the Court, what can they do to get the other parent to be more cooperative in last minute or long term plans that conflict with the parenting schedule.

Frankly, there are not that many options.  A parent has the right to go to court and seek a “modification” or change to an existing order where they can show “substantial change in circumstances” from the date of issuance of the order.  Any change will be deemed a modification for court filing purposes, even if it includes a request to terminate the order. So option (2) is to file a Complaint for Modification of the order or judgment and specify why a change is appropriate and what changes you wish made.  In the case of a parenting schedule, a petitioner must include the details of the existing order and what parenting time changes or modifications are requested, e.g. You don’t want to require permission from non-custodial parent for out of state vacations, or you don’t want over-night visits with other parent,  or parties shall not UNREASONABLY withhold consent for child activities with other parent, etc.

The Court looks to parents’ ability to resolve internal conflicts as evidence of their parenting skills. Too many of these types of arguments brought before the Court could lead to loss of the custody of the child, in extreme cases, or more typically to court ordered parenting classes at parties expense. The first thing you should try (option 1) is find a solution between yourself and the other parent. That means compromises and barters. Trade something the other parent really wants for what you want–an extra day next weekend, an extra holiday… It can all be negotiated, if the parties are willing.

If that fails, one can try to file an “emergency” Motion to be heard very quickly by the Court before a specific dated event such as a family gathering, a wedding or a planned vacation.  A reasonable argument to be made in such an emergency motion is that [Parent] is UNREASONABLY denying an exception to the parenting schedule and refusing to negotiate an alternative, without regard to the best interest of the child. However, a word of caution,  this may not be seen by the Court as an “emergency” and may deny you a swift hearing.

It may be worth it to file a complaint for modification to address some of the details that have arisen while the present orders have been in place, which may have been unforeseen at the time of the judgment or order. If you find that you are persistently having these type of communication break downs, it may be time to revisit your present orders.

Lastly, if either party chooses, unilaterally, NOT to abide by the schedule order, they run the risk of being charged with contempt of court. Do so at your own peril.

Comments based on Massachusetts Domestic Relations Law.  Not provided as legal advice.

Estela Matta, Esq.

 

 

SEPARATION v. DIVORCE

Dissolution of a marriage can only happen through a divorce decree issued by a Court of competent jurisdiction. However, many states issue “legal separation”, “conversion divorce”or “separate support” judgments– which fall short of a divorce but still address certain marital situations.

A legal separation and separate support are types of applications to the court to recognize that parties wish to live “separate and apart”, wish to formalize financial arrangmeents but are not seeking a dissolution of the marriage. These proceedings address primarily financial arrangements between the parties, and custody if children are involved.  They do not address distribution of marital assets such as the marital home or pensions, etc. And of course they do not dissolve the marriage.  The biggest distinction between separate support and legal separation is in individual state laws.  New York recognizes “living separate and apart” as a “legal separation”, whereas Massachusetts does not.  It will interpret the issues addressed in any MA proceeding for separate support more narrowly than a state like NY, that allows a legal separation to be “Converted” into a divorce after one year of the filing.  MA does not have conversion divorces, i.e. a legal separation that can be converted into a complaint for divorce upon which judgment for divorce may be entered. MA requires a new action specifically calling for the termination of the marriage.

A person wrote to me asking about housing arrangements between the spouses in what appeared to be a “living separate and apart” situation where no legal action of any sort had been commenced. This lead to a discussion of distinct ways in which parties may resolve end of marriage or separation problems:

If you are married, [housing] is an “extra-legal” question, meaning the law does not cover this subject because the law does not interfere with how a husband and wife make out their living arrangements; so it is up to you and your spouse to come to some agreement you can both live with.

If you are already divorced, you have to look to the divorce judgment for any express terms and conditions that address this question. Typically something is said in the judgment about distribution of the marital home–who gets to stay, how has to leave, if one party has to buy out the other party’s interst or refiance a mortgage, etc.

