How to Divorce in Massachusetts

Massachusetts divorce tends to be more complex than you might think.  Your specific situation will determine the amount of time and resources required to complete your divorce. Perhaps even more importantly,  the approach you and your spouse take for the “uncoupling” process is a major factor that can translate into a respectful and cooperative divorce, or an extended, nasty battle with various casualties.

Certainly, if you and your spouse do not have children and have not been married for more than a few years, your divorce could – and should – be accomplished without astronomical legal fees and years of fighting.

Although there are many phases of a divorce, here are some things to consider early in the process:

1. Is it time for a change?

Do you really want to do this, or are you just going through a rough patch in your marriage?  Have you considered counseling with and/or without your spouse?  If one spouse is dead-set against any counseling, that usually means that person has made up their mind and that he or she does not want to work on the relationship. Divorce may be inevitable, or at least years of unhappiness if you don’t take any action.

2. Educate Yourself

The fact that you are visiting our website is a good sign.   Don’t become obsessed, but certainly you are more likely to make better decisions when you have a better understanding of the issues.  Be careful however.  Divorce is big business, and much of the information out there isn’t very good.  Although lawyers are held to strict standards through our rules of practice and ethical considerations, that is not the case with some other self-proclaimed “divorce experts.”

We suggest first developing a basic familiarity with your process options (such as mediation, collaborative law, or court-based divorce), then read the basics about child support, parenting and custody, and property division.

3.  Plan

Although it happens, don’t delay in meeting with our Norfolk divorce attorneys until you are served with papers.  Taking the first step to schedule an initial consultation is a big-decision, but you’ll at least have more information and can determine your exit strategy.  There are many details to consider, so start with the big ones.  For instance, if you and your spouse cannot reside together during the divorce, you may want to think about how living apart would look, and where each person would live.

4.  Gather

This next step is important, even more so for a spouse that is not as involved with household finances.   Gather and collect.  Gather like a squirrel getting ready for winter.  Copy or scan tax returns, pay-stubs, investment account statements, mortgage and expense info, and bank statements.  If these actions may put you in danger, then don’t do it.  Your attorney can get this information, but it can save time and money if clients have at least some of this info together. The more information you have about your financial situation, the better. If this seems too overwhelming, then just do what you can.

5.  Legal Fees

How will you pay your legal or mediation fees?  Sometimes, the court will order one side to provide funds for the other spouse for legal fees, but this isn’t something you can count on with certainty.  You may have to ask for assistance from family members. Tapping into financial resources for legal fees once the process starts usually involves a motion, although couples can agree as part of the mediation process how to handle the expense.  This is something that you should talk to your lawyer or mediator about during an initial meeting.

Beware of a quoted low retainer – some lawyers may quote you a low retainer just to get your case but once that money is gone, then you’ll need to come up with more or your attorney will advise you he or she cannot continue to represent you.

These are just some of the early steps to consider when contemplating a divorce in Massachusetts.  An experienced divorce lawyer or mediator can help you through your divorce, and should help educate you along the way.   You don’t need to become an expert in divorce law and financial matters, but we do suggest you learn some of the basics. This website and blog is a good place to start. To learn more about divorce, child support, custody and parenting, division of the marital estate, please call us to schedule an informative consultation.