Jonathan Fields Admitted as Fellow to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)

AAML logoFields and Dennis LLP would like to congratulate Jonathan Fields on his admission into the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) as a Fellow. The AAML, according to its website, is “comprised of the top 1,600 matrimonial attorneys throughout the nation.” The AAML website notes that Fellows “are generally recognized by judges and attorneys as preeminent family law practitioners with a high level of knowledge, skill, and integrity.” Jon is one of only 49 Fellows in Massachusetts.

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Divorced, But Still Living Together?

For most couples, divorce is emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially draining. All you want is to get away from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse…However, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way and that’s where a judge and the legal system come in. In this age of Internet rumors and urban legends, it’s hard to believe that some of these crazy divorce stories or settlements are true, but in fact, we’ve found a good one. The New York Times reported back in 2007 that Williamsburg, Brooklynite, Orthodox Jewish couple Pinchs and Nechama Gold were forced to split their 3,000 square foot home as they went through a brutal divorce.

Let’s just say after the judge handed down his ruling, things got intense in the Gold household. First of all, the Golds had two weeks to decide on where a wall should go to divide the property, and if they didn’t decide within that time, the court would decide for them. Though they seemed happy at the time of marriage 21 years prior and even had five children, things turned ugly fast. The wife, Nechama Gold, claimed that her husband verbally abused her and the children, and she wanted nothing more than for him to leave the house. Not so, said the judge.

The wife, Nechama Gold, claimed that her husband would blow out their Shabbos candles purely out of spite. Pinchs, the husband, refuted this claim and added two of his own: she hid his heart medications from him and made him sleep in the dining room for two years. So what happened? Nechama ended up taking a larger portion of the house, 700 square feet more, because the children live with her. The husband’s brother jokingly referred to the division as “The Divorce Wall,” and so did the media.

Now let’s switch gears and fast forward to 2013 and Seville, Spain. Though we are halfway across the world in this story, it reads pretty much the same. A Spanish judge ordered a divorcing couple to split their 2,700 square foot apartment into two sections. The reason? The judge said it is best for the couple’s financial situation and for the child’s small daughters. The wife inhabits the upstairs and the husband the downstairs.

These quirky yet kind-of-horrific divorce stories remind us that it can be worse when it comes to divorce. Before putting yourself in front of a judge and going to these drastic measures, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the ins and outs of divorce proceedings. Perhaps mediation could be a better solution for a couple, where compromise is involved. Or if the divorce turns bitter, than protecting yourself with an excellent lawyer is highly recommended.

At Fields and Dennis, we treat our clients with the utmost respect during the difficult time of divorce. We understand that an entire family is often involved, and it is crucial to protect the interests of the children. Please contact us today if you are looking for a trusted and strategic Massachusetts divorce lawyer.

Based on this Huffpost article:

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Premarital Counseling Predicts Divorce

The big “D” can now be predicted…in premarital counseling. Premarital counseling often occurs because the couple has to do it, or they want tips and advice for a healthy relationship. Either way, learning how a couple behaves can be a major indicator for divorce. The indicator everyone seems to know is Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which signals divorce. The horsemen are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Dr. Gottman is known for predicting divorce with a 94 percent accuracy rate. But there are other reasons for predicting divorce, and Dr. Becky Whetstone discusses them in her recent HuffPost article.

One not shocking reason is dominance over the other person or discrepancy. For example, your female neighbor may be hot, but her husband…not so much. Or your cousin may be filthy rich, but her fiancé…not so much. These differences drive wedges between couples that are too big to conquer most times. They can be anything from beauty and money to age and religion. If two things aren’t somewhat the same or don’t hold the same core values, most likely it’s doomed to fail.

While we as a society may hold onto the nostalgic memories of The Brady Bunch, the blending of families is more likely to suffer a Kardashian-Jenner fate. Basically, Whetstone does not recommend blending. Why? Kids have to adapt to their new lifestyle post divorce, and their acceptance of Mom’s new boyfriend may not be wonderful. Then Mom marries him, and the acceptance of Stepdad may be less wonderful. Basically, it’s a lot of adjustment for a kid and many don’t handle it well.

When the aforementioned factors come into play in premarital counseling, the marriage is probably doomed. Whetstone raises a valid and often overlooked point. She says: “I believe that choosing to marry the wrong partner is the primary reason for the high rate of divorce in the United States. No one can blame the American public for not knowing how to do it; while we are taught in school about the solar system, world history and how to give a speech, never is healthy family dynamics and communication discussed.” It makes sense and you can probably attribute this factor to the unhappy couples you know. She also states that a mere 8 to 17 percent of married couples can be described as happy. Yikes.

