IF MY DIVORCE IS UNCONTESTED, WHAT DO I NEED YOU FOR?
Uncontested divorce is not just filling out forms. It is writing the judgment for the judge. If it’s not written properly it may be unenforceable and difficult or impossible to modify. If nothing goes wrong then, in hindsight, the do-it-yourself divorce was a good deal. But having an experienced attorney, one who has seen what can go wrong with a poorly drafted agreement, prepare yours is cheap insurance to avoid potentially devastating consequences. One client, a pharmaceutical executive, came to me after doing his own divorce by using a friend’s agreement and adapting it to his situation. We spent years in court trying to undo the unintended consequences of the DIY divorce with its ambiguous and even contradictory provisions. Don’t be that guy! Call me first.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE?
We offer convenient hours including evenings and weekends so you can get in to see us sooner. We will meet as few as two times, or more if needed, to flesh out the details of your agreement and get all of the information needed to prepare your documents. Within a week or two of our last meeting you will receive a package containing your personalized documents and step-by-step instructions to get them filed with the court and have your divorce granted. The total time for your divorce from start to finish will be measured in weeks instead of months or even years that a contested divorce often takes.
CAN OUR AGREEMENT BE CHANGED?
Everything in your agreement can be changed if you both agree. If you don’t agree to the change, you can petition the court to modify certain provisions of your agreement only if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A modification can take as long and cost as much as a contested divorce. That’s why it’s so important to have a comprehensive agreement prepared by an experienced attorney-mediator. We can plan for a lot of the “what-ifs” and craft an agreement that can adapt as your needs and the needs of your children change. We can also mediate an agreement for modification to save time and money.
DO I HAVE TO DIVIDE MY RETIREMENT ACCOUNT? AND, OH YA, WHAT THE HECK IS A QDRO?
Marriage is an economic partnership and all financial assets and non-monetary assets that either spouse acquired during the marriage are considered marital property assets and are subject to division by the court in a divorce. There are many factors the court may consider in deciding whether to divide your 401(K), pension, IRA, profit sharing plan or employee stock plan but, in most cases, they will be divided unless your spouse has an equivalent amount of retirement assets or some other factors exist that would make it unfair to divide them. A QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is an order from the court that tells the administrator of your plan to set up a separate account for your spouse and put a certain amount of your retirement money into it. This way you don’t incur the taxes or penalties that you would if you withdrew your spouse’s share and gave it to him/her/them.
DO YOU DO GAY, LESBIAN AND TRANSGENDER DIVORCES?
Short answer, yes.
WHY DO WE HAVE TO TAKE A PARENTING COURSE?
In Massachusetts, all couples with children under age 18 are required to take a short class to help parents cope with divorce in a way that minimizes the negative effects on their children. There are exceptions where the court may waive the requirement but, in most cases, attendance is mandatory. The course takes place over two evenings and you cannot attend the same class as your spouse.
HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATED?
The 2017 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines is a comprehensive formula designed to allow children of divorced parents to enjoy the same standard of living in both households. The guidelines formula is intended to apply where children have a primary residence with one parent and spend approximately one-third of their time with the other parent. In this situation, the recipient will likely be responsible for childcare, extracurricular activities and clothing unless otherwise agreed.
DO I PAY CHILD SUPPORT EVEN IF WE SHARE CUSTODY?
Where two parents share parenting time approximately equally, the guidelines are calculated twice: first with one parent as recipient and second with the other parent as recipient. The difference in the two calculations is paid to the parent with the lower weekly support amount. In this shared custody situation, the parents will likely share expenses for childcare, extracurricular activities and even clothing.
WILL I HAVE TO PAY ALIMONY? FOREVER?
Massachusetts now has alimony “guidelines” which provide a formula for calculating the amount and duration of alimony. This does not mean that every case is an alimony case. The court must consider a multitude of factors beginning with the need of the spouse seeking alimony, the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony, and whether child support is being paid. In most cases where there are dependent children and the couple’s combined income is less than $250,000 annually, alimony will not be awarded but may be deferred until the children are no longer dependent. There are, of course, exceptions to this which will depend on the particular circumstances of the divorcing couple. Alimony will terminate, in most cases, when the spouse paying alimony reaches Social Security Retirement age (+/- 67) or dies, or when the recipient remarries, cohabitates or dies. So alimony is not forever, it just seems like it. There are other types of alimony with shorter durations called “transitional alimony” and “rehabilitative alimony” that apply in some circumstances.
CAN I MOVE OUT OF STATE WITH MY KIDS?
In order to move out of state with minor children, if you are married to or divorced from the other parent, you will need the written permission of either the other parent or a judge. So-called “removal” cases can be particularly contentious and expensive to litigate. Often the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to interview the parties and children and other witnesses and make a recommendation to the court and a trial will be necessary unless you come to an agreement. We can help you mediate these disputes and save tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.