Family Law

Divorce Lawyer in Peabody

Divorce is rarely a pleasant experience, as it signals the end of a marriage and the potential splitting of a family. Compounding the difficult nature of the process are the many issues that must be addressed before a divorce agreement can be agreed upon and made official by the Family Court.

The Divorce Process

Filing for divorce can be extremely difficult for a family, even if it’s a mutual agreement reached by the parties. A divorce lawyer will be able to guide you through the divorce process to ensure that your rights are protected and the best interests of your children are looked after.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a type of divorce that spouses use to reach an amicable ending in their marriage. In order for this to be made possible, both parties involved should be able to reach agreements together regarding some of the most important aspects of the divorce.

Contested Divorce

Cases that involve conflict and disagreements are those known as contested divorces. Contested divorce is often one of the most difficult types of divorce cases to litigate, especially if a spouse fails to retain the services of a divorce lawyer.

Alimony or Spousal Support

The presence and amount of alimony in a particular case is an area where judges have a great deal of discretion and tend to differ substantially. Some of the more common approaches include awarding the lower income spouse one-third (1/3) of the differential in gross income or totaling the entire income and awarding alimony so as to create a percentage split such as 60% to 40%.

Alimony payments (unlike child support) are deducted from income for the payor and included in income by the payee for tax purposes. Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208 Section 34, at the time of divorce, the court may make a judgment for either of the parties to pay alimony to the other. In addition to or instead of a judgment to pay alimony, the court may assign to either party all or any part of the estate of the other. In determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be paid, or in fixing the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the judges in the Massachusetts Family Courts will consider the following factors:

  • Length of marriage
  • Conduct of the parties during marriage
  • Age of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • Station of the parties
  • Occupation of the parties
  • Amount of income of the parties
  • Sources of income of the parties
  • Vocational skills of the parties
  • Employability of the parties
  • Estate of the parties
  • Liabilities of the parties
  • Opportunity of the parties to acquire future capital assets
  • Opportunity of the parties to acquire further income
  • Contribution of the parties in the acquisition, preservation and appreciation of their marital estate
  • Contribution of the parties as a homemaker in the family unit
  • Needs of the parties
  • Needs of the children

Child Support

How is child support determined?

In Massachusetts, the courts utilize Child Support Guidelines (“Guidelines”) in order to determine the level of child support which would be appropriate in various situations. The Guidelines are amended from time-to-time. In setting a Child Support Order pursuant to the Guidelines, the court will consider child care costs, the number of children, cost of medical insurance for the children, the amount of parenting time expended by either parent, and prior court Orders and obligations affecting either party. Generally, the court is required to utilize the Guidelines; however, in certain circumstances the court may deviate from the Guidelines by entering specific written findings. In some situations, the Guidelines don’t apply. However, when the Guidelines do apply, the court will utilize a “Child Support Guidelines Worksheet”.

What can I do to enforce a Court Order for child support or visitation?

Once the court has made a Temporary Order or Judgment, both parties are obligated to comply with the Order or Judgment. If one side does not comply, the other side can file a Complaint for Contempt seeking enforcement of the Order or Judgment, as well as reimbursement for attorney’s fees. Contempts may be filed to enforce all kinds of Court Orders, including but not limited to child support, alimony, visitation, and property division.

 

DIVORCE OVERVIEW

There are two forms of divorces – uncontested and contested. Uncontested divorce is where both parties can reach an agreement without having to go to trial.

A contested divorce, on the other hand, is much more complex and entails many processes both parties will have to go through to reach an agreement regarding the terms of their divorce. Issues that may arise include child custody and visitation, spousal support and division of marital property and debts.

After the divorce complaint is delivered, discovery and a prospective settlement phase occurs. Many family courts in Massachusetts offer conciliation programs that help both parties involved to reach an agreement regarding contested issues. They are usually free or available for a low fee. However, if an agreement still cannot be made, then each spouse represents their case at the trial in front of a judge, who then finalizes the divorce terms in the fairest way possible.

To simplify the legal processes involved in a contested divorce, they are presented in steps below.

  1. Hiring and consultation of attorney

The first step of a contested divorce is to find an attorney who is qualified and experienced and has your best interests at heart. You will be required to gather every document that pertains to your divorce. These may be documents regarding marital assets, debts, income or children.

  1. Serving divorce complaint and supporting documents to the other party

After all necessary documents are gathered, you and your attorney will state the grounds for the divorce in your divorce complaint. First, you file it with the Court, after which your attorney will help you serve it to the other party, who is your spouse in this case. This can be done either by mail, in person or through a constable or sheriff.