At Fields and Dennis, we are happy to help you with divorce proceedings. We understand that you want the best for your family and for yourself. Please contact us today if you are looking for a trusted and experienced Wellesley divorce lawyer.

Based on this Huffpost article:

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Being OK with Yourself After Divorce

After divorce, women often find themselves on an emotional roller coaster. The relationship they thought was going to last forever has ended, and perhaps there are children involved. How should a woman cope with all this stress and then make good relationship decisions for her future? As many experts recommend, it comes down to finding oneself. In other words, if you’re not OK with yourself, you won’t be OK in another relationship and especially in a second marriage.

Women must tackle deep issues that have affected the breakup of their marriage, and these issues may be unpleasant to explore. As clinic psychologist and relationship coach Kristin M. Davin suggests, a newly divorced woman should carve out time and space to gain clarity. A hiatus from dating is often a good idea. For instance, much like Elizabeth Gilbert in her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, women travel to discover themselves again. They find themselves through different experiences, food, and cultures. Perhaps traveling is not possible and not in the cards, and if so, there is self-discovery in other ways. Marti Noxon, creator and producer of the television show the Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, says she started taking midnight walks to clear her head. At this stage of her life, at 50 years of age, she is just dating for the first time in her life, instead of being tied down in a relationship. And the feeling is liberating.

Grieving, according to Davin, is another major part of the process. A woman must grieve her marriage and the loss of it. If she has children, she must grieve the loss of a family unit with a mother and spouse living in a single household. This step can be difficult for women. Some women, much like Gilbert notes in her memoir, have been in relationships since they were teenagers. This time alone can be a scary prospect. However, as Davin suggests, it’s good to embrace this time of self-discovery and engage in the process. Oftentimes, she notes, women who do this come out stronger, more empowered, centered, and smarter in decision-making.

50.2% of Americans are single, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And this is OK. As long as a woman can be OK with being single, she is on her way to healing and self-discovery. To be alone is not a negative thing; it can actually be positive. For example, one woman started a blog called The Breakup List, where she has conquered 200 goals on her bucket list in just over a year. And she’s doing it…by herself.

At Fields and Dennis, we are happy to help women with the divorce process. We understand that you want the best for your family and for yourself. Please contact us today if you are a woman who is looking for a trusted and experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer.

Based on this Huffpost article:

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How to Prepare for Your Child Custody Mediation

When emotions are involved, a mediator can serve as a neutral party to tackle serious issues in a divorce. Child custody is often the most serious issue, especially in regard to how time is split between the parents and children. The first tip in regard to preparing for your child custody mediation is to know exactly what you want. In the mediation itself, you may become overwhelmed with emotion or nervous, and that’s why it’s imperative to have a plan written down before going in. The plan should include what you expect for custody, visitation, and your core concerns as a parent with regard to custody. Be sure to research with your court system to see if you can bring in extraneous documents, because in some legal systems, it’s not allowed. If this is the case, have your list of concerns and priorities at the forefront of your mind by going over what is important to you before the mediation.

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just incredibly emotional about the mediation, and especially child custody, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Not everyone can afford a therapist or counselor to guide them through this process, but if you can, think about it. Also, call your insurance company to see if it covers mental health and start researching for a therapist. Some counselors and therapists have years of experience in helping people prepare for divorce proceedings, custody hearings, and mediation; therefore, it is recommended to choose one who has this knowledge. Going into mediation with feelings sorted out, a clear head, and in a calm state will make a significant difference in how the mediation process is handled.

If there is any possibility you can discuss custody with your spouse before the mediation, then do it. However, you have to make sure your emotions are under control, as well as hers/his. If your spouse is someone you can really talk to—despite the ongoing divorce process—it may help you in the mediation. This way, both you and your spouse know exactly what is important to both of you. For example, your spouse’s top concern may be securing one weeknight every week to maintain close contact with her/his children, as well as having custody every other weekend. And perhaps you didn’t know this was her/his top concern and you are willing to accommodate this request. If you can speak calmly and reasonably to your spouse, it can help with a smoother mediation.

Lastly, your voice should be heard. Whether you write down your top concerns and priorities or have them in your head, you should have a voice in mediation. Do not allow your spouse to control or dominate the proceedings—the mediator shouldn’t allow this either. Instead, have a strong, logical
voice in which you verbally tell your spouse and mediator clearly what you want and what you expect.

At Fields and Dennis, attorney Jonathan E. Fields has almost 25 years of experience in divorce mediation. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America ® 2015 edition in the field of Family Law. He is also an Executive Board Member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and a Panel Member of the Children and Family Law Trial Committee for Public Counsel Services. Please contact him today if you are looking for a trusted and experienced Boston divorce mediation lawyer.

