Legal Questions & Answers

February 17, 2021

What does it mean to be “held in contempt” by the court?

Contempt is a tool used by Probate and Family Courts to enforce parties to comply with court orders. This gives the court power to enforce judgments provided during divorce and custody proceedings. Someone who violates or disobeys a court order risks being held in contempt by the court. This includes failing to pay alimony or child support or refusal to comply with a parenting schedule ordered by the court. There are two types of contempt, civil and criminal. The purpose of civil contempt is to act as a  remedial step in enforcing compliance with a court order. In the event one party is not following a court-appointed order, the other party can file a Complaint for Contempt. This process requires the initiating party to provide a valid court order, show the defendant has knowledge of the order, and provide evidence that the defendant is willfully disobeying the order. A criminal contempt, on the other hand, is a tool to punish the defiant party. Someone found guilty of criminal contempt may face jail time. Either party can file a complaint for contempt to address non-compliance with any order, including temporary orders and final judgments. Whether you wish to file a Complaint […]
January 5, 2021

Who carries the burden of proof in a criminal case?

The phrase ‘burden of proof’ refers to which party—the defense or prosecution—is responsible for providing evidence of a crime. In most court cases, the party filing the claim carries the burden of proof. In a criminal case, this generally falls to the prosecution. The burden of proof refers to the process of proving elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof does not refer to proving guilt or innocence. Criminal cases do not require defendants to prove innocence. However, while the prosecution carries the burden of proof, they do not have to prove guilt to the point of absolute certainty. The prosecution’s job is to present evidence to indicate a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite the prosecution bearing the burden of proof in a criminal case, there are times when this burden shifts to the defense. For example, if the prosecution provides facts to prove an element of a crime, the burden to raise doubt then falls to the defense. The defense doesn’t have to disprove the prosecution’s allegations but rather raise doubt about such evidence. An example of the shifting burden sometimes happens in a domestic assault and battery case. If the […]
October 2, 2020

How much time do I have to file a personal injury case in Massachusetts?

The timeframe in which you have to file your lawsuit is called the statute of limitations. Each state sets its own laws and regulations regarding time limits to file various claims. The majority of personal injury cases in Massachusetts have a statute of limitations of three years. The statute of limitations begins on the date in which the personal injury incident occurs. Therefore, you generally have three years from this date to start your lawsuit. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. For instance, if you are involved in a hit and run accident, a suit must begin within six months after you learn the defendant’s identity, and within three years of the accident. This includes filing for property damage, personal injury, or death. There also needs to be proper documentation of the time and place of the accident to the police and Registrar of Motor Vehicles within 30 days after the accident. Another exception involves actions against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. You only have two years to file a suit for injuries you sustain as a passenger on public transit. To ensure your personal injury case is processed, you are encouraged to start your complaint immediately. […]
April 13, 2020

How is a Negligent Driver Held Responsible for his or her Actions in Massachusetts?

If you have been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you need to know how the insurance companies determine fault in order to get the compensation you deserve. The commonwealth of Massachusetts is a modified no-fault insurance state. This means that if an individual is deemed to be over fifty percent at fault, they can be held responsible. This also means that, regardless of fault, your own insurance company will pay for your injuries, up to your policy limit. Additionally, Massachusetts law allows individuals the right to legally sue the at-fault party for non-monetary damages, i.e., pain and suffering, if damages exceed the threshold of $2,000. This process requires the determination of responsibility when accidents occur. Because of this, the Massachusetts Legislature has established the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP). SDIP utilizes a strict set of guidelines for determining fault and making sure that safe drivers receive justice. The process involves driver classifications and insurance premium adjustments based on an insured’s driving record. Under this process, an at-fault accident constitutes a surchargeable incident. This means Massachusetts motor vehicle insurers must impose merit-rating surcharges on insured drivers who are more than fifty percent at fault in causing […]
November 1, 2018

Would we benefit from a prenup?

My fiancé and I are not particularly wealthy, but we are established professionals. Should we get a prenup? You and your fiancé would be wise to consider a prenuptial agreement, or “prenup” as it has come You and your fiancé would be wise to consider a prenuptial agreement, or “prenup” as it has come to be known. In fact, most, if not all, couples would benefit from a prenuptial agreement. Objections to getting a prenuptial agreement usually come in one of two categories. The first kind asserts that there is no pressing need for the contract: “We don’t have anything financial worth fighting over.” The second appeals to sentiment: “It ruins the romance to talk about money” or, even more wishful, “We’re sure we won’t get divorced.” While no one goes into a marriage planning to get divorced, even the most optimistic couple should acknowledge that divorce is a possibility. While the statistics vary, a good number of American marriages will end in their dissolution by divorce. The wise bride and groom will have to address this possibility on their way into matrimony, rather than deal with the consequences of exiting matrimony unprepared. Even if you have “nothing worth fighting […]
August 13, 2012

Visitation with grandparents, aunts, uncles, can they be supervised?

