Here is Our Massachusetts Divorce FAQ. It answers some questions we are frequently asked about divorce in Massachusetts. Every situation is different, and divorces are always complicated. Our attorneys are involved in divorces every day, and can answer many more questions than we can list here.
A divorce is a legal proceeding that seeks to end a marriage relationship between two spouses. Also known as the dissolution of marriage, it is simply a legal process taken to terminate a marriage prior to the death of either one of the spouses.
No. Married people may decide to not live together for various reasons. In that situation they remain married. You may want to seek a Judgment of Support or a Judgment of Separate Support, which can also help decide who has custody of children in addition to providing monetary support to one of the parties.
Absolutely, but it is not the best idea. If your divorce case is very straightforward (for instance, you have no children, you have a few assets to share, you don’t want to receive or pay alimony, and you reach an agreement with your spouse on the majority of issues), there is nothing wrong with representing yourself. However, you may miss some critical points by not having a Lawyer review your Divorce Agreement. For example, will your divorce merge or survive? As a non-Lawyer, most do not know the difference, but the difference will determine whether you or your spouse can return in the future to seek a larger share of assets, alimony, or even who gets to keep the family pet.
It is best to use the services of an experienced family attorney.Laws pertaining to divorce when it comes to sharing property, alimony, and custody (also known as “maintenance” or “spousal support”) are complicated. So it’s better to speak to an experienced professional whether your case is complicated or not. You don’t want to represent yourself.
It’s very difficult to calculate the exact amount it will cost, but some things are certain. The first thing to note is that court fees are paid each time you file a lawsuit or petition with the court, whether you represent yourself or not.
Second, attorney fees are paid if you hire an attorney. Most Massachusetts divorce lawyers charge between $250 and $450 per hour depending on their experience
Third, if you possess large assets, you may require the services of experts who also charge per hour, in addition to your attorney’s fee. These experts are comprised of Financial Advisors, Accountants., Real Estate Appraisers, Private Investigators, and Process Servers.
Both parties have no say when it comes to the duration of an uncontested divorce case once the papers have been filed with the court. Depending on the county, an uncontested divorce may be completed in one day, or may last six to eight months.
In the process of distributing properties during a divorce, a judge can order the house sold or give the house to one of the spouses, taking into consideration several factors. However if one spouse retains the house, it is likely that the other spouse will receive their equitable share of the equity in the home. Equity is the fair market value of the home minus the amount owed or the mortgage plus other liens or debts associated with the house.
Our house is only in my spouse’s name; does this mean that I have no rights to the equity or to stay in it if we divorce?
No, because rather than a “community property” state, Massachusetts is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that at the time of divorce, all assets either spouse’s name marital assets and have to be shared “equitably”. When couples divorce, a court considers statutory factors when it comes to sharing assets equitably. These are referred to as “Section 34” factors (see the divorce statute section of the M.G.L. on Chapter 208). These circumstances determine if one of the spouses will stay in the former marital house after divorce. Even though the property is usually shared equitably at the time of a divorce (by selling the property or allowing the other party to buy the other party out), for some cases that involve small children, the spouse who has custody of the children may get to stay in the former marital home for some time after the divorce, and delay sale, or buyout of the home.
In Massachusetts, there is no legal separation. Even if you and your spouse don’t live together and haven’t seen each other in years, you are legally married in Massachusetts and each spouse retains all of the rights inherent to them and their status as a spouse.
If you find yourself living separately from your partner, whether married or not, you may be eligible for separate child or spousal support. You will need to discuss this matter with an Attorney to determine if you qualify.
In a “no-fault” divorce, the spouse who wants the divorce does not have to show that the other party did anything wrong. No-fault divorces are allowed in all the states.
In a fault divorce, at least one of the spouses would ask for a divorce on the grounds that the other party was at fault. If the required grounds are present, this may be granted. Massachusetts is one of the few states that allows this type of divorce. The benefits of filing a fault divorce vary and it may not affect the final outcome. Since this type of divorce can be very expensive and time-consuming compared to no-fault divorce, you should consider carefully whether filing a fault divorce is worth the effort and expense.
Adultery will allow you to file a Fault Divorce, however, you will have the burden of proving the affair happened and need to name the third party in your divorce. This is often not worth the time and expense as there is no material benefit gained by proving adultery. Whether you file a fact divorce, or a no fault divorce, you can seek reimbursement for 50% of the money your spouse spent on the affair. So if, for example, your spouse spent marital assets on a valentines gift for a third party, you can ask for reimbursement for 50% of the cost.
In Massachusetts, assets are divided equitably, not equally. This means the court will evaluate the division of a marital asset (asset accrued during the marriage) by considering a long list of factors, that when combined will help the judge to determine what is a fair division.
In Massachusetts, the marital debt (debt accrued during marriage) is divided in the same manner as the assets. By considering a list of factors, a judge will determine whether or not one party should be paying a larger share of the debt than the other.
The court uses the best interests of the child standard. This means the court will consider factors such as education and income levels, relationship with each parent and emotional ties, child-rearing skills, temperament and character of both parents plus other situational factors and events to determine who the custody is awarded to.
Only one parent is authorized and responsible for making major decisions regarding religion, education, emotional development, and medical care for the child.
Both parents make major decisions for the child in regard to the child’s medical care, education, and moral, religious, and emotional development. Child custody is always subject to modification.
The child lives with one of the parents, while the other parent enjoys enough parenting time. This arrangement may change if the court finds out that parenting time is no longer in the best interest of the child. Child custody is always subject to modification.
A child alternates living with each parent for approximately 50% of the time. This allows the child to have regular and frequent contact with both parents. Child custody is always subject to modification.
The only mandatory class is for parents. There are compulsory parent education programs across Massachusetts, and you can get a list of providers on mass.gov. For parents with kids under the age of 18, these programs help them to understand and tackle divorce-related challenges, as well as handle and minimize the stress their kids may go through.
You can always get a divorce if you want one, but you have to follow the legal process; otherwise, a judge can deny your divorce. This will force you to restart the process again. Your spouse can’t stop you from filing a divorce, but he or she she can make the process complicated.
Yes, this is possible. But to obtain a divorce, you have to at least, try to inform the other party. This may require publication in a newspaper in the town where your spouse last resided. Nevertheless, a divorce can be filed and settled without the consent of the other spouse. The divorce proceedings will proceed whether both parties agree to it or not.
Yes. Massachusetts requires companies to cover spouses on insurance unless their company is self funded. For the majority of the insurance policies, ex-spouses are covered. If your spouses company is self funded they may choose not to cover you after divorce, but you would still be eligible for Cobra Coverage. We can discuss your options for medical insurance during your consultation.
You can always ask the court to enforce the order by filing a complaint for contempt. The court can find that your spouse has failed to comply with the terms of the order and is in contempt of court upon hearing the facts. The terms of the order will determine if that spouse should be fined or imprisoned. Other punishments include the seizure of assets such as tax refunds, bank funds, and lottery winnings and wage garnishment. In the past, we have been successful in ensuring that spouses who fail to comply with courts order are ordered to pay up or face jail time.
Yes. If you want to hide embarrassing information or protect your kids, you have to file a motion to solicit that your information be sealed. If abuse was involved, some courts will grant that motion.
If you have a question that has not been answered in our Massachusetts divorce faq, we would be happy to discuss your specific questions about your divorce or divorce in general. Feel free to call us now and set up a consultation at any one of our convenient locations You can also fill out the form below and we will respond to your online question within 24 hours.