At the Law offices of Susannah L. Brown, we specialize in divorce and child custody disputes and pride ourselves in both our aggressive representation of clients as well as our sensitivity to our client's needs during this trying time. Our boutique approach allows us to give our clients a very high level of legal services. We will listen carefully to your needs and concerns and will treat you with courtesy and respect. No matter how busy we are, we will always have time for you.
Attorney Brown and her professional staff will be there for you to provide the answers you need, when you need them. We will work with you to ensure that your rights and the rights of your children are protected
We represent clients in a full range of family law matters ranging from Divorce (child custody, parenting plans, child support, alimony and marital property division), post divorce issues (modifications and contempt actions) to adoptions and guardianships. Attorney Brown is also a trained mediator. Whether your situation is one that can be solved quickly and amicably through mediation, or if you are involved in a prolonged and acrimonious litigation we will get you the results you want.
No matter how harmoniously your family law case proceeds, you still need to be fully informed of your rights and potential liabilities at all stage of the proceedings. If a Divorce is “uncontested”, there usually are still issues such as child support or alimony upon which you and your spouse may disagree. Often times people are afraid to stand up for their rights out of fear of appearing uncooperative or simply not wanting to look like “the bad guy”. While we encourage our clients to reach agreement whenever possible, we also encourage and assist them in standing up for their rights. Some of the areas that are the most difficult to agree upon are alimony, child support, child custody and the division of marital assets.
Although we hope that your case will be resolved quickly and affordably through the negotiation process, this is not always possible. If an out of court settlement cannot be reached we have the resources and the experience to bring your case to Court and get you positive results.
If you are involved in any type of Family Law matter you should call Attorney Susannah L. Brown. She is the person you need to help navigate the complex world of Massachusetts Divorce Laws. She prides herself on being an aggressive litigator and a compassionate advocate for your rights and needs.
She is dedicated to serving her clients' needs. Her straightforward, plain-speaking approach lets clients make informed decisions to resolve their legal issues in an effective, expeditious and affordable manner. Attorney Brown and her staff will be there for you from your initial consultation until the completion of your case.
No other issue is more emotional in a divorce than child custody. While all parents want the best for their children, not everyone can agree on which parent can provide the best living situation for them. Although most parents can come to a reasonable agreement on child custody, when parents cannot agree on a parenting plan children get caught in the middle. At the Law Offices of Susannah L. Brown our goal is to assist parents in reaching a reasonable custody arrangement based upon our client’s wishes and “the best interests of the child”. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. In cases when parents cannot agree Court intervention and/or a Guardian ad litem may be required. Our years of experience help us to assist you in determining what would be the best course of action in your particular set of circumstances.
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Child support is the weekly or monthly amount that the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent. The purpose of child support is to provide for the financial needs of the children. Depending on the individual circumstances, child support can be mandated until the child turns 23 years old. The amount of support ordered is based on several factors:
-the gross income of both parents;
-the number of children;
-the age of the children; and
-additional expenses paid on behalf of the children such as day care and health insurance.
While child support is based on a formula, that formula is only strictly applied to families with a total annual income of approximately $250,000 a year. Even if your income falls within those guidelines, other factors may be considered that will allow payments to deviate from those guidelines. Individuals with very high incomes face distinct challenges in reaching support agreements and need to understand all their rights before reaching an agreement.
Even after you reach an agreement, as the financial situations of the parties change, and the needs of the children evolve, those support amounts may be modified. Regardless of your circumstances child support is an important and ongoing issue, which may require periodic review from a lawyer that specializes in these matters.
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Alimony differs from child support in many ways. Alimony is based upon many factors, including the length of the marriage, the party's incomes, earning capacities and needs, as well as the conduct of the parties during the marriage. While either party can be awarded alimony, alimony is most often awarded in cases involving a husband paying a wife. Alimony was traditionally only awarded in the case of long-term marriages but now, depending on circumstances, it may be awarded in a marriage of any length. Recently, Massachusetts enacted the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, which will go into effect in March 2012. This dramatically changes alimony in Massachusetts in many ways. Most significantly, it will set time limits on alimony. Except in the rarest of cases, alimony will not be awarded for life. Even in the case of a long-term marriage, alimony will end when the payer reaches retirement age or the recipient begins living with a romantic partner.
