An Intro to Filing for Divorce in Massachusetts

Many couples start out in marriage with great hopes and expectations, only to end up in a relationship that unfortunately does not work. There are many steps in the divorce process in Massachusetts and just as many avenues to take depending on your situation. Here is a brief introduction to filing for divorce in Massachusetts and some of what you may encounter.

  • A divorce can be categorized as “no-fault” or “fault.”
  • If both parties agree on the categorization, the divorce is called “uncontested.” If one of the two parties disagrees with it, though, it is then called “contested.”
  • A fault divorce can be more costly and drawn out than a no-fault one. This is because of the process required to prove the fault of the accused spouse.
  • There are seven categories of a fault divorce: adultery, impotency, desertion, cruel and abusive treatment, gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, a prison sentence of five years or longer, and non-support.
  • There are two categories of a no-fault divorce. They are “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage 1A,” and “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage 1B.”
  • 1A means that both spouses agree that neither are to blame for the end of the marriage, and they have reached an agreement regarding any alimony, asset distribution, child support, or custody arrangements. (AKA- Uncontested no-fault divorce)
  • 1B means that both spouses agree that neither are to blame for the end of the marriage, but they cannot reach an agreement on assets, custody arrangements, etc. (AKA- Contested no-fault divorce)
  • A 1A divorce is final 120 days from the date of judgement.
  • A 1B divorce is final 90 days after the hearing so long as a judgement is entered. (You will have a hearing for a 1B case because the accusing spouse must prove the fault of the other spouse.)

These are just a few of the terms and categories that you will run into when filing for the dissolution of your marriage. An experienced divorce attorney will help make the process go as smoothly as possible. We will advise you on how to proceed with your case in the most cost effective and time efficient manner. Call our office to speak with an experienced divorce attorney and learn your options.

Massachusetts Child Support Law

In the event of a divorce, one parent may be ordered by the court to pay child support. Under Massachusetts law, both parents are required to support their children—and this is true regardless of marital status (whether the parents are married, divorced, separated, or were never married). The parent the child lives with a majority of the time is termed the primary custodial parent. The noncustodial parent may be required to pay child support.

Massachusetts child support law is complicated, but there are several things you should know.

One, child support may be used to pay for housing, food, clothing, education, and insurance and medical costs.

Two, if one parent has received an order for child support and the other parent is not paying it, payment can be compelled. The procedure is to file a Complaint for Contempt with the court. This means that, if the other parent does not obey the child support order, he or she can be held in contempt and is subject to penalties. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Family Law and the Divorce Process

Massachusetts family law covers the divorce process, which begins when one of the spouses actually files a legal petition, or “complaint,” which advises the court he, or she, wishes to end the marriage, and this petition is  “served” on the other spouse.

Legal requirements for divorce in Massachusetts (MA) can be found in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, sections 1-5 and 21, and include “residency requirements,” such as:

  • “Spouses must have lived together in MA as husband and wife,”
  • The plaintiff (the person petitioning) “must have lived in MA at least one year,
  • The actions/inactions that have brought about this divorce action must have occurred in MA, and
  • If the causal actions/inactions happened in another state, the spouses must have “lived together in MA,” and at least one spouse has to be an MA resident.

Because Massachusetts is a state which allows “no-fault” divorce, the petitioner (plaintiff) must merely attest that there has been “an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” In other words, the plaintiff believes there is “no chance of reconciliation.”  Other “grounds for divorce” are: 1) adultery, 2) the spouse has been away from the household for one year (desertion), 3) drug and alcohol problems, 4) inability to conceive, 5) nonsupport, 6) being sentenced to prison “for at least 5 years” after a criminal conviction, and 7) a long absence (leading to “presumption of death”). [Read more…]

Establishing Paternity in Massachusetts

When a child is born to two married parents, they are placed on the child’s birth certificate. However, when parents are unmarried, paternity must be legally established in order for the non-birth parent to appear on the child’s birth certificate and have legal rights. This is an important step since it also involves future rights of the child.

So, how is paternity established in Massachusetts?

Voluntary Vs. Involuntary

Paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. When both parents agree on who the non-birth parent is, they both sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage” in front of a notary pubic, establishing paternity voluntarily. This acknowledgement is then filed with the Registry of Vital Records, officially establishing paternity. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act

Many parents-to-be wonder just how much time from work they can take off when their child is born.

Effective April 7, 2015, under Massachusetts law, men and women will both be covered under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), which makes them eligible for eight weeks of job-protected leave related to the birth, adoption, or court-ordered placement of a child in their home.  The original MMLA provided female employees the right to take eight weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child, without any provisions for male employees or in cases where a child was placed in the home by court order (for example, a guardianship or a foster care situation.)

