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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Frequent Questions About Divorce in Massachusetts

At my Springfield law firm, the law office of Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law, I field many different questions from clients who are contemplating divorce. The variations to the questions are endless, but some general themes have emerged. Therefore, I have put together this short FAQ page about Massachusetts divorce. It certainly does not address every question, and the answers here are general. It is always best to talk to a trusted family law lawyer when it comes time to get answers that apply specifically to you.

Q: How long will it take for my divorce to be finalized?

A: Divorces are finalized 90 days after the judge issues the divorce decree. In uncontested situations, there is an additional 30-day wait period, so these cases usually end 120 days after your hearing. The 90- or 120-day waiting periods are in place in case the couple decides to reconcile or if a party needs to notify the court about the possibility of hidden income or assets.

Q: What is an uncontested divorce?

A: An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse have agreed on all of the issues involved in your divorce (custody, property division, etc.) and you need the judge to approve the plan. This is also called a joint petition. You will need to attend a hearing and answer some basic questions from the judge. Read more about the process here.

Q: How long do I need to live in Massachusetts before filing for divorce here?

A: If the cause of the divorce occurred in this state, then one of you must be a resident in order to file. There is no minimum residency in this situation. However, if the cause of divorce occurred outside the state, the party seeking divorce must live here for one year before filing.

Q: Can I get alimony?

A: Not every divorce involves alimony. Eligibility for alimony is a complex idea, based on the need of the spouse, the amount of child support being paid, length of the marriage, contributions of each spouse to the marriage and a host of other factors. Whether you are seeking alimony or may be required to pay, I will protect your interests.

Q: What is joint custody?

A: There are two forms of child custody in Massachusetts: legal and physical. Legal custody involves the right to make decisions about a child's education, religion, health care and other activities. Joint legal custody means the two parents decide these things together. Physical custody involves where the child is located. In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child's time is split between the two parents. The most common custody outcome is joint legal custody with one parent having more parenting time (physical custody) than the other.

Q: What happens to our assets and debts in divorce?

A: Finances are addressed through a process called equitable division. Basically, the court will divide your assets and debts according to a number of different factors. These include the length of the marriage, age of the parties, custody arrangements, the earning capacity/employability of the parties, and a number of other factors. Debts are usually assigned to the person who uses the property. For example, an auto loan will become the responsibility of the party who uses the car more.

Q: Who pays for legal fees?

A: Each party pays his or her own legal costs, including attorney's fees. In situations where one spouse controls the finances, the other spouse can ask the court to force the controlling spouse to release the funds necessary to pay for legal expenses. The court can also require one spouse to pay the other's expenses in certain situations such as when a party violates court orders.

Contact a Springfield Divorce Lawyer Today

These are just a few of the questions you need answered at this time in your life. The Springfield law office of Claudette-Jean Girard is here to give you the thoughtful and accurate answers you deserve. To arrange a free 30-minute consultation with an attorney, call 413-315-5518 or send me an email.

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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
1380 Main Street,Suite 302
Springfield, MA 01103
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Phone: 413-315-5518
Toll Free: 877-622-6089
Fax: 413-886-0220
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Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 278
Monson, MA 01057
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