Divorce, or marital dissolution, is the termination of the marriage relationship where the parties divide their marital assets and debts. Although Massachusetts has a no-fault divorce law where you merely have to allege irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce, you can still allege certain grounds such as cruel and abusive treatment, alcohol or drug addiction, adultery, and confinement in a penal institution for at least 5-years, though this process rarely yields any advantages.
If there are minor children of the marriage, the parties will have continuing obligations of support toward them. In some circumstances, there may be an issue of spousal maintenance or alimony.
In most cases, the breakup is amicable, and the parties are able to divide their property and decide about custody and support payments for their children with a parenting plan. But if there are disagreements, then legal assistance is often necessary to find compromise or to litigate the issues if a settlement cannot be reached. Often these disputes center around property distribution and possible hidden assets, child custody and visitation, and allegations of domestic abuse, or drug and alcohol use that may endanger the safety or health of you and/or your children.
Spousal maintenance or alimony
Division of property and debts
Valuation of assets
Factual and false accusations of abuse
Uncovering hidden assets
Mediation and other non-adversarial solutions
Modification of support and custody orders
Some of the more common issues in a divorce are:
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the couple’s accumulated assets and debts are not necessarily divided 50-50, but are based on the equities or financial circumstances of the parties.
Duration of the marriage
Contribution of party to increasing value of marital property
Age, health, and earning capacity of the parties
Vocational skills of each party
Liabilities of each party
Present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage
Child Custody and Visitation
There is no legal presumption in favor of joint physical and legal custody. Disputes are resolved on the basis of what is in the child’s best interests. Possible outcomes are joint custody with both parents sharing parental time with the children at their respective homes, or where one parent in the primary custodian with the other granted visitation rights unless there are issues of safety.
Legal custody refers to one or both parents making daily and material decisions regarding the child’s education, health, religious upbringing, and welfare.
Our office can advise you on the factors the court will look at and how you can increase your chances for physical custody, if you want a change in custody, or are seeking more parenting time or visitation.
The non-custodial parent will have to make support payments to the custodial parent. Payments are based on statutory guidelines, though a court can deviate if the child has special needs or there are other circumstances that would lower or increase the payments. Modifications can be sought 3-years after the original order if there is a substantial and material change in circumstances for one or both parties.
If granted, there are time limits on how long alimony is to be paid based on the duration of the marriage, though it can be paid indefinitely in marriages of 20-years or more. A court will examine the ability of the payor to make the payments and the needs of the recipient who may have less earning capacity than the payor or who made sacrifices in his/her career to advance that of the other party.
Divorce is usually a highly emotional time for both parties where sometimes hasty or irrational decisions can lead to even more divisiveness and stress. An experienced and knowledgeable divorce lawyer from Snook Law can counsel you on your rights and work with you to reach a reasonable and satisfactory resolution of your case.