Massachusetts Family Law

Divorce is Not Pleasant. Learn How We Can Help.


Unfortunately, there are many life events which are not pleasant, such as divorce, custody battles and guardianship proceedings. Marshall, Crane & McAloon will stand by you and represent your interests during these most difficult times.

Divorce:

From a legal perspective, whether a divorce is based on fault grounds or no fault grounds (referred to as “Irretrievable Breakdown”), there are three general issues that must be resolved in order to complete the divorce:

  1. Support (alimony and/or child support);
  2. Property Division; and
  3. Child Custody and Visitation

A divorce can be filed on either “fault” or “no fault” grounds. A divorce filed on “no fault” grounds means that you do not have to offer evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of your spouse. As a practical matter, most divorces are filed on “no fault” grounds. Filing on “fault” grounds generally has very little to do with the resolution of the financial issues such as alimony, child support and property division.

“Discovery” is simply a legal technique for getting information. It can be accomplished informally with one side simply asking for information or it can be framed more formally, requiring responses under oath. Typically, in a divorce action, more formal discovery techniques, such as Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents and Depositions, are used.

Over 90 percent of divorces are settled prior to trial by agreement of the spouses. If the parties cannot agree on one or more issues, however, the parties will present their evidence and arguments to a judge at trial, and the judge will decide the disputed issues.

Custody and Support Issues:

Unless your child (ren) has reached the age of eighteen, custody will be an issue in your divorce. Legal custody refers to the ability to make major decisions regarding the child(ren)’s welfare, including matters of education, medical care and emotional, moral and religious development.

With rare exceptions, parents will each have joint legal custody of the child (ren). “Joint legal custody” says nothing about, and does not affect, the amount of time the child (ren) spend with each parent.

Physical custody refers to where the child (ren) resides. While “shared physical custody” arrangements are becoming more common, it is still more often the case that divorced parents have joint legal custody and one parent has sole physical custody. Under this type of arrangement the child (ren) visit/reside with the non-custodial parent on a particular schedule.

There is no “magic formula” to determine custody (or child-related) issues. Even after the divorce, a court can modify custody based on a “material change of circumstances” and the “best interests” of the child (ren).

By virtue of federal mandate, Massachusetts has enacted Child Support Guidelines, which is essentially the formula that is used in domestic cases to determine weekly child support. The Guidelines formula uses each parent’s income, along with certain expenses and the number of children involved, to determine the presumptive amount of child support that the non-custodial parent should pay to the custodial parent. The Guidelines have been revised many times.

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