Common Questions About Divorce And Family Law

Can I get divorced in Massachusetts?
In order to be eligible to get divorced in Massachusetts, either the breakdown of the marriage must have occurred in Massachusetts and one spouse stills resides in Massachusetts, or the filing spouse resided in Massachusetts for one year prior to filing for divorce.

Can I get a divorce in Massachusetts if my spouse doesn't want it?
Yes, your spouse cannot prevent you from obtaining a divorce in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the divorce process may be longer and more expensive if your spouse is uncooperative.

How do I go about getting a divorce in Massachusetts?
In order to get a divorce in Massachusetts, you must first determine whether you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all of the issues involving your divorce, including but not limited to division of marital property, division of marital debts, insurance, spousal support (or alimony), and all issues surrounding the support, care and custody of any children.

If both of you are in agreement, then you may file a Joint Petition for Divorce which will require, among other documents, a separation agreement, which will be reviewed by a court to determine if it is both fair and reasonable under the circumstances. The separation agreement will be submitted to the court and, if approved, the court will issue a Judgment of Divorce Nisi one month from the date of your divorce hearing. It is important to note that your divorce is not final until 90 days from the date the court issued the Judgment of Divorce Nisi, which is a total of 120 days from your divorce hearing. Of course, the attorneys at Moniz & Mendes, P.C., can assist you with all aspects of drafting the separation agreement; ensuring that you have followed all proper legal procedures so that your divorce is properly finalized. However, it should be noted that an attorney may only represent one of the divorcing spouses. The other divorcing spouse should obtain their own legal counsel to ensure that their rights are protected.

If you and your spouse are not in agreement on all of the issues surrounding your divorce then one of the two divorcing spouses would file a complaint for divorce, which will begin the process of a "contested" divorce proceeding. Both divorcing spouses will be required to fully disclose all assets and other financial information to each other, and the proceeding will end when the divorcing spouses either reach a point where they agree on all issues and enter into a separation agreement, or proceed to a trial. If the divorcing spouses do not reach an agreement, your divorce case will go to trial in your County's Probate and Family Court before a judge, and the court will render a decision and enter a Judgment of Divorce on all the issues that the divorcing spouses cannot resolve themselves. If you are a party to a contested divorce, the attorneys at Moniz & Mendes, P.C., can assist you by advocating for you during the entire divorce proceeding, and by advising you of your alternatives, rights and obligations concerning your divorce.

How much does a typical divorce cost at Moniz & Mendes, P.C.?
Every divorce case is different and has unique factors that must be considered. The costs are based on a per hour charge. Since we offer a sliding scale of fees to our clients, we offer affordable rates that take into consideration your family's income and assets. During our initial consultation, we will provide a reasonable estimate of the cost and fees associated with your divorce case, and will request an initial retainer.

How much does it cost to hire a divorce lawyer?
We generally require payment of a "retainer" in order to begin work on a divorce case. A "retainer" is an initial payment made by the client to the divorce lawyer at the time the client hires the lawyer. The retainer is held in a separate account, and the firm will charge the retainer account periodically for the work done on the client's case. The actual amount of the retainer required by our firm varies based on the level of complexity of your case. After our initial consultation, we will have a better understanding of your case and the amount of the retainer needed to retain our services.

What is an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, a divorce in which both parties agree on all major matters and there are no disputes over the legal issues is considered "uncontested." Both parties are able to reach an agreement, are ready for the divorce to be finalized and typically needs a divorce lawyer to draft a separation agreement to be entered into court.

What is a contested divorce in Massachusetts?
A Massachusetts divorce case becomes contested as soon as the complaint for divorce or the summons is filed in court. The case remains contested until all disputes are resolved and the parties reach a settlement or proceed to a trial.

If both parties reach an agreement on all issues do they still need a divorce lawyer?
In Massachusetts, even when both parties have an uncontested divorce and reach agreement on all issues, it is still recommended that each party hire a divorce lawyer to review any and all documents, or draft the separation agreement to ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected and the agreement is fair and reasonable. It is also important to keep in mind that your agreement will be entered in court where a determination will be made on whether the agreement is valid and enforceable, which essentially means that the agreement must be fair and reasonable to both parties.

Will I have to pay alimony to my ex-spouse?
It depends. In Massachusetts, "alimony" is money paid by one spouse to the other and is sometimes referred to as "spousal support." Alimony may be awarded to either spouse for their support or may not be awarded at all. Alimony is based on two factors: (1) the need of one of the spouses to receive spousal support; and (2) the ability of the other to pay it. In addition to these factors, the court also considers the same factors listed below in dividing the martial assets.

What does the court consider in deciding the division of the marital assets?
The following factors are taken into consideration by the court in dividing the marital assets:

  • Length of marriage
  • Conduct of the parties during marriage
  • Age of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • Station of the parties
  • Occupation of the parties
  • Amount of income of the parties
  • Sources of income of the parties
  • Vocational skills of the parties
  • Employability of the parties
  • Estate of the parties
  • Liabilities of the parties
  • Needs of the parties
  • Opportunity of the parties to acquire future capital assets and income
  • Contribution of the parties in the acquisition, preservation and appreciation in value of their estates
  • Contribution of the parties homemaker to the family units
  • Present and future needs of the dependent children

Can a divorce lawyer represent both me and my spouse?
No, in Massachusetts a divorce lawyer cannot represent both parties in a Massachusetts divorce proceeding because of the conflict of interest between the divorcing couple. If you and your spouse maintain a cordial relationship, and have or want to reach an agreement on all aspects of your divorce, you may want to consider divorce mediation and other methods for alternative dispute resolution methods.

Contact Us Today For A Free Consultation

Contact us online, or call 781-350-4963 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced family law attorney at our Salem law firm. From our firm, we provide representation to clients in Essex County and surrounding areas.