When couples say the words, “I do,” the implication is that the union will last for the rest of their lives. Many foresee growing old with their spouse, having children together and watching their kids go off to college. Sometimes, however, couples may drift apart or encounter other issues that don’t allow a marriage work out.
Whether you are the person wanting the divorce, or the decision was mutual, it’s wise to be informed on ending a marriage because the choices made can affect you for years to come.
When parents end a marriage the fallout can reach the children, who may be too young to comprehend the situation. Transitioning families can make the process smoother by having useful information and sound legal advice. The Massachusetts court system makes rulings with the welfare of the children in mind and, for this reason, requires parents to make a parenting plan when getting a divorce.
There are two forms of child custody: legal and physical. Each of these types can be sole or shared. In Massachusetts, four types can emerge including sole physical custody, shared physical custody, sole legal custody and shared legal custody. Legal custody allows the spouse to be a decision maker in the educational, religious and medical choices concerning the children. Physical custody means that the spouse is responsible for all the needs of the children, such as food, clothing and shelter.
Child support is calculated through a formula made available by the Massachusetts child support guidelines. The calculations need to be approved by the court and a judge can change the support amount regardless of the guidelines. Some of the factors used to determine support are:
- The gross income of each parent
- The number of children in the household
- The costs for childcare, health insurance and other expenses
- The parenting time of each spouse
A judge may take into consideration other factors as taxes, union dues and the debt of each spouse when determining child support payments.
In Boston, Massachusetts, along with the rest of the state, marital property can be virtually anything, regardless of whether the item is a gift or inheritance. Some types of items considered separate property might include social security benefits and perhaps some kinds of retirement assets. Overall, however, any and all property can be ordered for division in the state of Massachusetts.
Division Of Property
When couples go through a divorce, dividing up property, due to the emotional attachment to the items, may be an upsetting process. In Massachusetts, property and debts are divided equitably. While many think this means equally divisible, it does not. The court will take property and distribute based upon many factors. Some of the considerations for division include:
- The length of the marriage
- The conduct within the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
- The income and debts of each spouse
- The employability of each spouse
In Massachusetts, there are two types of divorce – fault and no-fault. With a fault divorce it is necessary to show one of the grounds such as, adultery, was committed. In a no-fault divorce, a couple need only cite there was an “irretrievable breakdown” of the union. As alternatives to divorce, it is also possible to file a Separate Support action or an annulment to end the marriage.
Some states allow for legal separation, but in Massachusetts the closest legal order is called a Separate Support agreement. Essentially, child support, visitation and alimony are handled in much the same way as in a divorce; however, the couple remains married. This action, in a sense, can be a trial run to divorce or it may be a step to allow a couple to repair the marriage.
The court defines a marriage that has been annulled as “voidable” and as though the marriage never happened. Certain grounds for an annulment need to exist, such as:
- A spouse lacked the mental capacity to marry
- A spouse was impotent
- A spouse committed fraud and was married under false pretenses
- A spouse was under the legal age limit of 18
Marriages are never legal and are considered “void” when two conditions exist – bigamy and incest. Because an annulment requires proving the condition in court, it’s wise to seek the services of an experienced divorce attorney. A lawyer can inform you on the types of proof you will need in order to get a marriage annulled.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
In alternative dispute resolution (ADR) you and your spouse will meet with a neutral third party who may be a lawyer or a trained mediator. The goal is to work through the issues of the divorce and avoid a lengthy trial process. ADR is a cost-effective option that saves time; however, the process is not ideal for all couples. Spouses need to be cooperative and willing to compromise. Also, if there is a history of violence and abuse, ADR is not recommended.
A trained ADR mediator can help with the following:
- Facilitate productive communication
- Outline more options to resolve disputes
- Explore solutions that work best for each spouse
In choosing ADR, it gives couples the chance to amicably work on the issues within their divorce and can help to preserve the relationship.
A divorce can be a difficult event and bring lead to uncertainty about the future. Whether there is a mass of property to divide or a question on how to establish child support, an experienced Boston attorney can inform you on all the appropriate legal options and answer questions on all aspects of divorce. When you have solid legal information, it becomes possible to make wise decisions for you and your family.
As with any service, it’s important to hire the best person for the job. The same is true when applied to hiring an attorney. Positive results are likely to happen when you select one with experience in helping families in Boston, Massachusetts, and with a concentration in divorce. The family law attorney you choose can make a difference in the outcome of your case.
To begin the divorce process or learn more about the legal steps, fill out the free case review form to to speak with a local Boston divorce lawyer.