Divorce is a new beginning – a renewed opportunity for hope, happiness, and growth. Financial security is a key piece of the foundation for this next chapter in your life. And if children are involved, you need an arrangement with them that will put them in the best position to thrive and to have a deep and meaningful relationship with you. We craft solutions to ensure that your immediate needs are met and that you are also well-positioned long-term.
We provide to those navigating family law issues the education, guidance, and highest-quality representation they need to smoothly and efficiently navigate the process, while maximizing their chances of attaining their goals and effectively preparing them for the next chapter of life. Our approach involves the highest degree of empathy and ethics. And we’re dedicated to continuous improvement in order to consistently deliver elite value. We aggressively pursue our client’s goals while bringing calm to the family law storm.
We offer representation in all areas of family law, including divorce, property division, alimony, modifications, contempt, child custody, child visitation, child support, uncontested divorces, prenuptial agreements, and all other related domestic issues. This firm will fight to get you the best results while making the experience for you as smooth as possible.
You know your marriage is over. You’ve had the same conversations with our spouse about fixing the marriage, you’ve received the same responses, you feel like your wheels are spinning, and you’re getting nowhere. Time to make a move. Time to turn the page and start a new chapter in life. But how do you go about this? There are so many decisions to make. Where to begin?
First, let’s step back. Protect the asset: you! If you’re not tending to your physical and psychological health, everything else will be more difficult. Health is the lead domino. Sure, there will be some stress in divorce. That’s normal. Any time significant change is involved, it challenges us—and that can be difficult. However, it’s during these times that it’s especially important to prioritize your wellness.
Are you eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, meditating? Are you leaning on the important people in your life: your real family and friends?
Also, would you benefit from talking to a therapist? I used a therapist when I went through some difficult times a few years back and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Don’t be afraid to go out and gather the psychological tools you need to help you get through difficult times. A quality therapist can help you view your thoughts and life differently.
The bottom line is that you’ll have to work closely with your attorney to make important decisions in your case. You should be doing this from a position of calm and clarity. It’s much harder to do that if you’re neglecting your physical and psychological health.
Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do to optimize your chances of having a successful divorce: get this right and you’ll make better decisions, which increases your odds of a good outcome.
Next, figure out whether you should consult with an attorney. The answer to this depends on where you are on the risk spectrum in divorce.
On the one hand, if you’re leaving a 1-year marriage and have no children, assuming you didn’t live with your spouse for a long time before the marriage, it’s likely that you’ll both go your separate ways with what you have.
On the other hand, the longer the marriage, the more assets you have (cash, retirement, house, etc.), the greater the financial disparity between you and your spouse, and having children makes it riskier to move forward without the guidance of a divorce lawyer.
A common mistake is when someone who has a lot on the line starts to handle the divorce issues with no guidance, makes a number of mistakes, then tries to hire an attorney to fix them. Who wants to give money to lawyers?
However, if you have anything of significant value on the line in your divorce, talking to a reliable divorce lawyer sooner rather than later will put you in a better position to handle issues effectively as they come. Think of it as an investment rather than an expense: paying for guidance now can potentially save you a lot more money and headache later
First, it makes sense to ask trusted people for recommendations. If someone you know had a good experience with an attorney, that’s a good indication that you should explore that option.
Next, whenever possible, opt for a firm that focuses on the practice area you need. The more an attorney does, the greater risk that the attorney doesn’t truly master what you need.
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of effective general practitioners. But if you have a serious heart issue, do you go to your primary care doctor? No, you see a specialist. Same applies in law. Firms focusing on a single area of law generally have seen more cases, have more experience, and knowledge in that area.
Finally, take advantage of online reviews. We’re truly spoiled today. It’s difficult for a professional to do bad work and not be called out online. And people can be brutal. Take advantage of reviews to learn about the experience of past clients with the law firm. What are they saying? How recent are the reviews? Don’t be the guinea pig. If the law firm has burned people in the past or the service has been horrible, don’t be surprised when you experience the same thing.
Using these strategies, find an attorney you can trust—someone who’s going to prioritize your goals but isn’t going to waste your time and money to line the firm’s pockets.