If you are still married, but living apart you have 2 options under MA law: filing for “Separate Support” which brings the issues of care and maintenance before the court but does not conclude a divorce; or one might have to consider filing for divorce. At that juncture, the courts will step in and force a distribution of assets and other settlements provisions which could include a housing allocation for wife and (minor) children. Its best to consult with a local lawyer to get a better understanding of the process and laws involved in your state, as well as an opinion tailored to one’s specific facts and circumstances.

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Can I Protect My Pension From My Soon-to-be Ex?

MA adopts the position that ALL assets of the parties (individual and marital) are put on the table for distribution at time of divorce. Many states honor “separate property” doctrine at time of divorce–that is property the parties’ owned before marriage or in their name only — but MA does not.  So, any pension in place during the time of marriage is subject to division. Its very hard to get away from the strict letter of the law when it comes to pensions; however, you and your spouse are free to negotiate and make any arrangement you want, that is acceptable to the Court, if you settle your divorce by agreement.  You can negotiate the distribution of assets (including pension funds), custody, child support, alimony–ALL OF IT. You can have a lawyer draft an divorce agreement which addresses all the issues that must be addressed, present it to the Court and once approved, the Agreement will be incorporated into the final judgment of divorce and those will be the orders you will live by thereafter.

Your spouse my waive the right to her share of the pension funds in exchange for something or for nothing in return. It’s the spouse’s right to waive. If she is truly willing to make the transition as painless as possible she might consider waiving her interest in the pension, or exchanging it for some benefit she wants, such as paying for college for the kids or keeping the marital home–this, of course, should be based on the value of the pension assets she is waiving. Typically, the spouse is entitled to half of the pension funds.

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Health insurance: You can voluntarily agree to continue the children’s health insurance after the divorce. In fact, if the spouse doesn’t have a comparable policy or if the children are dependent on your coverage for their insurance you may be ordered by the court to continue their coverage as part of the child support order.
Another thing you might want to consider is a separation agreement, if you and your spouse are not ready for a divorce but want to live apart. MA doesn’t recognize legal separation but does have provisions for separate support. This addresses living apart, the support for the children and possibly support for the spouse; it will NOT address distribution of marital assets or the divorce itself.  Separate Support judgments  in MA do not convert into divorce (as in some other states); if you decide you want a divorce, you would have to start an action distinct from the separation papers.

Hope this was helpful 🙂

Estela Matta, Esquire

What is a “Motion” and How Do You File One in the Family Court?

The question was put to me: What do I say on the motion form provided by the court when it asks “Motion For ______________”?

I’m going to assume you are a layperson (nonlawyer) trying to file something in court “pro se”–that is, on your own and without a lawyer.  A bit of civil procedure rules are required here: You can only file a “motion” when a case is already before the court; so if you do not have an active case (still being litigated and there has been no judgment entered), you must start an action by filing a Complaint. In the Probate & Family Courts of Massachusetts, this may be a Complaint for Modification [of an existing Order or Judgment], a Complaint for Contempt, A Complaint for Custody/Visitation, a Complaint to Establish Paternity, A Complaint of [Child] Support, a Complaint for Divorce, etc., to start a judicial review of your concerns. This is subject to all the rules of procedure controlling service and filing to commence an action. (See Mass. Rules of Civ Pro, Rule 4; http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/rules-of-court/civil-procedure/mrcp4.html)  Then, once the action has been commenced, served and joined, either party (Plaintiff or Defendant) can proceed to make Motions.

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A “Motion” is so called because the party is seeking to “move the Court” in the direction of granting an order. It is “persuasive writing”, and typically will include not only a request for the [temporary] relief sought, but will be accompanied by a sworn affidavit from a personal with actual knowledge of the facts, upon which the Court may rest its decision.  Typically, the moving party (also called the “movant”) will attach exhibits and further evidence in support to the moving papers.  A motion can be made for almost any imaginably  relevant request for interim relief (that’s why “motion practice” can be tricky and complicated). Any request made to the Court or regarding the proceedings is made by motion; so, a motion to continue the hearing (adjourn to another date), a motion for temporary orders, a motion to be relieved as counsel, a motion to grant attorney fees –virtually anything– OTHER THAN THE ULTIMATE QUESTION  reserved for judgment, can (and must) be requested of the Court by “motion”.

