Family law matters are some of the most emotionally challenging events that a person can go through. However, not every family law issue has to be acrimonious. In fact, many of these cases are resolved outside of court with minimal involvement by the judge. We understand that every case is different and requires an approach that is custom-tailored to the individual needs of the client. No matter what kind of Massachusetts family law matter you have, our compassionate attorneys are ready to advocate for your best interests.
Divorce & Family Law
Divorce typically involves more than just the termination of a marriage. Other issues, like those discussed below, must also be resolved.
The divorce itself may be fault-based or no-fault. Fault-based means that one or both spouses are alleged to have done something wrong to cause the marriage to end. In Massachusetts, the seven grounds for a fault-based divorce are:
- Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- A spouse was incarcerated for 5 or more years
A no-fault divorce, meanwhile, will allege what is known as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There are two types of no-fault divorce:
- Uncontested. In this type of divorce, the spouses agree there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Also, the spouses settle all issues arising out of the marriage (like those discussed below) by way of a written settlement agreement.
- Contested. This describes a divorce where either one spouse only alleges an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or both allege this but they cannot agree on how to settle the issues arising out of their marriage.
Property And Debt Division
Divorcing spouses must divide their marital property and debts. “Marital” generally includes anything acquired by either spouse after the date of marriage, with some exceptions such as inheritances. “Property” includes real and personal property, assets, income, retirement benefits, and more. The court uses a process known as equitable distribution to decide who gets what. “Equitable” means fair, not necessarily equal.
In deciding how to equitably divide property and debt, the court will consider several factors. These include, but are not limited to:
- The age, health and employment prospects of both spouses
- How long the marriage lasted
- Both spouses’ needs and incomes
- How both spouses contributed to the marriage
Alimony is support that is paid by one spouse (who has the ability to pay) to the other spouse (who has financial need). Alimony is only available to divorcing spouses.
There are four types of alimony in Massachusetts:
- General term. Regular support paid to an ex-spouse for a certain length of time, based in part on the length of the marriage.
- Rehabilitative. Available to an ex-spouse who will be expected to become financially self-supporting by a certain time.
- Reimbursement. Compensates an ex-spouse for the contributions he or she made for the benefit of the other spouse during the marriage. For example, a wife who gave up her job to support the husband while he advanced in his career.
- Transitional. Support that helps an ex-spouse settle into a new lifestyle or location after the divorce.
There are reasons that alimony may end, such as the death of a spouse. Alimony may also be modified if there has been a material change of circumstances.
Child support is available to parents who separate, regardless of whether they were ever married. The custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives most of the time) usually receives child support from the other (non-custodial) parent.
In Massachusetts, the amount of child support is usually calculated by using child support guidelines. These guidelines take a number of factors into account, such as the parents’ incomes, health insurance costs for the child, the amount of time the child spends with both parents, and more. There are situations in which a court may deviate from these guidelines, for example if using the guidelines would be unjust to the child’s needs.
Child support may be modified if a material and substantial change has occurred, such as one parent losing his or her job. However, the court must approve a requested child support modification.
Child custody involves both physical custody (the parent with whom the child primarily resides, and visitation rights for the other parent) and legal custody (decision-making authority for the child concerning significant matters such as religious upbringing and medical care). There are generally four types of child custody arrangements:
- Sole legal custody. One parent will have the decision-making authority for major decisions affecting the child.
- Shared legal custody. Both parents will share decision-making authority.
- Sole physical custody. The child will reside with one parent while the other parent has reasonable parenting time (visitation), unless the court decides that visitation wouldn’t be in the child’s best interests.
- Shared physical custody. The child will spend time living with both parents to ensure the child has frequent, regular contact with them.
The court’s primary question in determining child custody and visitation is what is in the child’s best interests. In answering that question, the court will consider factors such as:
- How the child is performing in school
- The child’s relationship with the parents and other family members
- Evidence of either parent abusing or neglecting the child
- Evidence that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol
- The ability of both parents to care for the child
- Whether one parent has been the child’s primary caregiver in the past
- Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the child’s preference
Other Family Law Issues We Handle
In addition to the above, SederLaw regularly advises and represents clients in the following matters (among others):
- Contempt of court for violations of family law orders
- Tax issues related to divorce
- Domestic violence and restraining orders
- Complex asset division
- Division of a family business
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
- Matrimonial rights
Contact Our Worcester Family Law Attorney
It may be possible to resolve your case by way of mediation or negotiation with the other party’s attorney. But if needed, we are prepared to take your case to court. Regardless of what kind of family law matter you face, SederLaw is ready to face it with you. Ready to get started? Contact us today.