When Couples Decide They Will Be Proceeding With The Divorce In Massachusetts, What Are Their Options To Proceed? What Is The Best Option For Me? How Do You Know Which Option To Advise Clients On When Looking At A Case?
In Massachusetts, when a couple decides to get divorced, there are a few options they can choose. Divorce can be either fault or no fault and contested or uncontested. Uncontested divorces are extremely rare. A lot of people think they are proceeding with an uncontested divorce because they agree on getting divorced. They may have had some sort of preliminary hand-wavy discussion about an issue in the divorce and it is amicable, but that’s not the same thing. An uncontested divorce means that you have agreed on everything. Until you’re able to write it down, have the separation agreement drawn up, and are completely in agreement, it’s not uncontested. If you think you’re close to that, and it’s worth trying, maybe hire an attorney while you’re discussing it to try to finalize it. That way, it will be an easier process when you go to court, if it is truly uncontested. However, don’t assume it’s uncontested just because you are getting along and have an agreement on some issues.
The vast majority of divorces will be contested, even if there are only a few issues that need to be worked out. Most divorces in the modern age are no fault – irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There’s sort of a myth that indicates that you get more out of a divorce if there are fault grounds, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that assets are split as a standard equitable division. When it comes to child custody, it is determined based on what the court thinks is in the best interest of the child. Filing a fault divorce actually makes it harder. You have to prove that the person actually did what you’re accusing them of. In a no-fault divorce, you don’t have to prove anything to get the divorce. You just have to prove that you don’t get along anymore. Basically, if you tell the judge that you want a divorce, they’re going to take your word for it.
There’s no point in filing fault grounds. If your spouse has done something wrong, you can still file a no-fault divorce and bring it up to the extent that it’s relevant. Something like adultery doesn’t matter a whole lot anymore. However, if they’ve been stealing money, then that would matter more. That would go into the determination of what is an equitable asset division and any alimony decision.
Is There Any Benefit To Filing For A Divorce Before Your Spouse In Massachusetts?
There is no benefit to filing for a divorce before your spouse in Massachusetts. It just means that you have to pay the filing fees.
Once A Party Files For Divorce In Massachusetts, What Is The Timeline Or The Steps That Happen Next Up To The Point Where The Decree Is Finalized?
When a party files for divorce in Massachusetts, the timeline to get the divorce finalized will depend on the county it is being filed in and other circumstances. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, a timeline is not easy to map out. Even before the pandemic, there was a lot of variation in different courts. For instance, in Suffolk County, it’s the most understaffed relative to how busy it is, so it’s generally a slower process than in other courts. A divorce takes about 18 months to two years in Suffolk County. However, in most places, it takes roughly a year. Some of it depends on how well you work with your spouse to resolve the issues. If you want to go to trial because you cannot agree on anything, that’s going to take longer. If you can come to an agreement on most things, then that will take less time. The judge can sign off on the agreement at any hearing along the way before a trial. Typically, you would have at least three hearings, which will be about three or four months apart. The first one is a chance for the judge to get an introduction to the case. Nothing really substantial is going to happen at that point.
The second hearing is a pretrial, which can go directly to trial if there are no other witnesses or evidence that need to come in other than the parties and their financial statements. It is essentially up to the attorneys and judge to discuss what the evidence is going to be and what any outstanding issues need to get resolved before trial. Finally, the trial will take place. There can be more than one hearing. For example, if there are unresolved evidentiary issues at the pretrial hearing, they’ll typically schedule another pretrial hearing. They don’t want to start scheduling a trial until the case is really ready to go.
Before any of the hearings can happen, the person who files for divorce has to get a summons from the court and have the summons and complaint served on the other spouse, usually by the sheriff. You’re relying on the court to get the summons in a timely fashion, and on the sheriff to serve it and send you the proof of service, so this can add delays if they are too busy.
For more information on Family Law In Massachusetts, an initial case evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling today.