A further civil procedure note here: service of motions must be in keeping with the statutory time to serve upon opposing party before a hearing date–typically ten days–in order to allow the respondent to file and serve a written response, if they so choose.  All motions must be filed, calendared for hearing before the Court and served on all parties.  Proof of service of the moving papers must be filed with the court. All motions will be heard before the Court, with both sides present and given an opportunity to address the issues, for and against, before a decision will be rendered by the Court. A last note here: Motion practice is used in both civil and criminal proceedings, but of course, criminal case motions follow the rules of criminal procedure not covered in this discussion.

Decisions on motions are usually of a temporary or interim nature; they may be modified, vacated or over ruled in the Final Decision and Judgment of the Court. However, decisions and orders on motion may also be incorporated into the final judgment–and they often are!

To answer your question specifically, the “Motion For” on the motion form is followed by:   whatever you want from the court, e.g. Motion to Continue the hearing, or motion to waive appearance, a motion for temporary custody…you get the picture. In the scenario presented in your fact pattern, you would file a Complaint for Modification [of Custody/Visitation], then file a Motion for Temporary Orders [to change the visitation schedule], and “such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate”.

While I know there is a  trend in the courts to encourage self representation, and the courts have tried to streamline and simplify procedures, Family Court matters are serious, and should not be undertaken by inexperienced pro se litigants, anymore than a layperson should try to build their own house.  Consult with attorneys (plural) and retain counsel to structure your position in a light most favorable to the court and to help you navigate through these complex procedures and rules of court.

Respectfully submitted,

Estela Matta, Esq.

 

 

Can a Separation Agreement be changed after Judgment?

It is unclear what you are referring to when you say “Separation Agreement”. MA does not recognize legal separations;it does however allow for actions for Separate Support. Agreements for separate support address only the custody and financial needs of the (custodial) spouse and the children (they do not address distribution of marital assets). Unlike in other states, such as New York, where a separation agreement can convert into a divorce action, MA requires the commencement of an entirely new action if the couple decides they want to terminate the marriage after a period of separation.

If however,you are referring to a Settlement Agreement prepared to address all the elements and issues in the dissolution of the marriage, and subsequently incorporated into the Judgment of divorce: these Agreement are always open to modification in regards to any issues involving the care and custody of the children, even if the Agreement does not merge with the Judgment.

In short, your wife is entitled to seek a modification of the child support amount scales of justice 2

and seek to increase that amount to meet the child support guidelines. This however may be mitigated by other “trade-offs” you may have conceded as part of the negotiations for the final Agreement.

Modification cases are highly particularized and require an experienced attorney to navigate. If you have not done so already, you should consult with an attorney to review the Agreement and Judgment and help explain your situation in light of the facts of your case.

When Can I Stop Paying Child Support? :-(

“My kid is 18 now.  Can I just stop paying child support to his mother?”

I haven’t run the stats on this, but its my unofficial opinion that this is the most commonly asked question from people looking up legal advice in child support matters on line this year.  As we Baby Boomers age, our children are becoming college age and beyond.  Divorces in the 70s, 80s and 90s that once revolved around alimony, child support and pension plans now revolve around college costs and medical insurance. As the economy struggles, more and more noncustodial parents are seeking relief from the “burden” of child support. and are looking to terminate child support at the earliest possible juncture. So I’m seeing a lot of divorces that didn’t address the emancipation of their children as a vital part of future protections and obligations now coming into court asking for some clarification as to when they can finally stop sending those darn checks?