You should feel confident that the firm will work to get you the best result. However, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. If the attorney is making it all sound so simple and promising you the moon and the stars, ask a lot of questions, and more follow-up questions.
Finally, beware of the “bulldog.” This is the attorney that will “fight” for you and do everything to win, make things difficult for your spouse, bring the battle to them, etc. However, attorneys who go out of their way to seek conflict without reasonable and valid grounds usually cost you your credibility and a lot of money. The law firm makes out financially. You’re left with an empty bank account and bad results.
The attorney should balance your goals with reason and compromise.
The first step in legal representation is to work with the attorney on setting clear and reasonable goals. This is where the majority of mistakes are made. An experienced lawyer can’t predict what a judge will do, but should be able to give you an idea of your odds of prevailing on certain issues.
As you move through the case, there should be an on-going discussion about your goals, chances of prevailing on contested issues, and what it’s going to cost you both financially and in time and aggravation from being involved in the case.
Very rarely is there a simple answer. You have to consider all the circumstances, your priorities, and make sure you’re making an educated decision on what is and isn’t worth investing in on your case. Some issues are worth pursuing, some you need to let go of.
The firm should be moving the case as efficiently as possible while focusing on your goals. There must be compromise. Otherwise, you’ll be battling incessantly and wasting money.
There are a lot of important decisions to be made in divorce. The first and most important one is to decide to prioritize your health. Taking care of yourself increases your likelihood of making good decisions throughout your case.
Next, carefully consider whether you need an attorney. And if you do, choose one you trust. Throughout the process, ask a lot of questions, weigh the pros and cons, remove emotion to the extent possible, and focus on your goals.
And finally, be sure you’re doing an on-going cost-benefit analysis with your attorney so that you’re making the right decisions on your case and balancing efficiency with getting what you need out of your divorce.
If you have any questions about divorce feel free to contact us at 508-675-0464 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
There’s a range of anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of years depending on whether the divorce is contested and the complexity of the issues. An uncontested divorce is processed relatively quickly because there are no contested issues, so the case consists only of filing the necessary documents and having the divorce approved a few weeks later by a judge. A contested divorce on the other hand may be resolved within a few weeks if the parties come to an agreement, but it also may take much longer if contested issues require several hearings or a trial.
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.
If someone refuses to sign divorce papers, the case continues until it eventually becomes time for the court to issue an order or a judgement. No one is forced to sign a divorce agreement. However, absent an agreement, the judge after considering evidence on the contested issues, will decide the issues.
Immediately contact an attorney. You have 20 days to respond to the complaint with your position on the divorce and to make requests yourself - the document to file is called an answer and counterclaim. Although this deadline can be extended under certain circumstances, it’s best to act quickly. By the time you receive a divorce summons, you probably should’ve already contacted an attorney, but if you haven’t, you should certainly act quickly once you’re served to ensure you respond in a timely manner and begin to plan your strategy.
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
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.
It depends. Inherited property is technically subject to division in MA because ALL property that either party owns at the time of divorce is part of the “marital pot.” However, the party inheriting the property may get a credit for it, depending on the circumstances. For example, if the property was inherited before the marriage and it was kept separately, the recipient has a better chance of keeping all of it. Similarly, if the property was inherited at the tail end of the marriage, close to or after the time of filing for divorce, there’s also a higher probability that the recipient will keep all of it. Generally, the longer the marriage and the more intertwined the inheritance became with the marital finances, the more likely it is to be subject to division.
A pension is considered marital property and is therefore subject to division. The longer the marriage and the more value the pension accrued during the marriage, the more likely it is that the ex spouse will be entitled to a portion of it.
Retirement funds, like all marital property, is subject to division in MA. The principle that determines how the funds are divided is called “equitable distribution,” which essentially means the court aims to divide the properly “fairly,” which does not necessarily mean equally. In some cases, the marital property is divided equally, but in others, one party is awarded more than the other. There are a number of factors involved in the property division analysis. Once it’s determined how the retirement moneys will be divided, the money in a 401K or IRA for example is usually transferred by rolling it over into an account for the other spouse. If it’s a pension, documents called Qualified Domestic Relations Orders are processed to legally grant the recipient spouse a right to a certain percentage of the pension when it’s eventually paid out.
