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Family Law: Frequently Asked Questions

Legal issues involving families are among the most sensitive in all of law, so people tend to have many questions. We have assembled a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) in family law that we often hear. However, if you have concerns that go beyond the scope of this page, please contact us. Feinman Law Offices can be reached through our online contact form, or else by phone: 978-494-6669.

From our office in Andover, Massachusetts, we serve individuals and families in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

Is it possible to modify child custody arrangements?

Yes. Changing life circumstances can mean that the original terms of the custody arrangement no longer apply or make sense. In these cases, our attorneys can file an official request for child custody modification. Circumstances in which this could be appropriate include:

  • The child is older and wishes to live primarily with one parent
  • One of the parents is not following the terms of the original order — possibly through disengagement or uninvolvement — so the other parent wants sole physical custody
  • The child is experiencing maltreatment or neglect in one parent’s household

My ex-spouse and I share custody of our child, but I want to move. Can I?

Moving to another city or state generally requires an official modification to your custody arrangement and parenting plan, as the details change dramatically when one parent relocates. As in all custody matters, a court will look at what they believe is in the best interest of the child. You will need to show that the child will gain a real advantage from the move that outweighs the negative impact of increased distance. If you share physical custody, this will be a harder case to make than if you have sole physical custody.

What is required to establish legal paternity?

There are two ways to establish legal paternity. The first way is voluntarily, in which the father openly acknowledges paternity before the court. The second way is through a paternity action, which can be filed by the other potential father or other legal guardian. During a paternity action, the court may order DNA testing if paternity is in dispute.

Once paternity has been established, the father can then receive the rights and obligations of legal parenthood, including some level of custody or visitation, depending on the circumstances. If appropriate, the father can also be compelled to pay child support.

If my ex-spouse is behind on child support payments, do I still have to let them see our children?

Yes. Just because one party is not abiding by the terms of a court order does not mean that you are no longer bound by it. Even if your ex-spouse is months or years behind on child support, visitation terms still apply. Failing to abide by them could negatively impact your custody arrangement.

That said, our lawyers can also help with child support enforcement to allow you to collect the back payments that you are owed.

Instead of a divorce, can my spouse and I get a legal separation?

State laws on legal separation vary. In Massachusetts, legal separation is not an option, but in New Hampshire it is. The proceedings are similar to a divorce and require the same amount of time and effort — assets are divided by a judge and a settlement is reached — but the marriage is still legally intact afterward. At any time, the couple can choose to resume their marriage by filing a motion with the court. Reasons for pursuing legal separation include preserving tax benefits or religious reasons.