When it comes to children; unmarried parents have rights and obligations, too.

Massachusetts Courts have taken pains to see that children of unwed parents and married parents, at least theoretically, are treated alike; and that children of unwed parents should be entitled to the same rights and protections as children of married parents. Here are some of the legal boundaries that maintain equality for unmarried parents in Massachusetts law:

Unmarried parents have rights to see their children, and obligations to support them. Child support obligations can be retroactive to the date of the child’s birth. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply to children of unwed parents in the same way they apply to children of married parents.

  • Unmarried parents have rights to seek, or obligations to provide, health insurance for their children, and to pay uninsured health expenses for them.
  • Unmarried parents may be obligated to provide (or seek for their co-parent to provide) life insurance to secure child support and other child related obligations.
  • The Court has the authority to make orders concerning custody and parenting of children of unwed parents.
  • The Court has the right to enter orders concerning payment of college or extracurricular activities.
  • Children of unwed parents are entitled to receive a share of their parent’s estate if there is no Will or other estate plan in place.
  • Curious about the rights or obligations of yourself or a co-parent? Ryan Faenza Carey is here to help you navigate the law in the best interests of your child(ren). Contact us today.

Dealing with divorce and protecting your children at the same time

It is not uncommon for a divorced or divorcing individual at some point in his or her life, either during or after divorce, to try and “erase” the past and start again; to pretend that the past hasn’t happened and try to chart out a new course for the future avoiding history as it occurred. In circumstances where no children are involved, this new course or direction may occur without too much collateral damage; however, if children are involved, it can be devastating.

 

Sometimes, a parent can actually take this effort too far, in the process emotionally or physically distancing him/herself from a child as well. That parent may stop seeing or being as involved in the life of their child(ren), and oftentimes financially withdraws support for them as well. For parents who had previously been involved in the child’s life, that can cause incredible trauma. This is a heartbreaking situation for everyone—the departing parent, the available parent who must try to compensate, but especially for the child who will bear the scars and endure this heartbreak for the rest of his or her life.

Here’s the bottom line: The decision to be a parent is permanent and irrevocable. The decision to have a child carries with it multiple responsibilities, not the least of which is providing love, emotional support, financial support and guidance to the child. These responsibilities are not something which a parent can later “undo” or “quit”—parenting is forever.

 

All parents matter, and the best interests of the child should be considered paramount.   The responsibilities of parenting should be borne by the adults who brought the child into the world, and not by the innocent child. If you find yourself struggling with divorce to the harm of your child(ren), there are many resources you can seek including counseling to help avoid long-standing emotional harm on your family.

How will I see my divorce in 20 years?  What will I wish I had done differently, and what will I be glad I did?  How will it feel?

Here are some things you can look forward to, many years after your divorce; This information stemming from my many years advising and guiding clients through divorce, but also my own personal divorce experience and learnings.

You’ll have distanced yourself from the emotion

The raw emotion will be barely recognizable– it will seem like a distant spec on the horizon. Like childbirth, the horrible parts will be a distant memory, and you will be able to remember and appreciate the positive parts. In fact your children, if you had them, will have their own memories and ideas, which will be much stronger than yours.
You will no longer feel as though ‘I just want this to be over with,’ because it will be indeed over. Time heals all wounds, if you let it.

You’ll be glad you found kindness

You will not regret a single kindness done or spoken toward your spouse, your ex-spouse or your children, and you will wish you had done these things more often. The times you took the ‘high road.’ will come back to you a hundredfold.

You will regret the things you did and said out of anger, spite, hostility, selfishness, hate and righteousness.

You’ll be able to look back with clarity

You will have a greater understanding of what drew you together with your former spouse, what kept you together, and what broke you apart.

You will truly acknowledge that it took two to tango– two to make things work and two to break things apart.

If you have healed (which you should have done), you will wish the best for your ex and have a greater understanding than you ever had, of what you did wrong, and what you did right.

You will be able to see the good in the past, appreciate, and forgive

You will be able to admit your mistakes, forgive yourself and forgive your ex, recognizing that you are both wonderful, and flawed, individuals.

You will appreciate more than ever before, the positive things which came from your divorce, and the ways in which you are enriched from divorce; strength is indeed borne of tragedy.

You will see in your children every day the scars you helped make, and the good character you helped build.

You will be able to remember with affection the wonderful parts of the person you once loved, and be able to actually remember the affection you felt, as well as the pain, and the wonderful qualities of that person, despite the pain and heartache that came later.

It helps to have an experienced divorce attorney who can support you during this difficult time and see you through the rough parts. If you’re thinking about, ready for, or in the midst of a divorce, contact Ryan Faenza Carey for a consultation.

Divorce is messy, overwhelming, scary, and hard. A qualified attorney can help clients navigate the process, but the most successful divorces occur when clients help themselves. Here are the things we strongly recommend to anyone facing or currently undergoing a divorce. We are certain it relieves the burden-both long and short term- of this major life event.

  1. Engage an attorney you trust, tell your attorney the truth about everything, and follow his/her instructions and recommendations.
  1. Understand that divorce is a process and does take time; buckle up for the ride and resist the urge to “just get it over with.”
  1. Leave your kids out of it—protect them, nurture their relationship with you and with your soon to be ex and take the high road in all respects—parent them first.
  1. Be reasonable. Spending $100 in legal fees to chase $50 is a waste of your time. Be willing to cut your losses where it is practical to do so. Don’t go to trial or fight endlessly over something for which you have a low likelihood of success.
  1. Decide what matters most, and negotiate your divorce agreement according to those priorities.
  1. Have reasonable expectations. In a good divorce, BOTH parties walk away unhappy. You will not get everything you want. Be prepared to compromise.
  1. Reach an agreement before appearing before a judge, if at all possible. Even a bad agreement is better than a good trial. You and your spouse, with the help of competent attorneys, are in the best position to negotiate a divorce agreement that is tailor made to your family. You will not have that luxury with a Judge.
  1. Be civil, and don’t burn your bridges. Ultimately the best thing for you, your soon to be ex and your children is for you and your soon to be ex to communicate and be able to deal civilly with one another. The investment you make in having a civil relationship will come back to you a hundred-fold in the future.  Don’t make anyone the bad guy—even if they deserve it. Civility is a huge investment in reaching resolution and staying out of Court both now, and in the future.

If you’re facing a divorce and in need of legal support, contact RFC today.

  1. There are no punitive damages. Not for extra-marital affairs, not for being the spouse seeking the divorce, and generally not for other conduct unless it has a significant impact on the health or finances of the parties or children.

 

  1. What goes around comes around. If you disparage your spouse to your children and to others in order to cause pain to your spouse, it is likely to cause significant long term pain to your children, and ultimately to you as well, causing wounds which may never heal. More about how to handle divorce with your children in Silver Linings, the book.

 

  1. Alimony is gender neutral. For the successful higher earning men and women of Massachusetts, you may pay alimony to your soon to be ex in a divorce.

 

  1. You can’t have it both ways. An equitable divorce in the eyes of the law may be one in which both parties walk away feeling unhappy.   For every benefit there is generally a corresponding burden. Your idea of “fair” may not comport with the Court’s view of fairness.

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  1. You can’t “stop” a divorce. We have no fault divorce in Massachusetts.   If one spouse wants a divorce, a divorce will be granted, even over the objections of the other.