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Divorce Procedure In Massachusetts

Everyone has heard horror stories about divorce proceedings that dragged on for years and left families in bankruptcy. However, divorce does not have to be that way. In fact, most divorce actions settle prior to trial, with parties initially filing Joint Petitions, or reaching settlement several months into litigation. As a brief overview, there are two forms of filing for divorce: the Complaint for Divorce, and the Joint Petition for Divorce.

The Complaint For Divorce

When the parties cannot reach a resolution outside of court, one party will file a Complaint for Divorce, known as a “1B Divorce”, as it falls under the Massachusetts General Laws chapter 208, section 1B. Once a Complaint is filed, the other party is served with the Domestic Relations Summons, and proceedings commence. The parties are given the opportunity to file Motions for Temporary Orders, seeking that the probate and family court issue temporary guidelines for the parties to abide by until the matter is completely resolved.

Approximately six months after the Complaint for Divorce is filed and served, the court will schedule a Pretrial Conference, at which both parties and their counsel will appear and present a detailed memorandum explaining the history of the marriage, what each party is seeking from the divorce, and what steps have been taken to obtain all the information necessary for the parties to make informed decisions. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement following the Pretrial Conference, the court will schedule the matter for trial.

At trial, both parties will have the opportunity to call relevant witnesses to the stand, including themselves, in order to present their case. Following the trial, the Judge will consider the relevant facts and case law, and issue a Judgment of Divorce Nisi. The parties must follow the Judgment, which will undoubtedly include provisions that neither party will be content with. However, unless the Judgment is appealed or later Modified, it remains in full force and effect.

As the Judge is only able to make decisions based on the evidence presented to him/her, it is always best for the parties to reach settlement on at least some of the outstanding issues. At the end of the day. no one knows your needs and those of your family better than you and your spouse.

The Joint Petition For Divorce

Oftentimes, as a result of Mediation or Collaboration, parties are able to resolve all their outstanding issues prior to seeking assistance from the court. In this circumstance, the parties have their counsel draft a comprehensive Separation Agreement, detailing each provision that the parties have reached agreement on. Thereafter, the parties file their Agreement and other necessary paperwork with the Probate and Family Court. Their only court appearance consists of answering a series of simple questions in the presence of the Judge. While this approach is ideal, Attorney Wons recognizes that it is not possible for everyone. As such, it is important to make an appointment and discuss your individual needs so that a plan can be established for moving forward and finalizing this difficult time in your life.

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