What To Expect In The Divorce Process In Massachusetts
Most family law clients who visit my Springfield office are unsure what awaits them once they decide to get divorced. Uncertain expectations can add more stress to an already tension-filled situation. When asked what to expect in the divorce process, I usually answer along the lines of “it depends on your situation.” Every couple and every family is different.
Your experience will differ in many ways depending on the type of Massachusetts divorce you seek. Are you filing an uncontested (joint) divorce or are you planning to go to court to fight about an issue?
Uncontested Divorce/Joint Petition
If you and your spouse agree on all issues ( custody, property, etc), then you may file an uncontested divorce petition. My role as an attorney is to draft the documents that you will need to file with the court, detailing your agreement.
Once your paperwork is filed, you will receive a Notice of Assignment from the court that tells you the time and date of your hearing. Make sure you arrive at the courthouse 15-20 minutes early so you can get through the security check. Once checked in, you can ask anyone in uniform to direct you to the courtroom where your hearing will take place.
Once at the courtroom, checking in is next. Ideally, both parties should check-in at the same time. If you hire me as your attorney, I will take care of the following steps. If you represent yourself, be prepared for the following:
- Bring copies of all documents, including your original separation agreement. They may be needed at check-in.
- Be prepared to re-sign your financial statement.
- Take a seat in the courtroom after checking in and signing any necessary documents.
- The judge will enter, everyone will stand up, then the judge will tell everyone to sit down again.
- The court clerk will begin calling cases. Listen for your last name and docket number. You will then walk to the front and be sworn in by the clerk.
- The judge will ask you some questions about the marriage. The main question is usually whether you have read your divorce papers, believe them to be fair and reasonable, and you are prepared to abide by the agreement. The wife may be asked if she wants to keep her married name or not. You will also be asked about the date of your separation, the last address where you lived together, the names and birth dates of your children and questions about your financial statement.
- If asked about “survival” or “merger,” you will need to understand the difference between the two. While merger makes it easier to modify support, alimony and custody if needed in the future, you may not want it to be so easy depending on the circumstances.
About two weeks after the hearing, you should receive a form by mail called “Findings and Order.” This confirms that your separation agreement is fair and reasonable. Thirty days later you will receive a Judgment of Divorce Nisi. Ninety days after that, your divorce is considered final; no further action is needed.
Contested Divorce Cases
Contested divorces are considerably more involved. Rather than one hearing, there will likely be several. You and your spouse may be required to attend mediation sessions. Disagreements over finances, property, children or anything else can lead to long cases. Each party will have an attorney, unlike an uncontested situation where there is often only one lawyer or no lawyer. Every contested case is contested for a different reason. If you choose to retain my services, I will take the time to understand your situation and guide you at every step of the process.
Need Help Filing Divorce? Call A Springfield Lawyer.
The Springfield law office of Claudette-Jean Girard is here to guide you through the Massachusetts divorce process. To arrange a free 30-minute consultation with an attorney, call 877-622-6089 or send me an email.