If you are looking to find out more about specific areas of law and legal processes, here are some answers to common questions and useful articles. We love serving clients who want to educate themselves about their cases. We’re happy to talk you through any of this. It’s why we’re here.
If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 413.774.7085 or leave a message on our Contact form.
While there is no “typical” divorce, an uncomplicated one can take between 6-8 months. Courts have “time standards” that are used to gauge whether a case is being handled efficiently. Modification cases are on an “eight-month” track. Divorces are on a “14-month track.” This does not mean, however, that your case must be completed by that date. In the relatively few cases that go to trial, the process can last as long as two years.
How long your case takes to complete depends on many factors, including:
As you can see, some factors are beyond our control. As your attorney, it is our job to evaluate these factors to let you know how they will impact your case, assess your options, and provide the best advice on how to proceed.
It depends. The cost can vary anywhere between $5,000 to much more. Complexity of debt and assets, and the level of conflict, as well as the personality and negotiation styles of the players, all play a role. If possible, we will suggest a budget and ways that you can remain within a budget.
As a general rule we will ask you for a retainer prior to working for you, and bill against the retainer.
First, decide whether you really want a divorce. Have you discussed your decision with a number of people, including a therapist? There may be other reasons for your unhappiness apart from your spouse. Think hard before you go. Building intimate relationships is hard work. Yours may just need an intervention, rather than a termination.
Second, talk to a lawyer before you start separating. Massachusetts law is very broad when it comes to the division of marital property. A lawyer will help you create post-divorce scenarios that will predict what you’ll have to live on. Use this to create a budget so you’ll have a realistic idea of where and how you will live.
Gather information about what you and your spouse earn, own, and owe. Make copies of documents showing that information. You will need these items:
Keep this information in a safe place where your spouse can’t get it. Take this information to a lawyer to discuss how to safeguard your property and credit during the divorce. If you have joint credit cards, freeze or close those accounts.
Change account passwords to your individual bank and social media accounts, to maintain your privacy. Don’t change passwords to joint accounts. If you’re concerned about your spouse accessing information in a joint account, create a new account in your own name.
Finally, regarding the children: If you can do so safely, work on a joint parenting plan before you leave. Consider using a mediator or therapist to help you. As “user friendly” as our courts are here in Western Massachusetts, the judge does not want to decide your parenting plan. Why should you give control over the most important relationships in your life to a judge who hardly knows you? A client who can work with their spouse to come up with a plan creates a positive foundation for the rest of the divorce.
First, get emotional support to help you through this. You will be grieving and need help thinking rationally.
Second, survey the damage. Have they taken money or property? Make a list, gather your information (see above) and see a lawyer so you know your rights and can help predict your future.
If your spouse has left their device(s) (e.g., smart phone, iPad, computer) in plain view, and not password protected, it’s not illegal to view their contents. However, this is a complex area of the law. Messing around with your spouse’s accounts, deleting information or spying on them could be illegal, and you could end up being punished by the judge for your actions.
Generally speaking in Massachusetts, you can’t stop your spouse from getting a divorce. Massachusetts is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that anyone can end a marriage, without reason.
Even if only one spouse believes the marriage isn’t working, they can say it is “irretrievably broken down” and can’t be fixed, and that is enough to get a divorce. If your spouse files a divorce complaint and you are served with a summons and complaint, you should seek legal advice to put yourself in the best position possible in the ensuing negotiations and/or court proceedings.
Generally speaking, you may do so. However, if you have received a divorce summons, special rules apply. An “automatic restraining order” barring each spouse from spending money, incurring large debt, or selling assets, comes into play. You can read the rules on mass.gov.
If a divorce case has been started, you will need alternative sources of funds unless you and your spouse can decide how to share accounts and decide upon child support.
We like to call the Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) the “put up or shut up” date. (Hey, what can I say? I tell it like it is!)
Since many cases settle on or before the PTC date, there are rules and procedures you must follow to encourage settlement. You’ll be required to attend a mandatory four-way meeting with your attorney and your spouse’s attorney. If you’re unrepresented, you still must meet, unless there is an active abuse prevention order keeping you apart. If you don’t meet before the PTC, your PTC date may be rescheduled until you fulfill the meeting requirement.
The Court wants to know:
If there are issues to be tried, the court wants to know (a) what is your proof—what evidence will you use to prove your case; (b) who are your witnesses; and (c) how long will it take to try the case.
Knowing this information, the court will set a trial date for you. Most trial dates get scheduled at least three months ahead.
The Judge will want to hear from each side what proof they’ll present at trial. Some Judges may give you an opinion, directly or indirectly, of whether you’d win a particular issue at trial. It is extremely important to listen to the judge’s view of your case at the PTC.