Divorce is never easy, especially if you and your spouse share children. In Massachusetts, you have options to make your divorce and custody proceedings easier, while still safeguarding your rights and those of your children. Here are some frequently asked questions about divorce and co-parenting in Massachusetts.
No. Most people obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds. This means neither spouse is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. However, a no-fault divorce may be contested or uncontested. If contested, you and your spouse have not yet agreed on issues such as asset division, child custody, support, parenting time and alimony.
Physical custody defines where children live most of the time. Legal custody refers to important decisions made about the child. For example, you may have physical custody of your child, meaning she lives in your house. But you may share legal custody with your ex-spouse and make major decisions, such as those regarding medical treatment, jointly.
Papers must be filed with the court to finalize a divorce. However, you do not need to have a trial if you and your spouse can resolve your issues without one. Before a trial, you may participate in a pretrial hearing to present evidence and identify potential witnesses.
You can discuss your issues in one of many forums outside of court, including mediation or a settlement conference. Often an attorney is essential in this part of the process. Limited assistance representation is one option for individuals who don't want to pay a full retainer but need legal help to negotiate and conclude a family law agreement.
When parents are married, they automatically share physical and legal custody of children until a court orders otherwise. No parent automatically gets physical custody of a child even after the divorce process has begun.
When parents cannot agree on physical and legal custody, they may ask a court to intervene. The court is bound to make those decisions based on the best interests of the child and not the parents. The judge will look at the child's relationship with family members and his well-being in the community, among other factors.
Child support guidelines are based on parental income. They are designed to minimize the impact of the divorce on the child, among other factors.
A court will change a custody order if it is in the best interests of the child. The parent asking for the modification must show a significant change in circumstances since the order was issued.
There are four different types of alimony in Massachusetts. You may get alimony if you were financially dependent on your spouse or you supported your spouse for a specific endeavor, such as getting an education, during the marriage.