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How the Courts Decide on Alimony

Alimony is an explosive topic. Some people totally agree with it, while others are firmly against it. Either way, alimony can be a large part of divorce, and the financial aspect can be lengthy and costly for the party that will be paying the alimony. The decision of granting alimony by the court depends on several different factors that many people don’t even realize. For instance, a major factor is marital fault. The reason for the breakup of a marriage could affect the amount and duration of alimony in the eyes of certain judges. If one spouse has evidence of cheating, that could affect the alimony outcome, for example.

Another factor is the length of the marriage. Think about this: How long have you been married? Five years v. 25 years makes a huge difference, and with the latter, age plays into the equation. If you are a young person who is divorcing, the courts may look at you as someone who can easily obtain work. However, if you’re an older person, the courts may see you as unable to pay any type of support for a long period of time. Then there is the lifestyle during the marriage. Did you both live extravagantly? If so, this luxurious way of living may be over for the both of you. However, if you are a non-working spouse and are accustomed to a certain lifestyle, alimony may play into your favor. Then there is Social Security to consider. Did you know that if a non-working spouse, who had been married over 10 years to the former spouse and has not remarried, is entitled to her/his ex’s Social Security benefits? This becomes an element of alimony.

Health comes into decision-making as well. If a spouse isn’t in good health and is unable to sustain a job, this will affect how much and for how long s/he will receive alimony. For instance, if Spouse A has been out of work for two years and can’t return, then Spouse B may have to pay a larger portion toward alimony than originally expected. Besides health, kids are a major concern too. Who are the children going to live with? If they live with you, you may be entitled to more money, since the workday is shortened due to childcare. If they live with your spouse, s/he may be entitled to a larger sum.

Other monetary sources can pose an issue. Say, for instance, you have another source of income or a trust—this monetary source may affect how much alimony you receive or pay. A buildup of assets is important to note. For instance, if your husband built up his law practice while you were married, he now has to pay you half its value. The receipt of this lump sum could possibly reduce alimony payments down the line.

At Fields and Dennis, attorney Jonathan E. Fields has almost 25 years of experience in Family Law, including alimony proceedings. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America ® 2015 edition in the field of Family Law. He is also an Executive Board Member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and a Panel Member of the Children and Family Law Trial Committee for Public Counsel Services. Please contact him today if you are looking for a trusted and experienced Boston divorce lawyer.

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Should I Fire My Divorce Lawyer?

If you’re not sure your divorce lawyer is the best fit, it’s time to start asking questions. It is imperative to have a trusted and competent lawyer who believes in putting your interests first. The first question to ask yourself is: Do you know what is going on in your case? For instance, you should understand the proceedings and the lawyer should discuss exactly what his strategy is and how the proceedings are going. If the proceedings seem to be dragged out, this could be a red flag. If there’s a reason for the expanded length of time and you’re aware of this reason, that’s one thing. However, if the proceedings are constantly being delayed for months and you have no idea, that’s a major warning sign. Lawyers who are not reputable will unnecessarily drag out cases to make as much money as possible. If you don’t understand your lawyer’s strategy and you’re not receiving any answers or guidance, it may be time to find a new attorney.

Another question is: Is the communication frequent and easily attained between you and your lawyer? For example, if you can call her cell or send a text or email and receive an immediate response, that is a good sign. This means your attorney can be reached at any time and is there to help and guide you. If your lawyer does not call or text or email back in a timely manner, that can be frustrating…and suspicious. With all the money you gave her for a retainer, she should be able to contact you easily and frequently, and she should be ready and happy to answer all your questions.

What does your intuition say? It sounds silly, but intuition is often overlooked, and it shouldn’t be. When you begin divorce proceedings, most likely you are emotionally and mentally exhausted—even physically too. Divorce takes a toll on a person’s mind and body. In doing so, decisions may be clouded that otherwise wouldn’t be in a time of clarity and a state of contentment. You have to think about hiring your divorce attorney as a major business decision, perhaps the biggest of your life. If your mindset changes to business, then you can evaluate how your lawyer is doing with the money you invested, what he is giving back in terms of being an “employee,” and how his performance has been to date. Once you assess your lawyer’s performance with a clear, business-like head, then you can make the decision of whether to fire him or not.

At Fields and Dennis, we treat our clients with the utmost respect during the difficult time of divorce. We are a trusted firm that openly communicates with our clients during divorce proceedings. Please contact us today if you are looking for a trusted and strategic Boston divorce lawyer.

Based on this Huffpost article:

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Should A Man Leave The House during a Divorce?

