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Family & Divorce Law

Carney and Bassil are specialists in divorce and child custody issues. The following is a review of some of the basic questions asked in divorce cases. Call Jim Budreau for a referral to one of their lawyers if you need advice in this area of law.

Who can File for Divorce in Massachusetts?

In order to file for divorce in Massachusetts, either 1) the grounds for divorce must have occurred in Massachusetts and one spouse is still a resident of Massachusetts; or 2) the spouse who is filing must have been a resident of Massachusetts for one year.

Where Should I File for Divorce?

The divorce should be filed in the county where the parties last lived together.  If neither spouse is currently in that county, then the divorce may be filed where either party lives.

Does One Spouse Gain an Advantage over the Other for Filing First?

There is no fault assigned by the Court to the party who files first.  In the event of a trial, however, the party who filed first will present their case (i.e., witnesses and evidence) first.  The ability to go first can be an advantage at trial.

What are Grounds for Divorce?

Massachusetts is a ‘no-fault’ state, which means that spouses may obtain a divorce without specifying grounds such as ‘desertion’ or ‘cruel and abusive treatment.’ Spouses may jointly file an uncontested divorce action along with a separation agreement, or one spouse may file a contested divorce action. In both types of divorce, the ‘ground’ specified may be ‘an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.'  In an uncontested divorce action may also be obtained on fault grounds, which are specified by statute. G.L. c. 208, ß1B.

What is a Legal Separation?

One spouse may file for a legal separation, or ìseparate support,î without beginning divorce proceedings.  In an action for separate support, child custody and child and spousal support may be obtained.  The residency requirement is the same as in divorce cases.  Also, if the parties are living apart prior to a divorce, they are legally separated.

How is Property Divided in a Divorce?

Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. Marital property encompasses all of the property owned by either spouse, including gifts and inheritances.  Although what is considered marital property is very broad, it is divided between spouses equitably, meaning according to what each deserves.  Equitable division is based on many factors, set out by statute, which the Court must consider, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s homemaking and financial contributions to the marriage, each spouse’s occupation and ability to earn income, and the conduct of the parties during the marriage.  G.L. c. 208, ß 34.

How Do I Tell My Child about the Divorce?

The decisions of how and when to tell children about divorce will depend upon the individual family.  However, it is important to give your children information without drawing them into the parental conflict and while affirming that both parents love them and the divorce is not their fault.  Massachusetts requires all divorcing parents to participate in an approved Parenting Education Course, in which the focus is on teaching parents about the effects of divorce on children. Frequently, therapy is helpful for both adults and children in addressing feelings of anger and loss that arise during a divorce.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The life span of a divorce case will depend on the issues involved and their complexity.  However, uncontested divorces can often be completed in a matter of a few months, while contested divorces may take a year or more before either a settlement or trial occurs.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website does not constitute legal advice nor should it be relied upon in making any legal decisions. You should always consult with a lawyer directly to determine what your legal rights are. This web site and its content is not a substitute for direct legal advice from a lawyer.

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