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The shortest distance between two points, finding out the extent of your support responsibilities and when you can stop paying, is to read about it in your Divorce Agreement. That, of course, would mean you and your ex would have addressed it at the point of negotiations and settlement arrangements, that the terms of your Agreement were approved by the Court and that it was incorporated by reference in the final judgment of divorce.  Further, the extent and details of the Agreement provisions addressing the terms of emancipation of the child (or children) would have to be examined.

Whether a parent may stop paying child support is predicated on one of two things: (a) an Agreement or Settlement of Divorce (or paternity) that addressed the issue and spelled out what would constitute the emancipation of the minor children of the marriage (such as at age 18, or if over age 18 but still in college, etc.) and if the parties agree, without further requirement of judicial intervention, to terminate child support upon the occurrence of a set of conditions precedent (b) state statute.

If the parties cannot come to an agreement that includes terms they can live with and maintain, then the court will apply statutes that cover the issue and define the bottom lines.

The first thing to keep in mind is that a dependent child’s right to receive support from a noncustodial parent does not automatically end the minute the clock strikes midnight on the 18th birthday. There are facts and circumstances that will affect a court’s ruling on whether to terminate child support.

Firstly, is there a divorce agreement and does the agreement address the emancipation of the child and the termination of child support? An agreement (esp one that has been reduced to a judgment) will probably control. Barring an agreement, we look to the statutes:

The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education for any child who has attained age eighteen but who has not attained age twenty-one, who is domiciled in the home of a parent and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance. The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education for any child who has attained age twenty-one but who has not attained age twenty-three if such child is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance due to the enrollment of such child in an educational program, excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree.

So there’s the black-and-white of it. —But you’re not out of the woods yet, my friends.  You MUST get an agreement and/or court order that says you no longer have to pay child support (—for that child–you may still be obligated to pay for other children).  If your income is garnished through the Dept of Revenue, nothing but a court order will stop the garnishment.

In MA, the way you get a court order to terminate child support obligations is by filing a Complaint for Modification in the Probate & Family Court of the county where the child support order and/or divorce was entered.  The form itself is not complicated; you can find it online at the court’s website.  However, the litigation may become complicated.  There are many borderlines cases where a child may, for example, be over 19 not in school, but still dependent on the custodial parent for support and maintenance.  Noncustodial parent’s ability to pay may be a countervailing element.  The court will take many factors into consideration.  There is no “slam dunk” or “black-and-white” prototype.  Another option is to file a Joint Petition to dissolve the child support obligation.  This sounds a bit easier, but its actually not–procedurally. Either way, I strongly urge anyone with these types of concerns to consult with an experienced Family Law attorney.

If I haven’t convinced you yet that the best thing to do is get a court order to terminate your child support obligations, perhaps this will:  You can go to jail for not paying child support.  As long as an order sits on the records, and has not been overturned by subsequent order, the obligor (you) will be held accountable for making those payments.  If you do not make them, they accrue as arrears, with penalties and fines.  There is no forgiveness –repeat–NO FORGIVENESS —for arrears. The Dept of Revenue will hunt you down, they will arrest you, confiscate your assets, seize bank accounts, revoke your drivers license and any other license that your work may depend upon — we’re talking merciless.

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And don’t forget, you’re doing this for your child.  Put aside whatever harsh feeling you may have for your ex, cutting off a life line to a young adult, especially in this day and age, is something you should think about carefully and be flexible in negotiating.

Estela Matta, Esq.

http://www.emattalaw.com

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Dad Must Pay Half of Daughter’s Law School Costs

Reprinted by Permission – American Bar Association Journal

A Rutgers University history professor will have to pick up half the cost of his daughter’s education at Cornell Law School, which will cost him about $112,500, according to a New Jersey appeals court.

James Livingston is required to pick up the tab because of terms in his divorce settlement agreement, according to a decision (PDF) last month by the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division. The New Jersey Star-Ledger and the National Law Journal (sub. req.) have stories.

