Divorce & Family Law

Divorce means ending the marriage. A host of issues arise depending on the couple’s situation. The simplest and least expensive way to obtain a divorce is for the couple to work with their individual divorce lawyers or a mediator to come to an agreement on their issues. When children and assets are involved the divorce becomes more complicated, and post-divorce and family law affairs such as alimony, child support, custody and relocation come into the picture and may last many years.

Domestic Relations Law, more commonly known as Family Law, governs how issues that arise out of family relationships are handled. These issues include the interpretation of prenuptial agreements, adoption agreements, legal separation, divorce, alimony, child support, child custody and child visitation, domestic violence and child abuse. Typically, these matters are handled by the division of the court system known as the Probate and/or Family Court. Attorneys who practice in this area of law are often referred to as divorce lawyers, but many divorce lawyers handle a wide range of family issues beyond divorce.

Pre-nuptial Agreements (prenumps): A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract made between a couple prior to their marriage. This contract pre-determines how the couple’s assets acquired both before and after marriage will be divided in the event of a divorce, separation or death. These types of agreements are legally valid in Massachusetts and will be upheld by the Probate and Family Court if it was fair and reasonable at the time it was created, and remains fair and reasonable at the time of separation, divorce or death.

A pre-nuptial agreement can be legally challenged. For this type of contract to be upheld by a court if it is later challenged by one or both of the parties, each party must have had the opportunity to have it independently reviewed by a lawyer, typically a divorce lawyer. The Probate and Family Court is most interested in assuring that each party truthfully disclosed his/her financial circumstances, and other relevant issues.

Divorce: The legal mechanism to end a marriage. Typically, divorce papers are filed in the Probate and/or Family Court in the county where the couple resides. There can be a number of issues that must be resolved in a divorce, depending on the circumstances. These can include alimony and the division of the couple’s assets, child custody, child visitation and child support. These days, most divorces are so called “no fault”. This means that there need not be a reason given for why the marriage is ending. The simplest and least expensive way to obtain a divorce is for the couple to work with their individual divorce lawyers or a mediator to come to an agreement on their issues. When couples cannot agree, they must rely on the Probate or Family Court process to resolve the issues. This can often be a lengthy, costly and painful process.

Post Divorce Issues: – Generally speaking, a divorce settles most asset/property disputes, such as alimony and which party keeps the family home. However, when children are involved, the issues are much more involved, and are always modifiable. A determination of which party or both will have legal custody, which means the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child/children, whether there will be sole or joint physical custody and visitation will often need to be addressed, after the initial divorce is settled. When issues such as failure of one party to pay support, or comply with the original divorce judgment, a contempt complaint is filed and decided by the Probate and/or Family Court.

Family relationships are complicated, and the agreements and decisions surrounding them are also. Obtaining solid advice from a lawyer that specializes in divorce is the surest way to avoid mistakes and avoid the pitfalls of the uninformed.