Divorce Process in Massachusetts

Every divorce is different. However, there are some events and situations that are common to most divorces in the Commonwealth. Our Seekonk law firm, Anchor Family Law, works hard to ensure that clients understand the process thoroughly and can anticipate how the different events and requirements fit together.

What is Decided in a Divorce?

Divorce not only ends a marriage, but it also determines a number of other outcomes. In Massachusetts, these include:

  • Child custody, or where and with whom the children live
  • Child support, or how much is paid by one spouse to the other for the support of their children
  • Parenting time (also called visitation) with the children
  • Division of assets and debts (for example, businesses, pensions, bank accounts, tax liabilities, credit card bills, or stocks)
  • Division of personal property (such as vehicles, furniture, jewelry, artwork and other items
  • Alimony (also called spousal support) paid by one spouse to the other
  • Division of real estate, or what will happen to any real property including the marital home
  • Determining who will live in the marital home if it is not sold during real property division
  • Assuming the name you had before marriage if desired

These are the basic events in a Massachusetts divorce. Depending on the situation, other issues may need to be decided. Our team will make sure to address every issue that arises.

The Legal Work of Divorce

Once you have decided that you want a divorce, or your spouse informs you of an impending divorce, it is important to move quickly. Even if you and your spouse are amicable, it remains important to protect yourself. Here are the basic steps for starting the divorce process:

  1. You or your spouse files a complaint for divorce either in the county family court where you live, or in the last county where you and your spouse lived together if one of you is still there. If you are in agreement about all the issues, you can file a joint complaint for an uncontested divorce with the written separation agreement that you have devised together and other documents.
  2. The county serves a copy of the complaint to the other party.
  3. If the divorce will be contested, the parties should begin to keep journals and gather needed documents.
  4. Both parties should hire attorneys.
  5. One or both parties must decide whether temporary court orders are needed for issues such as temporary support, temporary child custody and others. These matters will be decided again in the final decree, and the outcome could be different the second time. In some instances, the other party will contest the temporary orders, resulting in a court hearing.
  6. There can be a discovery process begins, with each party seeking documents from the other about finances, ownership of assets, income, and liabilities.
  7. Parents with minor children must attend parent education classes.
  8. Most cases of contested divorce will begin with court-ordered mediation to resolve the issues that have caused the divorce to be contested. This is both faster and less expensive than a trial and gives the parties more control of the outcome.
  9. Parents with minor children must attend parent education classes.
  10. If the discovery process and mediation fail to resolve the outstanding issues, the court will schedule a trial. At the end of the trial, which can take from a few hours to several weeks, the judge will issue judgment that awards the divorce and includes directions for child custody, visitation, property division, child support, spousal support and any other matters that arose during the legal process.

This simple summary leaves out many decision points that arise throughout the divorce process. For example, how do you decide whether your divorce is contested, uncontested, or something in-between? Do you want a no-fault divorce or do you want a case alleging that the other party caused the breakdown of the marriage? How can you avoid the expense and trauma of a trial? Our divorce lawyers will help you determine the answers to questions like these that meet your needs and work in your situation.

The legal team at Anchor Family Law will walk you through the process, help you complete needed paperwork, advise about your options at decision points, represent you at hearings and at trial, and work diligently to protect your interests and those of your children. If you are facing divorce, call us for a free consultation. Telephone 508-557-1138 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.