  1. Answer to divorce complaint by spouse

The defendant, which is your spouse, or their acting lawyer is required by law to respond to the served divorce complaint within 20 days. If they fail to respond within the specified time limit, they are in default. You can then attain a default judgement of divorce. If the response is made within the requisite time, the process may move on to the Discovery phase.

  1. Discovery phase

During the discovery phase, you and your attorney will obtain all necessary information regarding marital assets, debts, income, custody or any pertinent matter from your spouse. This can be done using document requests and depositions, written interrogatories, etc. The defendant will do the same. Both parties will also have to respond within a given time if any discovery requests are made.

  1. Settlement negotiations phase

The two attorneys will negotiate with each other on you and your spouse’s behalf. Usually, judges encourage reaching an agreement without having to go to court. As mentioned before, conciliation programs are offered at this stage. If an agreement cannot be reached, your divorce case will have to go to trial.

  1. Trial/Divorce court

At the time of trial, both parties present their cases to a judge. They can bring in witnesses, cross-examine each other’s witnesses, and finally, closing arguments are made. The presiding judge, after careful consideration, makes her final judgement regarding the divorce.

  1. Post-trial motions and hearings

After the judge signs the order or judgment, if you find that the ruling made was unfair, you can file a post-trial motion, but you will have to do it within 30 days. If any of the two parties file a motion, the other party has to respond within 30 days.

  1. Appeal

If any party’s post-trial motion is denied, within 30 days, a notice of appeal can be filed. But if it gets reversed, the appellate court will send the case back to trial court. If the case is affirmed, then the whole process of contested divorce is over.

At Konstantilakis Law PC, our mission is to be your translator and guide through a stressful and demanding life event, like divorce. We translate the seemingly complex and, sometimes, confusing legal process and the application of the law to your unique situation into a clear, easy to understand communication of your choice. We guide you through the legal world while acknowledging the human side of the legal case, you. And that is where it all begins, with you. We maintain a daily and heightened level of awareness about your legal situation, clinically, and compassionately by helping you to manage your fears through education and discussion.

KONSTANTILAKIS LAW PC

8 Essex Center Drive, Peabody, MA 01960

1.978.826.5906

www.konstantlaw.com

10 FAQs About Divorce in Massachusetts

Divorce is never easy, especially if you and your spouse share children. In Massachusetts, you have options to make your divorce and custody proceedings easier, while still safeguarding your rights and those of your children. Here are some frequently asked questions about divorce and co-parenting in Massachusetts.

Do My Spouse and I Have to Agree on Everything to Qualify for a No-Fault Divorce?

No. Most people obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds. This means neither spouse is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. However, a no-fault divorce may be contested or uncontested. If contested, you and your spouse have not yet agreed on issues such as asset division, child custody, support, parenting time and alimony.

What Is the Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody?

Physical custody defines where children live most of the time. Legal custody refers to important decisions made about the child. For example, you may have physical custody of your child, meaning she lives in your house. But you may share legal custody with your ex-spouse and make major decisions, such as those regarding medical treatment, jointly.

Do I Have to Go to Court?

Papers must be filed with the court to finalize a divorce. However, you do not need to have a trial if you and your spouse can resolve your issues without one. Before a trial, you may participate in a pretrial hearing to present evidence and identify potential witnesses.

What Do I Have to File With the Court?

To avoid trial, you and your spouse must sign and have notarized a separation agreement, financial statements and parent education certificate if required.

How Can I Resolve Issues With My Spouse Outside of Court?

You can discuss your issues in one of many forums outside of court, including mediation or a settlement conference. Often an attorney is essential in this part of the process. Limited assistance representation is one option for individuals who don’t want to pay a full retainer but need legal help to negotiate and conclude a family law agreement.

Where Will My Child Live During Separation?

When parents are married, they automatically share physical and legal custody of children until a court orders otherwise. No parent automatically gets physical custody of a child even after the divorce process has begun.

How Is Custody Decided?

When parents cannot agree on physical and legal custody, they may ask a court to intervene. The court is bound to make those decisions based on the best interests of the child and not the parents. The judge will look at the child’s relationship with family members and his well-being in the community, among other factors.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Child support guidelines are based on parental income. They are designed to minimize the impact of the divorce on the child, among other factors.

How Can I Change a Custody Order?

A court will change a custody order if it is in the best interests of the child. The parent asking for the modification must show a significant change in circumstances since the order was issued.

Can I Get Alimony?

There are four different types of alimony in Massachusetts. You may get alimony if you were financially dependent on your spouse or you supported your spouse for a specific endeavor, such as getting an education, during the marriage.

Regardless of the circumstances that led to your divorce, an attorney can help guide you through the legal aspects of this difficult time. To learn more, contact Konstantilakis Law P.C.