The amendments to the MMLA provide that men are also eligible to take the eight weeks off to bond with the new child, under the following circumstances: [Read more…]

Massachusetts Law Regarding Divorce Modification

Divorce agreements cover many details, including child custody, child support, property division, health insurance and many other specifics based on the details of a family’s life. The difficulty is that at the time a divorce agreement is ruled upon and issued, it’s impossible to foresee all future circumstances. Therefore, it’s often necessary to return to court to modify the terms of your existing Divorce Judgment. Massachusetts’ law allows for changes to be made to certain provisions as long as the legal standards are met.

Merging Vs. Surviving Provisions
Divorce provisions are classified as either “merging” or “surviving.” These are legal terms that should be included in your Separation Agreement. “Merging” means that the provisions of your Judgment can be modified at a later date if circumstances warrant the change and the burden of proof is met. Examples of provisions in your Judgment that may merge include child custody, child support, college education payments, health insurance benefits, and alimony. “Surviving” means that the provisions of your Separation Agreement cannot be modified in the future except in limited circumstances. Examples of surviving provisions often include the division of assets and sometimes alimony. [Read more…]

Charged with Contempt in Massachusetts For Not Paying Child Support

Have you been suddenly charged with contempt in Massachusetts for not paying your child support that was ordered by the court? Perhaps it’s in reverse and you’re filing for contempt against your spouse for not doing what was required with a court order. Either way, it’s a contentious form of family law that you never want to go through if you can amicably work it out. But in both scenarios, you have to work with a Massachusetts family law attorney to go through the proper steps to assure the contempt charge gets ironed out in the best possible way.

If you’re the one receiving a contempt charge from your spouse or ex-spouse for reneging on a court order in child support payments, you’re going to need to respond to the summons immediately. The summons is notification that there is a contempt complaint pending. The summons will include a copy of the complaint for contempt, which will outline the issues. You have to send that summons back with a logical answer before the required deadline. [Read more…]

Grandparent’s Visitation Rights

Child custody disputes don’t only affect parents and children. They can have a major effect on grandparents too. Grandparents whose grandchildren are caught up in custody disputes can feel like they are at the mercy of often uncooperative parents when it comes to getting visitation with their grandchildren.

This can be even more complicated when the grandparents are on the side of a parent who has lost custody of their children or have limited parenting time. The remaining parent can often be hostile about visitation with the other side of the family. Thankfully in Massachusetts grandparents do have some legal avenues they can pursue in these cases.

Under certain circumstances, grandparents can seek court ordered visitation with their grandchildren. In order for this to be an option, the parents must be divorcing or living separately. If the parents live together however, there is no right to seek grandparent visitation.

In addition to divorcing or separated parents, the court must also determine grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child. The grandparents must be able to show (1) they have a significant pre-existing relationship with the child, and (2) that failure to grant visitation would significantly harm the child’s health, safety, or welfare. More than a typical grandparent-grandchild relationship must be shown and detailed to the Court to prove that a significant pre-existing relationship exists.

When compared to a parent’s right to visit with their child in a divorce scenario, a grandparent has a higher burden of proof. A detailed affidavit is required along with the petition for grandparent visitation that specifies how all the requirements for court ordered visitation are met. Due to this need, it is highly advisable that any grandparents seeking to petition a court for visitation seek out the expertise of a Massachusetts family law attorney who will prepare an affidavit and represent the grandparents before a judge.

Massachusetts Child Custody and Visitation Laws

“The arrangements that couples make in order to maintain civility in the midst of their journey to divorce are often most elaborate when the professed top priority is to protect a child.” ― John Irving

Divorce is rarely easy, and even less so when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements for children. In Massachusetts, the top priority of the courts is to determine arrangements that are “in the best interests of the child”, but that may not always be as straightforward as it seems. This is not the time to try and do it yourself. Instead, seek competent legal representation and hire an attorney.

Massachusetts recognizes shared legal custody, sole legal custody, shared physical custody and sole physical custody, as defined under General Laws Chapter 208, s. 31. When a couple files for divorce, both parents are automatically granted temporary shared legal custody. This allows both parents to have equal responsibility (and rights) concerning major decisions like medical care, education and religious development. During what can be contentious times, differing ideas about the schooling or religious upbringing of children can surface. Having an attorney can make sure that these discussions and decisions remain on track and comply with the law. [Read more…]

Massachusetts Domestic Violence Laws

In the state of Massachusetts, domestic violence laws include physical harm or the intent to physically harm, the infliction of fear of physical harm, and involuntary sexual relationship against a family or other household member. This crime is especially serious if the victim was violated by the suspect while a protective order was in place.

Definition of a household member:

  • people who are or have once been married
  • individuals that have children together
  • individuals that are related through marriage or by blood
  • individuals who live together or have lived together, such as roommates
  • individuals in a dating or engagement relationship if the Court deems such relationship substantive after consideration of several factors, including the length of the relationship, type of relationship, frequency of contact, and duration since the relationship terminated.

Assault can range from actual physical harm or the intent to commit physical harm against another individual. This means that even a serious threat to commit physical harm can be considered assault. Simple assault is in itself a crime, but in Massachusetts, assault against a family or household member is considered a much more serious offense. [Read more…]