Family Law FAQs
The divorce process can be confusing, challenging, and full of back-and-forths over who gets what and who did what. Navigating the legal system can also often prove time-consuming and costly. Depending on the length of the union, the finances of the couple involved, and whether there are children, contentious issues can drag on and on.
If you are contemplating divorce, already in the process, or have been served papers in or around Salem, Massachusetts, contact us at Lamb and Lamb, P.C. Our family law attorneys will listen to your story, treat your upcoming divorce with respect and compassion, and make you feel like family. We will help you arrive at the best possible result based on your needs and goals for the future.
In addition to Salem, Lamb and Lamb, P.C. also proudly serves clients in all surrounding areas, including Danvers, Beverly, Lynnfield, and Peabody.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Divorce in Massachusetts
Through the years, those who have sought our services have often shared a common set of misconceptions or misunderstandings about what divorce entails, not only in general terms but also in terms of how Massachusetts handles family law and the dissolution of marriages. Here are some of those common misconceptions posed as questions and answers:
What are the grounds for divorce in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts recognizes both no-fault and fault-based divorce petitions. A no-fault divorce filing is based on an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. No one is being held at fault.
In a fault-based petition, one spouse claims the other is responsible for the divorce because of issues and actions such as adultery, impotency, abandonment, addiction to alcohol or drugs, cruel and abusive treatment, refusing financial support, and becoming incarcerated. There are also residency requirements that you must meet to file in Massachusetts.
If I am served divorce papers, what are my options?
If you are served divorce papers and you agree with what’s stated and proposed in those papers, you can simply sign them and send them back to your spouse and to the court. This becomes an uncontested divorce—you have agreed to the terms. If you disagree with the divorce papers, it then becomes a contested divorce, and you will have to attend a series of court hearings to sort things out. If you do nothing, your spouse can then ask the court to declare this an uncontested divorce.
Is there legal separation in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts does not recognize legal separation, but you are free to live apart whenever you choose to do so. There is something called a Judgment of Separate Support if the spouses choose to remain married for personal, financial, religious, or other reasons. The Judgment of Separate Support can address all the issues a divorce would, including custody, child or spousal support, parenting time, and visitation rights.
Will one spouse be awarded alimony?
The answer to that depends on many factors that a court would consider, including the length of the marriage; the age and health of the spouses; the income; employment and employability of the spouses; the economic and non-economic contributions to the marriage of both spouses; the marital lifestyle enjoyed by both; and more.
There are three levels or types of alimony in Massachusetts: transitional, which can last up to three years; rehabilitative, which can last up to five years; and general term, which has no cap in terms of years and can vary.
Who gets to keep the home?
Massachusetts is not a community property state, where everything is divided 50/50, at least at the start of the divorce process. Instead, Massachusetts aims for a “fair” division of assets, also often called an “equitable” distribution of assets. In deciding on the division of assets, a court will look at many of the same factors used in determining alimony, but if there are minor children, their “best interests” can also factor into deciding who gets what, including the couple’s home.
Is there any way to avoid having the court decide these issues, such as alimony and division of assets?
Yes, there is. The law provides that the spouses entering into divorce can create their own “Separation Agreement,” spelling out all the issues involved, including division of assets, custody, support, parenting time, and more. The court will then review the agreement, and if it is not too one-sided, will likely approve the agreement. This is the ultimate form of an uncontested divorce.
Do I need an attorney in my divorce proceedings?
Even if you and your spouse have agreed on most of the issues and are planning to create a Separation Agreement, it is highly advisable to seek the input and guidance of an experienced family law attorney. You want to make sure that the language in the agreement is precise and enforceable.
On the other hand, if you are just embarking on the divorce process, or you’ve been served, there are many legal issues that you need to understand. You also will need an experienced family law attorney to explain your rights and help you protect and assert them during a divorce.
Answering Your Most Important Questions
This is where we at Lamb and Lamb, P.C. come in, addressing your questions and concerns. Two people who are having a hard time getting along and are seeking a dissolution of their marriage will no doubt face difficulties and conflicts in working collaboratively toward that divorce.
We can help you focus and hopefully resolve your disagreements. Reach out to us immediately when the issue of divorce looms. We serve clients in Salem and surrounding communities like Danvers, Beverly, Lynnfield, and Peabody.