The divorce agreement said Livingston would pay half the expenses for his daughter’s post-college higher education, according to the opinion. The agreement also said the daughter would provide Livingston with a copy of her class schedule, grades and financial aid information within five days of receiving them. Both Livingston and his ex-wife were not obligated to make any financial contribution, however, if the daughter did not maintain a C grade point average.

Livingston initially offered to pay $7,500 a year for his daughter’s legal education, provided that she attend Rutgers Law School, live at home with her mother, and provide him with progress reports, according to the opinion. He claimed his daughter should have informed him of financial aid offers from other law schools, and he should have been allowed to jointly decide with his daughter which law school she would attend. He also argued that his continued estrangement from his daughter was a changed circumstance that relieved him of his obligation.

The appeals panel rejected those arguments. A frequently used provision in divorce settlements gives fathers the right to participate in school selection, but Livingston’s agreement didn’t have such a clause, the court said. The court also pointed out that Livingston was already estranged from his daughter when he entered into the divorce agreement.

“If a relationship and a voice in the planning and selection of a school were his expectations,” the court said, “such terms could and should have been included in the agreement. They were not.”

 

How to Find Your Spouse’s Hidden Assets.

What ever happened to that collection of priceless sports memorabilia? What did she do with all the expensive jewelry you gave her over the years?  Are you shocked that your soon-to-be-Ex’s Sworn Financial Disclosure Statement didn’t mention that 2nd IRA you know he has?

Divorcing spouses in all states can use powerful legal tools, called “discovery,” to help them find hidden income and other assets when they are in the midst of a divorce or child support action.

Any court action that will ultimately involve a court order for distribution or payment of money will require financial disclosure statements.  The first step in dividing assets during a divorce is to create a complete financial picture of all of the assets owned by each spouse. Generally, these assets will be categorized as “marital” (property acquired during the marriage), “separate” (property acquired before the marriage, after separation, or by gift or inheritance), or “comingled” (where you’ve mixed marital and separate property together, for example, in a bank account or retirement fund). These are general definitions; the laws of your particular state will dictate exactly how property is characterized.

Even though you may not have ownership rights in your spouse’s separate property, it’s important to account for all of it because (depending on your state’s laws) a court may consider the value of both spouses’ separate property when deciding how to divide marital property and debts.

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Finding Assets When You’re the “Out-Spouse”

If your spouse handled the bookkeeping during your marriage, and you played little to no part in tracking finances, you are what some attorneys refer to as the “out-spouse.” This simply means that you don’t have immediate access to or knowledge of financial information, but your spouse does.

If you’re the “out-spouse,” your first course of action should be to simply ask your spouse for copies of all financial records. If your spouse can and will produce all records, the information gathering process might not be too painful. Alas, this is rarely the case. Sometimes, your spouse simply can’t find the records. If so, the two of you can work together to gather information. With online access to just about everything nowadays, it’s easy to get account records. You can also send joint requests for records to mortgage companies, banks, retirement plan administrators, and other third parties.

Unfortunately, many spouses refuse to produce information because they’re hiding assets. Finding hidden assets in divorce can be challenging, especially for non-attorneys. This article explains what a basic search should entail, but we’re not suggesting that you should conduct every search yourself.

If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, you may want to contact an attorney with experience in asset search and investigation. Even if you don’t suspect your spouse is hiding assets, it’s wise to consult with an attorney to ensure you’re asking the right questions and if appropriate, using the discovery methods listed below.

The Divorce Discovery Process

If you don’t think your spouse will voluntarily disclose all financial information in your divorce, you or your attorney will need to use a formal, legal process to get information and documents. Attorneys and judges refer to this as the “discovery process.” The discovery process provides several methods of getting information, which vary slightly from state to state, but for the most part include all of the following:

Document demands. Your attorney can ask your spouse to produce specific documents, such as tax returns, financial statements, loan applications, and account records.

