We concentrate in family law with cutting-edge knowledge gleaned from our more than 50 years combined legal experience. We teach and mentor other attorneys in this practice area, so you get the highest-quality legal service and advice. Unlike many attorneys who have limited their practice to divorce, Attorneys Diane Esser and Lisa Kent have broad civil litigation experience, giving them perspective, toughness, and well-rounded expertise – qualities that will win your case.
“I want to leave my marriage, but how are we going to share the children?” “The house is in my spouse’s name – does he or she get all of it?” These are common concerns for people in relationship crises. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about family legal matters circulates through word-of-mouth. During times of crisis, you need an advocate to guide you that will provide specific, thorough answers. Whether you are divorcing or seeking child support or parenting time, we have the expertise to get you through these rough times.
FOR YOU TODAY
No one ever marries intending to divorce, but many marriages end that way. Divorce is becoming more frequent in “long-term” marriages when spouses are in or nearing retirement. Creating two households from one can be economically complicated and emotionally fraught. Read more.
In this form of “alternative dispute resolution” a couple sits down together with an agreed-upon lawyer, who helps them arrive at their own separation agreement. There’s a popular belief that mediation can produce quicker results less expensively than each spouse having their own lawyer. This may be true in some cases. The key is knowing whether you and your spouse have the ability to mediate. If there is a history of abuse, an imbalance of knowledge or money, or an unbridgeable difference in views, mediation might become a costly diversion. We can help educate you about the process and evaluate your case to gauge whether it is a good option.
Attorney Esser and Attorney Kent are trained mediators. (Read “Why Your Mediator Should Be a Lawyer.”)
Abuse prevention (restraining orders) and anti-harassment orders
When you need protection from domestic violence, or if you are served with a restraining order, you need a staunch legal advocate. Although restraining orders can offer strong protection against serious physical harm and threats, they can be exploited and misused. We can help you determine whether you need protection from abuse, or if you need representation in restraining order proceedings. In these emotionally charged situations, your safety and protection is our top priority.
Alimony and asset division
Dividing property should be done “equitably,” and that doesn’t always mean “equally.” We guide you through the tremendous complexities of asset and debt valuation and division. We have particular experience with especially valuable and complex assets, such as businesses, pensions, real estate, and trusts. These require special attention to make sure they are properly valued.
For alimony, we educate you on the case law, formulas, and special considerations courts employ. Since Massachusetts passed the Alimony Reform Act of 2012, alimony questions have become increasingly complicated and uncertain. With their focus and attention to the changing law, Attorneys Esser and Kent have the right answers to difficult alimony questions. See our Alimony article.
Interstate and international family and legal issues
State laws vary considerably and will impact your divorce or custody dispute if you, your partner, or your child(ren) are planning a move to another state or country. Special legal considerations come into play before you can “remove” a child to another jurisdiction (or, sometimes, to a different part of Massachusetts!) Knowing these considerations before you file for divorce or plan a move is key.
Same-sex and nontraditional family legal issues
Both Attorney Esser and Attorney Kent have represented gay and lesbian couples in their divorce and custody disputes for decades – before, during, and after the landmark Goodridge case that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
Pre- and post-nuptial agreements
Property planning before and during marriage can give couples more security about what wealth they do and do not want to share. A poorly written pre- or post-nuptial agreement can be struck down or reshaped by the courts. We make sure your agreement meets your needs – and the court’s – today and down the road.
Post-divorce modification and contempt
Even the best divorce agreements can’t always address every future situation, nor can they stop new conflict from arising. When faced with new issues (or a repeat of the same ones) you need the wisdom to know what battles to fight and how to fight them. Changing – or interpreting – a divorce or custody agreement, requires legal advice and attention. We will help you determine whether you need to file a complaint for contempt or change a court’s judgment, and support you every step of the way if that course of action is deemed necessary.
Legal agreements for surrogacy and assistive reproduction technology
Attorney Diane Esser has been at the forefront of creating legal structures for people who need sperm and/or egg donor agreements, surrogacy arrangements, and other unconventional adoptions. Legal advice is essential (and often required by doctors and clinics who specialize in such medicine) before you embark on these arrangements.
FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Your children are more precious to you than anything. Before making plans and decisions about them it’s crucial to have the best legal advice possible. We assist families with:
Adoption and guardianship
We will assist you in selecting the type of adoption or guardianship best suited for your situation, and help you clear the many required legal hurdles to bring your new family member home.
Parenting plans (formerly called “custody” arrangements)
A plan for your child(ren)’s living arrangements and how you will communicate with your former partner is one of the most important elements of a divorce. We will work to create a reasonable plan for both parents that, first and foremost, takes into account your child(ren)’s needs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” agreement, but there are tried-and-true patterns that can ease your child’s life post-divorce. We will apply our decades of experience to select the elements that best fit your family’s circumstances. See our child custody article, Splitting the Baby.
Because child support involves highly emotional issues, byzantine legal guidelines, and many other considerations, it is prudent to have an attorney negotiate this important element of your post-divorce life. We will help you navigate the formulas, calculations, and guidelines that take into account the amount of time a child spends with each parent, expense sharing, and other factors.
Unfortunately, there are times when extreme circumstances force the temporary or permanent curtailing of a parent’s right to care for a child. We will work with you step by step to present your case in a compelling fashion in order to meet the extremely high standard of proof for taking away a parent’s rights.
Involuntary commitment for people with drug or alcohol addiction (also called “Section 35”)
Addiction to painkillers and heroin is an epidemic and a horrific problem for an increasing number of families. When you need to get your child or loved one into a treatment program, you also need to navigate the legal system that can get them there. We can file the petition that will give the court the power to send your family member to a treatment center, at least on a short-term basis.
With longer lifespans comes a greater need for legal documents that clearly state your key life decisions. Along with a solid retirement plan, you need legal advice to make sure you and your elderly loved ones are protected when they are most vulnerable. We offer:
Estate planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care proxies)
Your family could lose control of its assets if you do not prepare a legal record specifying to whom and where they go. That’s why basic will and estate planning documents are essential. Fortunately, they do not have to be expensive – in fact, many can be priced to stay within many budgets. A good will and estate plan can minimize the burden of probating your estate. Your children will appreciate the clear set of instructions that a good will provides.
Guardianships and conservatorships
No one likes to think of having to take over day-to-day activities for an elder. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to become the guardian of an elderly relative in order to protect him or her from abuse or get that person into the right caregiving situation. If you need only to direct and protect an elder’s financial affairs, a “conservatorship” will serve the purpose.
FOR YOUR FUTURE
With proactive planning, you can minimize misunderstandings between family members and create peace of mind for you and your loved ones. In these complicated times, basic estate planning is a must, and it can be done in a way that fits your budget:
Your loved ones will need a detailed list of instructions after your death. A will is simply that, and it is (usually) a straightforward and effective way of ensuring that your debts get paid and assets get transferred when you die. We will devise a will that will assure that your assets are in the hands of the people you care about most.
Powers of attorney
Sometimes called “living wills,” a power of attorney authorizes someone you trust to do things for you when you cannot. In an emergency, you may need someone to do your banking, run a business, or make other decisions. A power of attorney can vary in scope and duration. It is very useful to have one ready to be used on a moment’s notice.
Health care proxies
When dealing with matters that are literally “life and death,” you want to rely on a legal document – and one that’s not just a form used by your doctor’s office. Also called “medical directives,” we can prepare a single document that covers all critical medical issues for you to carry wherever you go.