Frequently Asked Questions
1How Can I Prepare for Court?
The best way to prepare for court is to quickly gather the information your attorney needs to effectively advocate for you. If you receive a request from your attorney to provide an explanation on an issue in the case, answer some questions, or provide some documents, you should get it done as soon as possible. If you’re waiting until close to the hearing date to respond, you’re leaving your attorney little time to effectively prepare. Most hearings in family court are non-evidentiary, meaning there’s no actual testimony taken by the judge, and the judge makes a decision based on representations of the respective attorneys. For these hearings, providing the information described above is generally sufficient. However, for evidentiary hearings and trials in which your testimony is required, your attorney should discuss with you the questions that will likely be asked and review your responses.
2Should I File First?
Filing first doesn’t necessarily give you an advantage. Some people preach blindly the need to win the “race to the courthouse.” However, different cases require different approaches: sometimes it’s best for you to file first and quickly. But in other cases, it’s in your best interest to wait. The only way to know whether it benefits you to file first is to schedule a consultation with a quality divorce/family law attorney as soon as you suspect that your circumstances may result in court involvement.
3What If My Spouse Is Hiding Money?
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.
4What If My Former Spouse Starts Living With Somebody – Do I Still Have to Pay Alimony?
The answer is: it depends (damn lawyers never give a straight answer!). Under Alimony Reform, which went into effect in MA on 3/1/2012, if the spouse receiving alimony is “cohabitating” with another individual for at least 3 consecutive months, the payor may file to reduce, suspend or terminate alimony. However, in MA, this recent change in the law technically only applies to cases that were finalized after the passage of the new law on 3/1/12. So if your case was resolved before then, you can’t rely on the “cohabitation” provision of Alimony Reform to reduce your alimony. Nonetheless, even if your case was disposed of before passage of the new law, it may still be worth consulting with an attorney to determine whether you can proceed with a modification of your alimony order on the theory that the person your ex is living with has decreased the recipient’s financial “need,” and therefore your alimony should be reduced anyway.
5How Can I Reduce Legal Fees?
There are a couple of key things you can do to reduce legal fees. First, you should promptly respond to requests from your attorney. Delay and procrastination on your part may result in increasing the life of the case, which may require more legal work and thus more fees. Also, if you’re not providing necessary information and/or documents in a timely manner, that may result in a contempt being filed by the other party, which may result in your having to pay the other side’s legal fees in addition to your own. Another way you can save on legal fees is to efficiently communicate with your attorney. Face to face meetings and phone calls are sometimes necessary, but if you can condense a 30 minute conversation into an email that will take the attorney 5 minutes to read, that may also substantially reduce your legal fees especially throughout the life of the entire case.
6Can I switch lawyers in the middle of a case?
Yes. However, before you switch lawyers, you should have another attorney conduct a thorough assessment of the case and give you an opinion on the issues. Sometimes, you need a new lawyer. But sometimes, the problem is that you may need to re-examine your goals and expectations. Having an independent attorney look over your case and give you an analysis will help you figure out how to proceed and whether you indeed should seek new counsel.