Written questions called “interrogatories” or “requests for admission.” Using these discovery tools, your spouse must answer questions in writing, or admit specific statements that you believe are true.

Inspection demands. You can ask to inspect property like a safe deposit box or wine collection.

Testimony given under oath. In what’s called an oral deposition, you, your spouse, and your lawyers appear before a court reporter; your spouse is sworn to tell the truth and must answer questions asked by your attorney.

The discovery process is a good way to get financial information from an uncooperative spouse because the court has the power to compel compliance. For example, if your spouse fails to produce documents, you can ask a judge to order your spouse to do so. If your spouse disobeys the order, a court may punish your spouse by imposing a “sanction,” which can include monetary fines or even a judgment against your spouse on a particular issue.

A deposition is a particularly good way to get information from a dishonest spouse. Anyone who lies under oath during a deposition can be charged with perjury. This may be just the right kind of pressure your spouse needs to tell the truth about hidden assets. Typically, you should wait to depose your spouse until you’ve obtained some financial records. This way you can ask your spouse questions about records and information you’ve already examined.

What to Ask For During Discovery

You should ask for documents and information relating to assets, income, debts and liabilities. Don’t forget that assets come in different forms. Tangible assets include cash and other hard assets that can be sold or liquidated like the family residence, cars, jewelry, fine art, a wine collection, and other personal property. Intangible assets include assets such as savings accounts, checking accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and stock options, investment income, royalties, copyrights, and patents. So be sure to request a wide variety of records including receipts, loan documents, deeds, title records, account statements, stock certificates, subscription agreements, royalty agreements, tax documents, and W-2 forms.

Start with the tax return

If you’re the “out-spouse,” you probably weren’t preparing or reviewing tax returns during the marriage. It’s essential you examine these during a divorce. Some important areas of a return are covered below. But don’t stop here—tax laws and accounting issues are complex. It’s important to consult a tax advisor if there are complicated tax issues in your divorce.

Form 1040: Income from wages. As discussed in more detail below, this is where you’ll find income from all reported sources, including wages, salaries, tips, interest income, dividends, business income, capital gains, IRA distributions, pensions and annuities, unemployment compensation, and social security.

Form 1040: Interest and dividend income. Income-earning investments like bonds, bank CDs, savings accounts, money market accounts or loans made as a lender will show up here. It’ll also show dividend income like income paid to stock shareholders. If either the interest or dividend income exceeds $400, a Schedule B should be attached that will identify the source of the income.

Form 1040: Retirement plan distributions. Distributions (money received) from a deferred-compensation plan or IRA account are listed on the 1040. If there were distributions, ask where the funds went.

Carryforwards. A “carryforward” is an IRS or state income tax rule that allows taxpayers to save an unused deduction, credit, or loss and use it in a later tax year. For example, you may “carryforward” charitable donations that exceed 50% of your income and apply these in another tax year. Similarly, if you exceed the yearly limit for contributions to your child’s 529 college savings plan by say $2000, you may be able to carryforward the $2000 and use it as a deduction in a later year. These types of credits should be accounted for in the property division.

Refunds. Review old returns to find previous tax refunds. Sometimes a spouse who anticipates a divorce will intentionally overpay taxes for a previous year, expecting to get the entire reimbursement after the divorce is final.

Schedule A: Itemized deductions. This is where itemized deductions are entered including any state and local taxes paid on income, real estate and personal property. These payments may be related to hidden assets located (or income generated) in another state. For example, if your spouse paid property taxes for a property you weren’t aware of, you’ll need to learn the name on title, the purchase date, and the source of any payments on the property.

Schedule A: Miscellaneous deductions. Deductions here may include expenses for tax and, possibly, estate planning advice. If you didn’t know your spouse consulted a tax professional or estate planner, you may want to follow up directly with these individuals. Your search could uncover additional assets, such as a hidden trust.

Schedule B – Part III: Foreign accounts. In addition to the sources of dividend and interest income, Part III of Schedule B may contain a list of your spouse’s foreign accounts and trusts.