If your spouse is hiding money, it’s best to address the issue as soon as possible. The moment you suspect this is happening, you should plan to consult a divorce attorney for advice on how to proceed. The longer you wait and the more money that’s siphoned out of the marriage, the more difficult it will be to trace and recover. The attorney will likely file for divorce quickly and possibly ask for a court order to address the conduct. The attorney then may conduct “discovery” to obtain information about where the money’s going and how much is missing. Cases involving hidden cash are particularly challenging because of the lack of verifying documents and overall corroborative evidence.
Alimony is based on a number of factors that inform the court as to whether there should be support payed to financially weak spouse. The primary factors are whether the potential payor has an ability to pay and whether the potential recipient has a financial need. The other factors used by the court include the incomes of the parties, the length of marriage, contributions to the marriage (economic and non-economic), marital lifestyle and the ability of each party to maintain it, and others.
Generally, the longer the marriage, and the greater the disparity in income between the parties, the greater the chance that alimony will be ordered.
You can try to avoid alimony by arguing that either 1) you can’t afford it, or 2) the other spouse doesn’t need it. This becomes more and more difficult to achieve as the disparity in income between the parties and the length of the marriage are greater.
Another method of avoiding alimony is by increasing your offering in property division. If your circumstances call for alimony and you want to try to avoid it, you can offer your spouse a disproportionate share of the property as an “alimony buyout.” Whether this is wise depends on your alimony exposure and what it will cost you in assets/property to eliminate it.
Although you certainly should be working to reduce your alimony exposure, be careful about manipulating your income to avoid alimony. If the court finds that you’re intentionally unemployed or underemployed or in any way purposely decreased your income, the court can “attribute” income to you. Essentially that means the court can treat you as if you’re earning the higher amount for purposes of the alimony analysis.
Alimony Reform of 2012 set time limits on alimony in MA. First, alimony generally does not continue beyond the payor’s social security retirement age, which is generally 67.
In addition, there are time limits based on the length of the marriage. If the marriage is 5 years or less, it’s 50%; between 5 -10 years, 60%; between 10-15 years, 70%; and between 15-20 years, 80%.
The court has discretion to deviate from these time limits for “good cause,” but must explain its reasoning in writing.
The average percentage used for an alimony calculation is approximately 27% of the difference in the gross incomes of the parties.
There is no minimum length of marriage for a person to qualify for alimony. However, generally, the longer the marriage and the greater the income disparity between the parties, the greater the chance of alimony being ordered. But even in shorter marriages, alimony can be ordered for example to help a spouse transition to the next phase of life or to reimburse that spouse for a contribution made during the marriage to the payor’s earnings capacity - for example financially supporting the spouse through schooling.
You can get out of paying alimony by either convincing the other side or the court that you can’t afford it or the other spouse doesn’t need it. Or, if alimony is warranted, you can use property for an alimony “buyout.” Instead of paying alimony you can agree to give the other spouse property or assets that would otherwise be yours.
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.
Child support is not calculated according to an exact percentage of income. Rather, it’s determined by the MA Child Support Guidelines and its Calculation. Generally, the court considers the parties’ parenting times, which can fall anywhere on a spectrum of no time at all for one parent to approximately shared parenting time.
Once the parenting time is determined, the following numbers are entered into the calculation: the gross incomes of the parties and any allowed deductions, including health, dental and vision insurance, child care costs, and other support obligations (e.g. support for other children, previous alimony obligation). The resulting number is the presumed child support amount.
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.
Generally, a parent cannot permanently remove a child from the home state without either a court order or consent of the other parent. Cases in which a parent wants to permanently move out of state with the children are called “removal” cases, and there is a specific analysis used by the court to address the issue.
A parent should wait until some time has passed after separation from the other parent before introducing the children to another partner. There’s no exact amount of time that parties are required to wait. It depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the particular case. However, generally, judges expect parents to avoid confusing children by introducing them to other partners so soon after separation.
MA calculates child support using the MA Child Support Guidelines in conjunction with the MA Child Support Worksheet. The Guidelines provide the rules, and the worksheet is the tool used to perform the calculation. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/child-support-guidelines#2018-guidelines,-forms,-and-information-