Additional Information: My husband and will be getting divorced.  We are amicable and have decided together that the children will live with me in our home in Framingham, and see their dad every other weekend and Wednesday nights.  My first question is: will a divorce attorney help us figure out a visitation schedule for grandparents and aunts/uncles who will want to see the kids?  Second, can I request that these visits be supervised by me? I want to be around because I worry that they will say negative things about me to the kids. ATTORNEY ANSWER: The first question is whether it is even a good idea to discuss a visitation schedule for grandparents and aunts and uncles who want to see the kids.  If you are that concerned about the welfare of the children that you feel the need to have supervised visits, why legislate that into the Separation Agreement?  You may be granting more rights to the extended relatives and responsibilities to yourself that may be unnecessary and burdensome.  The solution to the problem may be to have your divorce attorney negotiate a more liberal parenting plan with your husband so that he and his family can spend […]
July 30, 2012

When we divorce will my husband be awarded half this asset?

Additional Information: When my husband and I were engaged, I had finished business school and as a graduation present my parents gave me $50K to start my own business.  We got married, moved into a Boston Metrowest suburb and started a family right away.  My plans to start a business got put aside.  The money has been in a savings account.  Now we are getting divorced and he thinks he is entitled to half of this asset.  I have a card from my parents saying how proud they are of me and that they are gifting me the money to pursue my dreams of having my own company. Will my husband be awarded half this asset? ATTORNEY ANSWER: The question is whether the $50,000 which you received before you married is a marital asset that is subject to division, now that you are getting divorced.  Arguably, if you received the money before you married, that asset could be viewed as yours.  But the longer you are married, especially with children, there is a counter argument that all assets are part of the marital estate.  Therefore, the $50,000 might get split on a 50-50 basis, or any other percentage that you […]
January 12, 2012

Are grandparents’ visitation schedules written into the divorce agreement?

Additional Information: My husband and I are getting divorced after a 8 year marriage. We have 3 young children and have decided that that I will stay in our home in Natick, and that the children will primarily stay with me.  We haven’t figured out when they will stay with their dad and already both sets of grandparents are voicing their interests in time with the kids too.  Are grandparents’ visitation something that gets written into the divorce agreement? ATTORNEY ANSWER: The rights of grandparents to spend time with the children after a divorce can be problematic and depends upon the facts of each case.  Generally, the rights of the grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren is ancillary to the parenting rights of the parents.  Under Massachusetts law, however, the grandparents of an unmarried child may be granted reasonable visitation rights by the Probate Court when the parents are living apart under a temporary order or judgment of separate support, or following the divorce of the parents.  The grandparents may also have rights if the children, who are born out of wedlock, do not live together but the paternity (of the paternal grandparents) has been established. 
January 5, 2012

When we divorce will my husband be entitled to half of gifted money to me that we put toward our house?

Additional Information: When my husband and I got married, we eloped  instead of a having a big expensive wedding.   My parents were all for it and gave me a sizable sum of money to put toward a down payment on our house in Framingham that we bought together in (about $35K).  I have just filed for divorce, and am wondering if my husband will be entitled to half of this asset? ATTORNEY ANSWER: Generally, an asset, such as the house will be included in the division of joint marital assets, if it was acquired during the marriage, even if your parents gave you the downpayment.  If this is a short term marriage with no children, then you might have a claim to a greater share of the asset but if it is a longer term marriage with kids and your husband has made a significant contribution to the principal, interest, taxes and insurance, then he might get half of the asset. You also need to determine how much you want the asset.  If you have only had the house for a short period of time, it might be better to let your husband to buy out your share of the […]
October 28, 2011

My soon-to-be-ex wife has assets hidden in her mother’s name.

Additional  Information: We are in the process of getting a divorce.  I just found out that my soon to be ex-wife has hidden assets in her mother’s name and within her mother’s accounts. How can I subpoena those accounts? I know the bank account #s and they are extensive assets.  If I can subpoena the bank records, can I get a postponement of the divorce date?  I imagine that when these hidden assets are brought forward, it will change a lot of the financial details. ATTORNEY ANSWER: The first question is what stage you are exactly in the divorce.  If you are in the early state of the divorce case, then your wife is required to provide all information about her mother’s bank accounts within the first 45 days of getting served with the Complaint.  This is required under Rule 410 of the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure so it would not be necessary to subpoena the records.  If you are beyond the 45 days, the information can be obtained by a Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories, drafted by your attorney.  Generally, your wife has 30 to 45 days to respond to responses to the Request for […]
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