The Divorce Process
The goal of the legal process of divorce is to end the marriage and decide such issues as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony (sometimes called spousal support or maintenance), property and debt division and attorney's fees and costs. A divorce judgment can be based on an agreement between the parties or result from a trial. An agreement is usually less traumatic for you and your children, and less expensive than a trial. Ultimately, most cases are resolved without a trial.
The divorce process varies from state to state. What procedures are available and how long the process lasts is unique to each state's court system. Your lawyer can explain how the process works in your state. [However, in general, the following milestones and issues illustrates the divorce process:]*
One party files for divorce to the court and legal papers created and served on spouse.
Spouse files response to serving party
Via mutual agreement or court order determination of support, custody, assets, etc. is made
The organized exchange of information between the parties. Even though engaging in discovery adds to the expense of the case, learning about the other side's case and being forced to reveal one's own case increases the likelihood of settlement.
An agreement between the parties that settles the financial, visitation, support, etc. This is typical in most divorces
When the parties cannot agree they have a trial and present thier case to a judge who then will decide all unresolved issues between the parties
Alternatives to Trial
A means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom. This typically includes early neutral evaluation, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration by a third party.
Mediation allows separating and divorcing couples to take control of planning their own lives and make good decisions about their future. It is especially beneficial for parents, who though separating, will need to continue making joint decisions about their children well into the future.
It is often used when couples have reached an impasse or stalemate in their divorce negotiations and wish to resolve the issues without going to court. Divorce Arbitration is a type of divorce trial, but instead of couples resolving their dispute in a public courtroom, their case is heard in a private setting before an Arbitrator.
After the Divorce:
- Modification -
Changing the terms of the divorce agreement dues to material change of circumtances
- Enforcement -
Going to court to enforce the terms and conditions of the divorce agreement
- Omitted Property -
A postjudgment motion available when any omitted asset or debt has not been adjudicated by the divorce judgment.
Financial Statements required in Massachusetts
If you are the Plaintiff, Defendant or Petitioner in a Divorce, Separate Support, Paternity, Modification or Contempt case or any other case involving alimony, child support or division of property;
Additional statements need to be filed if you/spouse have rental income or are self-employed. You should consult an attorney or the State of Massachsetts websites if you have any questions.
How long will my divorce take?
That depends on a lot of things. Every divorce is different. Factors that can make a difference include the schedules of both parties, both lawyers and the court, the cooperation of witnesses, the speed of the appraisers, and the complexity of the case. While most divorce cases are settled some do go to trial.
If you and your spouse cannot settle your case, it will go to trial. At trial you each tell your story to the judge. It is told through your testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and documents called exhibits.
Trial is likely to be expensive and unpleasant. However, it can be the only alternative to never-ending unreasonable settlement demands. Still, trials are risky. No lawyer can predict the outcome of a trial because every case is different. A judge, a stranger -- possibly with a viewpoint, temperament and values very different from yours -- tells you and your spouse how to reorder your lives, divides your income and assets, and dictates when each of you may see your children.
Sometimes, a trial does not end the case. Each party may, within a limited period of time, appeal to a higher court. An appeal adds more time and expense to the divorce process and is hard to win.
Summary of State Law and Questions