General Divorce FAQ's
1. Can a parent take a child out of state without consent?
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.
2. When to introduce kids to the new partner?
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.
3. How long to wait until the date of separation?
There’s no magic number as to how long to wait before introducing a child to a new significant other after the separation between parents. But, generally, parents should wait sometime before introducing the children to significant others. Separation can be traumatizing to children, and seeing parents with new significant others so quickly after a split can be confusing and disruptive to a child. Specifically how long to wait depends on the overall cooperation of the parents, the stability of the child, the age and maturity of the child, and whether the child has a counselor or other individual to help the child understand the changes in family dynamics, among other factors. As a rule of thumb, a party should wait at least a few months after separation before introducing the child to a significant other.
4. How to respond to a divorce summons?
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.
5. What happens to retirement funds in a divorce?
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 money 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.
6. I inherited property from my parents, is spouse entitled to inheritance?
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.
7. What happens if someone refuses to sign divorce papers?
If someone refuses to sign divorce papers, the case continues until it eventually becomes time for the court to issue an order or a judgment. 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.
8. How long does it take to get a divorce finalized in MA?
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.
9. Is an ex-spouse entitled to pension?
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.
10. I don't like the provisions in my divorce decree. What can I do?
You should have an experienced divorce attorney review your divorce decree and advise you on its modifiability. Some provisions, especially those related to children are modifiable under certain circumstances. However, others, namely property division and sometimes alimony, may not be modifiable.