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Divorce

I was married and last lived in Massachusetts with my spouse but do not live in Massachusetts now, can I get divorced in Massachusetts?

While marriage laws are based on where the parties are at the time of marriage, divorce is based on where the parties live at the time of divorce. The answer to this question depends on how long you’ve resided outside of Massachusetts. While most states require you to be a resident before you may file divorce papers, the required length of residency varies per state. In most cases, it’s at least a minimum of six months. To file for divorce in the state of Massachusetts, one of the following must apply: You, or your estranged spouse, have lived in the state for a year, OR You lived with your spouse as a married couple in Massachusetts when your “grounds” for divorce happened. You should be aware that whatever court handles the initial divorce settlement has jurisdiction over all other residual issues such as child custody, child support, and any amendments to these arrangements. Because divorce laws can vary dramatically between the states, it is important to understand how residing in different locations may impact your right to marital property, child custody, alimony payments, and child support payments. Make sure to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any action to avoid any filing issues. Contact our office to have your questions answered today.

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I’ve been estranged from my husband and want to remarry. Will Massachusetts grant me a Bifurcated divorce?

Bifurcation of divorce allows spouses to become legally divorced before the divorce details have been finalized. The option to remarry is the most common use of bifurcation; however, some couples seek a bifurcation to distinguish between marriage or pre-marriage property. In states that permit bifurcation, the court will handle the end of the marriage separately from the other divorce matters to permit the parties to remarry while providing additional time to resolve the remaining issues. This means all other resolutions such as child custody, visitation, support, distribution of property, and attorney fees are determined at a later date. Individual states such as Texas, New York, Michigan, and Arizona do not allow bifurcation in divorce cases. Even if you are living in Massachusetts, if you were married in a state that does not allow bifurcation, it will not be granted, and all issues of the divorce must be resolved before the divorce is finalized and the couple can claim legal single status. The process of bifurcation generally requires the filing of legal documents; however, both parties must agree to a bifurcated divorce before a court will grant one. There is an exception to this if the requesting party shows good legal cause for bifurcation and the court agrees that the action would not jeopardize the interests of the other party. You should consult with a knowledgeable attorney before taking any action, as there are certain restrictions in place that can affect the process in various ways.

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How do courts determine if relocation of a child to another state during a divorce is acceptable?

In situations where a custodial parent wishes to relocate with a child, the court will determine whether child custody relocation is in the best interests of the child. While a parent is free to relocate out of state themselves without the child or with the permission of the other parent to take the child, the state of Massachusetts requires a judge ruling regarding relocation contested by a parent. Depending on the current custody agreement, the judge has two different processes for determining if relocation is in the child’s best interest. For joint or shared custody the judge will take into account the following: Whether or not the quality of the child’s life will be improved and if the child will endure similar benefits as the parent from the move. Adverse effects of altering visitation schedule and the extent to which the child’s relationship to the non-moving parent will be compromised. How the child’s emotional, physical, or developmental needs will be impacted by moving or not moving. If there is a way to create a new visitation order to allow the non-relocating parent to maintain a close and enduring bond with the child. In the event a parent with primary custody is requesting relocation, the judge will apply what is known as the “real advantage” standard as the child’s well-being is more closely intertwined with the parent’s welfare in these situations. In this case, the judge will examine evidence of economic benefits, availability of extended family, and the desire to relocate

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Does Massachusetts divide property equally between the spouses during a divorce?

Under Massachusetts’s law, marital property is divided equitably. Massachusetts defines “marital property” as any property—be it income, assets, real estate, or everyday items—that comes into possession of the couple or either of the spouses individually during the course of the marriage. This could include trade secrets, stock holdings, and artistic creations. For individuals of high net worth, or those who make their living by possessing valuable intellectual property, it is especially valuable to have a prenuptial agreement in place to keep this property separate from that held in common in the marriage. In deciding what is an “equitable” division of property, the court will consider a number of factors. These include if the divorce is no-fault or at-fault, the relative incomes of the parties involved, and the financial contributions made by each party during the marriage, including contributions made as a home maker and caregiver. If you are seeking to protect your hard-earned assets from someone who wants more than his or her fair share, or if the value of your contributions to the marriage and household are being downplayed, call our office today to discuss your case. We’ll help you find peace of mind.

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If I make my living in the arts, does my spouse have a fifty percent share in rights to my artworks and the income they produce?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that artistic works, along with patents, trade secrets, and many other “intangible” properties, constitute intellectual property. And intellectual property, in Massachusetts, is marital property. No, in that Massachusetts does not assume “equal” (fifty-fifty) distribution of property between partners at the dissolution of a marriage, but rather “equitable.” Intellectual property falls under the requirement for equitable distribution. In dividing something intangible, such as the rights to artistic works, Massachusetts family judges will, as with other forms of property, assess the relative contribution of partners to the marriage financially, emotionally, and logistically. Intellectual property has two sorts of value to be divided. The first is the rights to income from future royalties on a work or idea. Second, the present monetary value of a work or idea. For creators or inventors, it may be wise to include provisions in a prenuptial agreement to protect your intellectual property. If you need help drawing up a prenuptial agreement, or if you are currently involved in a divorce without one, call our office today for expertise in handling intellectual property division.

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What are the benefits of choosing mediation over litigation in a divorce?