The individual circumstance of the marriage will also determine the amount and term of any alimony award. Sometimes alimony is awarded on a short-term basis, to give a spouse a chance to increase their income. The short-term alimony may give them a chance to go back to school, get some work experience or can be timed to coincide with children entering school and freeing up the custodial parent to get a job.
Alimony and child support are treated differently by the tax code as well. There is a tax advantage to the person that pays alimony. Unlike child support, it is generally deductible from income. Conversely, the person receiving alimony has to pay taxes on that income. There are many pros and cons to whether support is deemed alimony of child support. Whether you are a candidate to receive alimony or may potentially be paying alimony, you need to consult with an attorney well versed in the Massachusetts Divorce process in order to figure what works best in your case. While the new law does not officially go into effect until March of 2012, most Judges and practitioners are using the new formulas to calculate amount and duration of alimony awards. Prior awards cannot be modified until 2013.
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DIVISION OF MARITAL ASSETS
For the most part, all the property and assets you and your spouse accrued during your marriage are subject to division through the divorce process. Attorney Brown can help you navigate through the complicated Massachusetts laws that govern the division of marital assets. Not only are the things you and your spouse earned or purchased subject to division, inheritances and gifts are also subject to division.
Marital assets include pensions, 401ks, 403bs, IRAs, bank accounts, business assts, stocks, stock options (vested and unvested), trusts, homes, other real property, motor vehicles, household goods and other property. Although the Massachusetts divorce laws require an equitable division of marital assets, that does not mean that all assets will split 50/50. Depending on the value and type of assets involved, determining what an equitable division of assets is can be one of the most challenging aspects of any divorce. Unlike some other issues, once you divorce is final, it is next to impossible to go back to court to modify the division of property. Therefore, it is critical that you are fully aware of the value of all your marital assets, including those your spouse may try to hide, and that you understand all your rights regarding those assets.
Sometimes finding a spouse’s hidden assets may the toughest part. If you think your spouse is hiding assets contact our office immediately, so that we can begin tracking down those assets before it is too late. Likewise if your spouse owns a business it may take the expertise of an experienced divorce lawyer to obtain the true value of that asset. Whether your case involves a complex divorce asset division or a simple asset division you need sound legal advise to formulate a strategy to get you what you deserve. Attorney Brown will protect your rights and interests to help you achieve an equitable assets division under Massachusetts law.
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POST-DIVORCE ISSUES: MODIFICATIONS AND CONTEMPTS
Once your divorce is final, issues may arise that require further legal action. These issues are usually related to the enforcement or changes to certain court orders or separation agreements. The two most common ways this comes about is through a modification, or a contempt. While there two processes differ greatly, they often concern the same issues and may both be appropriate in some circumstances.
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Sometimes after a child support or other order goes into effect circumstances change. For example if a parent’s income goes up or down significantly, their child support obligations may be affected. Similarly, either party may seek a change in child custody or visitation or try to change the amount of alimony they are paying or receiving. Some changes in the terms of your agreements will require a modification, while others, can be achieved through agreement between the parties. When circumstances change it is always wise to speak to an attorney to determine if you need to file a modification to change the terms of your original agreement. For example, if you become unemployed, you cannot simply stop paying child support or alimony, you normally need to seek a modification to avoid contempt charges.
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When either party fails to abide by the terms of a court order, they could become the subject of a contempt proceeding. You have the right to petition the court to seek help in the enforcement of their previous orders. If an individual is not complying with the terms of the court order they might be found in contempt. Most contempt orders involve child support or alimony. It the court determines that your ex-spouse is in contempt they can order payment, garnish their wages, or in some circumstances order jail time. Whether you are seeking a contempt order or are the subject of a contempt order we can help you to resolve these issues.
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