If you are a man and at the very beginning or middle of a divorce, should you leave your house? Oftentimes—and to the surprise of many—the answer is no. However, men are quick to pack up and leave the house, even though it wasn’t their idea to divorce in the first place. This decision to vacate
could result in error immediately and down the line. When a man leaves his house, even if he thinks he’s being respectful toward his spouse and family, his spouse’s attorney could say he “abandoned his family.” It’s best to check with your state’s laws, but mostly if your name is on the lease or mortgage, you do not have to leave your house voluntarily.

When men do leave, it can send a contradictory message to the courts in regard to children. For example, if a man leaves, then in the court’s eyes, he is saying that the daily care and support of his children don’t matter to him. This could be far from the truth, but that’s the way the courts can see it. This immediately puts the man at an unfair advantage in regard to court proceedings. It can also result in the man paying far more in child support and receiving a lot less time with his children.

Another crucial misstep in voluntarily leaving the home is: Did you take important financial information and documents? In times of despair, it’s common and human nature that we don’t think about these factors that may seem small, but in the end, they are huge. Now you are left with this scenario: You can’t get back into your home and you have no idea of your financial records. That’s a scary scenario—especially if the divorce is confrontational. It has definitely been known for crucial financial records to “disappear” when a man goes back into the home and searches for them.

What happens if you don’t have kids? Well, if you leave the house, the courts could demand that you pay for your spouse’s bills, including mortgage, groceries, car payments, etc.—whatever you paid for during the marriage. Some states will authorize a “status quo” order, which means during the divorce proceeding, you must pay for whatever you paid for during the marriage. If your spouse makes less money than you, you may be subject to providing spousal support, so she can live in the lifestyle she has grown accustomed to.

At Fields and Dennis, we treat our clients with the utmost respect during the difficult time of divorce. We understand that a man wants to protect his family, and that it’s crucial to protect his best interests as well. Please contact us today if you are a man who is looking for a trusted and strategic Boston divorce lawyer.

Based on this Huffpost article:

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The Best Living Arrangement for Children of Divorce

Divorce takes a huge toll on the entire family, and the kids especially feel the stress. Up until recently, the old way of thinking was to have joint custody of the child—such as the child may have an every-other-weekend custody arrangement with the non-full-time parent, but certainly not an equal custody arrangement with both parents. A study from Stockholm, Sweden is showing that this type of unequal joint custody is causing kids more harm than good. In the study, it showed that kids who live with the nuclear family are the happiest—no surprise there.

In this Swedish study recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, it reports:

“Researchers wanted to see if kids who lived part time with both parents were more stressed than those who lived with just one parent. They looked at national data from almost 150,000 12- and 15-year-old students—each in either sixth grade or ninth grade—and studied their psychosomatic health problems, including sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches and feeling tense, sad or dizzy. They found that 69 percent of them lived in nuclear families, while 19 percent spent time living with both parents and about 13 percent lived with only one parent.

Kids in nuclear families reported the fewest psychosomatic problems, but the more interesting finding was that students who lived with both of their separated parents reported significantly fewer problems than kids who lived with only one parent.”

In an ideal world, researchers believe that the children should have contact with both parents daily. This keeps the bond between both the child and the parents. However, this type of custody arrangement, called “shared parenting,” is much more common in Sweden than the US. In the US, we have a system of joint custody and the every-other-weekend parent. However, experts say that research in favor of shared parenting is overwhelmingly positive. The concern for American parents is that the kids will turn into suitcase kids, dragging themselves and their belongings from one parent’s house to another several times a week. But researchers say this type of constant contact between both parents is best for the child. It keeps the relationship between parent and child close and loving. Despite all the research in favor of shared parenting, Ned Holstein, MD, founder and acting executive director of the National Parents Organization, estimates the rate is less than 20 percent for shared parenting in the US.

At Fields and Dennis, we treat our clients with the utmost respect during the difficult time of divorce, especially in regard to custody agreements. We understand that an entire family is often involved, and it is crucial to protect the interests of the children. Please contact us today if you are looking for a trusted and strategic Boston divorce lawyer.

Based on this Time article:

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Attorney Fields Speaking on Family Law Mediation in Wellesley

Fields and Dennis, LLP is pleased to announce that Jonathan Fields will be speaking on the topic of “Mediation Challenges for the Family Law Practitioner” in Wellesley on April 8th.

He, along with Kate Fanger, Esq. and Ellen Waldorf, Esq., will be presenting on behalf of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation (MCFM) at the Wellesley Public Library.

Jon recently completed a two-year term as President of the MCFM and continues to serve on its Executive Board, as he has since 2005. With extensive experience as a neutral, he is well-versed in the rewards and challenges of family law mediation, and he has successfully mediated many family law disputes between couples.

The event is from 2 – 4 p.m. Please contact Jonathan Fields for additional details or if you wish to discuss this topic.

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