When most of us think of divorce, we think of custody battles, endless legal filings, and costly court proceedings. The whole process of divorce can seem more daunting, and perhaps even more painful, than the emotional aspects of a marriage’s dissolution. But what if there was another way? Another, more humane, more gentle, less expensive way? There is: mediation. Not every divorce is contested. If both parties agree that the marriage should end, it is a much simpler process than when one seeks to prevent the divorce, or when it is necessary to assign fault to one partner or another. What remains for the spouses is to agree on the division of property, alimony allocation, and child custody arrangements. By meeting with a divorce mediator, such as one of our experienced family law attorneys, couples can work out the terms of their divorce face-to-face. The mediation process can save divorcing couples time, money, and heartache. Once an agreement is reached by both parties, an attorney can help with filing a petition for divorce with the courts. The court will then review the property distribution agreement signed by the divorcing parties. Once approved by the court, the divorce will be final. The whole process from petition to grant of divorce could be only a month, as opposed to a months-long legal battle. If you believe that divorce mediation is right for you, call our office today to arrange a consultation.

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What is a ‘gray divorce’ and how is it different from the typical divorce?

A ‘gray divorce’ refers to a split that happens between an older husband and wife, often after many years of marriage. The ‘gray’ in ‘gray divorce’ refers to the color of the divorcing couple’s hair. With more and more couples over fifty, or even over sixty-five, choosing to part ways, the phenomenon has also earned the names of ‘silver splitter’ and ‘diamond divorces.’ While it might be unsettling to think that forty years of marriage is no guarantee for many more, it is necessary to think about the particular issues that arise when senior citizens divorce. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, gray divorces do not typically come about as part of a man’s midlife crisis. Rather, they are an outgrowth of advancements in medicine and changes in society. With people living longer than ever before, it is getting harder to “grin and bear it” in a lackluster marriage, and people are less tied to ideas of how senior citizens “should” spend their retirement. With children grown and living on their own, gray divorces do not involve acrimonious custody disputes. However, for well-established couples, there will be extra concern for the division of property and alimony awards. With couples approaching retirement, or already retired, issues of income and savings are critical to both parties’ well-being. If you or someone you love are involved in a ‘gray divorce’ situation, call our office today to speak with skilled family law attorneys about the best course of action.

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Is it true that Massachusetts courts favor mothers in child custody decisions?

While it remains a common belief that courts favor, or are even biased for, mothers in custody disputes, this is not the case. The belief stems from past practices and trends in court. When divorce became more common in the 1970s, society, including the judges within it, assumed a gendered division of labor within households. Before women entered the workforce in large numbers, men were expected to be the providers. Women, on the other hand, were seen as not only the primary, but the “natural” caregivers to children. As such, custody agreements tended to favor women as they would, in the view of society, be better able to provide for the emotional and everyday needs of their children. Times have changed though; in marriages, it is much more common for men and women to share childrearing responsibilities. Now, a majority of women work outside the home. Additionally, now that same-sex couples can receive the legal protections of marriage throughout the United States, the 1950s division of labor is even less relevant to custody decisions today. Today, most judges will look at a variety of factors when assigning custody, with the goal of providing for the child or children’s best interest. For young children, this may include providing constancy and stability, perhaps with the primary caregiver. Other factors include the relative income of the parents and their personal histories. Consult with our office today about how to best to gain custody of your children.

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Massachusetts Law: Divorce, Custody, and Child Protection

Massachusetts General Law (MGL) 208 covers divorce. This chapter of the laws of the Commonwealth describe everything from the definition of divorce to alimony, child support, and custody issues. Section 31A pertains to visitation and custody in the best interest of a child and covers abuse of parent or child. The best interest of the child is the primary determining factor in awarding custody. An abusive parent may not be awarded sole custody, shared legal custody, or shared physical custody. Custody arrangements must be in the best interest of the child. If one of the parents in a divorce or custody dispute has a history of being an abusive parent, then the court may deny custody or visitation or place restrictions. The court may order supervised visitation for the abusive parent. The abusive parent may be ordered to attend a certified batterer’s treatment program. They are often ordered to refrain from alcohol and other controlled substance during and up to 24 hours before a scheduled visitation. They may also be restricted from overnight visitation. The court may impose any other condition to provide for the safety of the child. Restraining orders are often issued when there is a request for protection and there is concern for the safety of one parent and/or a child. The mere existence of a restraining order (209a) does not serve as proof of abuse or define a parent as abusive. Evidence must be presented that shows a pattern or serious incident of abuse has actually

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Mandatory Disclosure in Divorce

In Massachusetts, when a party files for Divorce, Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure, Supplemental Rule 410, Mandatory Self Disclosure, requires that certain documentation be disclosed to the other party within 45 days of service of the summons for a divorce proceeding. The parties may agree otherwise or the court may order a disclosure or non-disclosure. The documentation that must be disclosed is as follows: (1) The parties’ federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the past three (3) years and any non- public, limited partnership and privately held corporate returns for any entity in which either party has an interest together with all supporting documentation for tax returns, including but not limited to W-2’s, 1099’s 1098’s, K- 1, Schedule C and Schedule E. (2) The four (4) most recent pay stubs from each employer for whom the party worked. (3) Documentation regarding the cost and nature of available health insurance coverage. (4) Statements for the past three (3) years for all bank accounts held in the name of either party individually or jointly, or in the name of another person for the benefit of either party, or held by either party for the benefit of the parties’ minor child(ren). (5) Statements for the past three (3) years for any securities, stocks, bonds, notes or obligations, certificates of deposit owned or held by either party or held by either party for the benefit of the parties’ minor child(ren), 401K statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements for all

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