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Joint Petition for Modification of Judgment

Joint Petition for Modification

A Joint Petition and Affidavit for Modification of Judgment soon will be available for use in The Probate & Family Court. This will be a welcome tool for folks utilizing mediation services.  Parties will be able to mediate modification agreements and then file them with the court using a Joint Petition.   The proposed Rule 412 will facilitate uncontested actions to modify judgments.  The filing may be approved by the Court administratively.  That means you won’t have to go to court, unless the court determines that a hearing is necessary or helpful for disposition of the petition.

The Massachusetts Probate & Family Court is planning  to permit folks to file a Joint Petition for Modification of Judgment. Parties that wish to file a joint petition will file a signed and notarized agreement, accompanied with an affidavit.  In matters involving changes to financial terms, the parties will also file financial statements and/or child support guidelines worksheets.   This new process will save time, money and relieve the long lines in the Probate & Family Court.   Unless the court schedules a hearing, you will have your decision in fourteen days.

This is a welcome tool to assist families that want to make changes to their divorce agreements. Filing a Joint Petition for Modification of Judgment will be less costly than going through a traditional process of filing a Complaint for Modification.   Using mediation to discuss proposed changes to parenting plans, Alimony and child support, will keep open lines of communication.  You stay in control of the process and avoid litigation.  The divorce mediators at Parker Mediation will facilitate the process to modify your judgment.  We keep it simple and confidential; call us today at 508 795 0200 to take the next steps.

Probate and Family Court Introduces Bilingual Short Form Financial Statement

The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Department recently announced the introduction of a bilingual short form financial statement. The entire press release is as follows:

In response to the high percentage of bilingual, self-represented litigants in many of its 14 divisions, the Probate and Family Court has introduced Spanish and Portuguese versions of its Short Form Financial Statement (CJD-301s), one of the most widely used Probate and Family Court forms.

The Court partnered with the Trial Court’s Access to Justice Initiative and the Office of Court Interpreter Services to develop this more accessible form. Spanish and Portuguese together represent 86 percent of the interpretation needs of court users across Massachusetts.

The Forms Task Force of the Access to Justice Initiative will continue to prioritize additional court forms for translation, and identify other opportunities to make forms more accessible to the public.

The Short Form Financial Statement (CJD-301s) is used by plaintiffs, defendants or petitioners in cases such as divorce, child support, paternity, modification and contempt, when annual income is less than $75,000.

The revised financial statement includes English text and translated text on the same form. All information entered on the form by court users must be completed in English in order for the form to be accepted by the Court, as detailed in the separate instructions provided to enable completion of the form.

The forms are posted on the Internet at the address below and must be printed with black ink on pink paper, pursuant to Uniform Probate Court Practice XXXIII. The online version is currently available in a “print only” format, while a “fillable” version is being developed for posting in the near future.

Link to revised Short Form Financial Statement (CJD-301s):

http://www.mass.gov/courts/courtsandjudges/courts/probateandfamilycourt/forms.html

Review Your Estate Plan After Divorce.

This important information was recently provided to me from Attorney Alan Rosenfield:

As you may be aware, the federal estate taxes and generation skipping taxes were repealed as of January 1, 2010. Unless Congress acts by passing a law that retroactively addresses this issue, there will be no estate tax due for deaths occurring in 2010.

Although this sounds positive, it can have a significant negative impact on existing estate plans that were created based on the law as it existed with a federal estate tax. For example, an existing estate plan which makes use of marital and credit shelter trusts (also known as Bypass trust or A/B trust) could cause all of the assets to flow into the credit shelter trust, leaving no assets among classes of beneficiaries based on the generation skipping tax exemption. Depending on how the plan is drafted, under the current law, the allocation could dispose of the entire estate, thereby unintentionally cutting out other beneficiaries. Therefore, it is important to review these estate plans to be sure that they accurately reflect the couple’s current intentions.

Additionally, the repeal of the federal estate tax also means that the unlimited marital deduction and “step-up” in basis go away for 2010. In place of the federal estate tax, “carry-over” basis rules apply. This means that beneficiaries including the surviving spouse inherit the assets at the cost basis of the deceased owner rather than at the fair market value as the date of death. Therefore, unlike in 2009 and years prior where a surviving spouse received a full marital deduction and step-up in basis on assets inherited from the deceased spouse, the surviving spouse inheriting in 2010 will instead be subject to capital gains taxes on any assets that do not receive the “step-up” allocation. Furthermore, the “carry-over” basis rules may create an unintended conflict of interest for Executors who are also beneficiaries. In addition to these issues, there are also more complex considerations relative to the 2010 “carry-over” basis rules which we can address if appropriate.

Finally, under the current law, the federal estate tax will be reinstated in 2011 with only a $1 million exemption and with a tax rate as high as 55% for some estates. This is significantly different from 2009 where each person was allowed a $3.5 million dollar exemption with a 45% tax rate for assets exceeding the exemption. Therefore, estates that were not federally taxable in 2009 may be federally taxable in 2011 if Congress makes no changes to the current law, and the tax due on assets above the $1 million dollar exemption would be very significant.

It has been speculated that the federal estate tax will be retroactively reinstated in 2010, but this has not yet occurred and no one can be certain that it will occur. The closer we come to the Congressional elections this fall, the less confidence we have that a new law will be passed this year. For this reason, I advise that you consider a review of your estate plan now to determine if you are affected by current federal law and circumstances.

Attorney Larri Parker

My success has largely been due to the fact that I greet each mediation without expectation and I hold myself to the highest ethical standards, conducting myself with humility, integrity and humor.  A non-threatening environment begins with a warm sincere smile.  While I inform my clients that I am neutral, it is by working together that they learn to trust me.  Perhaps more importantly, by collecting and sharing pertinent information, the parties learn to trust themselves as well as each other.  It is precisely this trust that allows folks to move the process forward to find common solutions.

My work includes getting familiar with my clients, their needs, goals, fears, and hopes.  I also learn about their issues and positions.  I respect both sides of a story and help my clients to not only listen, but to speak up.  I keep balance and level the playing field, remaining impartial while providing information and raising issues.  Working together, mediation participants strategize and plan for the future.   After all, it’s one thing to say,”I want a divorce!” and entirely another to figure out what’s next.

Respecting self-determination is one of the pillars of a successful mediation.   Parties never are required to agree or reach agreement.  Mediation is based upon voluntary participation, informed decision making and an unforced agreement of the parties.  The process is confidential throughout.    The parties use the mediation sessions to jointly consider proposed options and to uncover alternatives so all options are explored before final decisions are made.  As Yogi Berra said, “It’s not over until it’s over” or as I like to say “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”