Schedule C: Profit or loss from business. Schedule C is used to report profit or loss from a business operated or a profession practiced as a sole proprietorship (a businesses owned by a single owner). Be sure to review the reported sales, expenses of the business, costs of goods sold and net income to get an idea of how your spouse’s business is doing.

Schedule E: Supplemental income and loss. Here you can find income-generating assets including

rental real estate

royalties from literary and artistic works such as music and books

royalties from copyrights, patents, and software

investments in partnerships and S-corporations, and

estates and trusts.

Loan applications and financial statements

Before approving a loan, a lending institution will ask for a completed application, copies of recent pay stubs, account records, and a signed declaration regarding all assets and debts. If your spouse applied for a loan, get a copy of the application as it might reveal hidden income or assets.

In addition, your spouse may have submitted a personal financial statement to a lender. A personal financial statement should include all assets, debts, income, and expenses. It’s basically a report from your spouse to the bank regarding all of his or her own finances and the marital estate. You should definitely ask your spouse (or the lender) for copies of all personal financial statements your spouse prepared.

Trace accounts and cash flow

Tracing (analyzing) accounts and cash flow during the marriage (tracing all money in and money out) may lead to the discovery of hidden assets. In order to perform a complete tracing, your attorney or accountant will need records for all accounts under one or both spouses’ names (whether held alone, jointly, or with a third person). This includes savings, checking, brokerage, trust accounts, and any other accounts used by either spouse during the marriage.

Get copies of cancelled checks and ask for copies of wire transfer documents, including authorization forms and wire instructions, to see if your spouse authorized any major transactions you weren’t aware of. Find out where the funds went. Did your spouse set up another personal account that holds a stash of cash? Did your spouse “gift” money to a relative or friend that your spouse will undoubtedly get back once the divorce is over? Did your spouse move money into a joint account with a third party? Tracing is a great way to uncover hidden assets.

Search for hidden bank accounts

You or your attorney can send a subpoena (a written request issued by the clerk of the court) to any bank where you suspect your spouse has an account. When subpoenaed properly, a bank is obligated to produce all records associated with your spouse’s name. If the bank fails to do so, it can be held in contempt of court.

Review account records carefully. Search for transactions into and out of known accounts. Look for unfamiliar account numbers. For example, if you find a large transfer into or out of your spouse’s account, check to see where the money came from or went. Banks typically list the name of the sending and receiving institutions and the last four digits of all accounts. If you find an unfamiliar account, you may have discovered a hidden asset. Follow up with a subpoena for records to that bank as well.

If you have questions about finding assets in your divorce case, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area for advice

What affect, if any, to giving birth in another state for custodial purposes?

Where a child is born is very significant, in terms of what state has jurisdiction over the child, esp if an interstate custody dispute should arise. Pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Enforcement laws, where the child is born and lives for the first six months of it’s life is the state that has jurisdiction to determine custody issues, unless the child is over 6 months of age and has established residency in another state.   Another factor that would affect what state has jurisdiction is whether the child is born in or out of wedlock, to a single mother or a married couple.

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Generally, if you are a single mother, and want State X to be the home state of the child, you should give birth there, and stay there with the child for at least six months. A brief visit to another state will not interfere unduly with the state’s right to jurisdiction; however if you there is no clear cut domicile and residency for the child within its first year, the court will look to broader issues such as where have the parents resided for the better part and what kind of ties to the community a child has with any of the states at issue. Further if you removed yourself with the child in utero, without consent of the father/husband you are looking at a more complicated legal situation.

If the father is an MA resident and is adamant about the child remaining in MA, you may have a problem if you have not clearly established the child as born and resident in the state of your choice, and the MA court may require you to return the child to MA. The less stable the child’s identity with another state, the more likely MA will find jurisdiction to award or determine any custody issues.

As always, I must advise anyone considering relocating to give birth to consult with an attorney.