Here Attorney Jill M Bradley has provided a list of some of the most frequent questions she is asked and some general answers to those questions.
What is a legal separation?
In Massachusetts, you can legally separate from a spouse without a document proclaiming that you are separated. In the event, however that one spouse requires financial support (child or spousal support); he/she should file a Complaint for Separate Support. A Complaint for Separate Support will enable a judge to enter orders for support, custody, and visitation but not property division.
How does a Complaint for Divorce differ from a Complaint for Separate Support?
By filing a Complaint for Divorce, you are asking a judge not only to make financial orders, but to make orders dividing real and personal property as well as liabilities.
What is the difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce, pursuant to G.L. chapter 208, section 1A is a divorce whereby the parties are in full agreement with the terms dissolving their marriage. An uncontested divorce is much quicker to obtain because there is no waiting period for hearing on the matter.
A contested divorce, pursuant to G.L. chapter 208, section 1B is a divorce complaint filed by one party against the other alleging irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no possibility of reconciliation. In Massachusetts, if one party wants the divorce and the other does not, the party seeking the divorce will ultimately be entitled to it.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
Depending on the county you live in, you may be able to get an uncontested divorce within a few months.
Contested Divorces can and will take longer to move through the court system. In many counties, litigants must complete a court mandated parenting class, before you can obtain a pretrial date. Other counties are not as strict. But in all contested cases, a litigant has a six (6) month wait prior to receiving a pretrial date. As a result, most cases take between 6 months to 1 year to get resolved. If there are a number of issues that the parties can not resolve, the case can take longer.
What is the difference between spousal support and child support?
In Massachusetts, child support is based on the child support guidelines. The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court website has a form for litigants to complete which will calculate the guidelines for you.
Child support is not counted as income to the recipient and is not tax deductible for the payor spouse.
Alimony or spousal support may be granted to one spouse or the other in a divorce. Typically length of marriage and need for support are the most important factors in determining an appropriate award.
Presently, Massachusetts does not have guidelines with respect to the percentage of income that one spouse pays to the other. Alimony is tax deductible for the payor spouse and taxable to the recipient.
Since each case is different, it is best to consult with your lawyer in order to determine whether your case is an alimony case.
How much does it cost to get a divorce?
That is a difficult question to answer. Naturally, it is less costly to pursue an uncontested divorce.
Each case is different. Typically, the retainer fee is quoted at the 1 hour initial free consultation.
Do I need a lawyer?
Although the law does not require a litigant to be represented by counsel, a party is in a much stronger position when he or she has representation. Often, individuals find navigating the court system very difficult and challenging. It is always best to meet with a lawyer to understand your legal rights in a divorce.