Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

1Is there anything I should immediately do if I think I may need a divorce?
Gather as much financial information about your spouse as possible (paystubs, bank statements, tax returns, mortgage info, retirement and investment account info, etc.), keep a log of significant events that you may need to accurately recount later, and consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Some preparation and putting a reliable plan in place now can save you money and aggravation later.
2What’s the divorce process?
A complaint is filed, the other party is served with a summons and a copy of the complaint, and the case begins. If an issue requires immediate attention (i.e. child custody/visitation/support or alimony), the parties may go to court for temporary orders. During the next phase, information - usually financial - is exchanged between the parties and there are negotiations. If the case is resolved, an agreement is signed and the divorce finalized. If any issues are unresolved, the case proceeds to trial.
3How should I search for an attorney?
This decision could mean the difference between walking away from a marriage with a favorable arrangement and financial stability or struggling for years to come. Use the internet to research attorneys: their reviews, qualifications, and past client experiences. Ask people you trust for recommendations. And hire an attorney that focuses on divorce practice.
4How is property divided in a divorce?
There’s an “equitable distribution” of the marital assets in divorce, which essentially means the property must be divided fairly. This includes real estate, retirement accounts and other investments, cash, businesses, and everything else the parties own. Age, income, health, assets, and contributions to the marriage are some of the factors the court considers in division. The longer the marriage, and the more equal the contributions from the parties - including non-economic contributions like home-making and child-rearing - the more likely it is that the property will be divided equally.
5What happens to my business in a divorce
It depends on how other property is divided and whether there are any support payments being made by the party keeping the business. The business will likely be considered “marital property,” and is subject to division - or in most cases a buyout. However, if the income to the party from that business is used in setting child support and/or alimony, the business is less likely to also be used in property division.
6How does child custody work?
There are two types. Legal custody determines which parent makes the major decisions for a child: health care, schooling, religion, etc. It’s generally shared between the parents unless there’s a significant issue with one of the parents or there’s a complete breakdown in communication that would negatively impact the child. Physical custody goes to the parent with whom the child lives. There may be sole or shared custody depending on the circumstances.
7How does child support work?
The non-custodial parent generally pays child support to the custodial parent based on the MA Child Support Guidelines, which uses a formula that mainly considers the gross incomes of the parties and allows for certain deductions such as health/dental insurance, work-related child care costs, and other support orders.
8How does alimony work?
Alimony is the payment of spousal support usually from the higher earning party to the other. It’s determined by considering a number of factors, including incomes of the parties, length of the marriage, contributions of the parties to the marriage, and other assets they will keep, to name a few. Alimony is more likely when the marriage was longer and there’s a large disparity in income between the parties. However, alimony is less likely to be ordered when the requesting party is already receiving child support - especially if the parties earn less than $250,000 combined.
9What do I do if I need a court order changed?
You must file a complaint for modification, asking the court for the necessary changes. Seeking a consultation with a family law attorney is advisable before filing.
10What can I do if the other party isn’t abiding by a court order?
You may file a complaint for contempt, asking the court to order the other person to usually either do something or pay money. Seeking a consultation with a family law attorney is advisable before filing.