Court is inevitable in divorce proceedings. Even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in full agreement on all issues, you’ll need a judge of the Probate and Family Court to approve your separation agreement and incorporate it into a judgment of divorce. The judgment of divorce legally terminates your marriage. In cases where agreement cannot be reached, there can be numerous appearances in court, including motions, pre-trial and trial. There are some reasons you may want to consider avoiding a trial and instead consider mediation or other forms of alternate dispute resolution:
- Uncertainty: If you take your case to a judge to decide all issues or even just one or two issues that you and your spouse can’t agree on, there is uncertainty in going before the judge. Probate and Family Court judges have a lot of discretion in making decisions in a divorce, particularly those relating to child custody and asset division. So, one judge could decide your case differently than another, and parties do not get to choose which judge is assigned to their case. It can be hard to know what your assigned judge will do in your case and what the result will
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When one parent wants to move out of Massachusetts with minor children during or after a divorce, the consent of the other parent is required. If the other parent does not give consent, the court must grant permission. Join attorneys Francine Gardikas and Robin Lynch Nardone for an in-depth discussion about “removal” and what the court looks at when determining whether or not to grant such a request.
Click here to watch the full webinar.… Keep reading
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last fifteen (15) years, it is hard to imagine a force that has had a more significant impact on day to day life than social media. I know personally, my screen time alerts from Apple indicate far more time spent on social media than I am proud of. Recent events have greatly magnified the social media microscope and the incredible power it wields, from providing evidence for the impeachment of a former sitting president to stripping a congresswoman of her committee assignments. Politics aside, social media can be a treasure trove of evidence and information in family law cases as well.
The rule of thumb for social media, when engaged in a divorce or custody case (and really just a good rule of thumb in general), is THINK BEFORE YOU POST. Think about how the information can be used against you. Think about whether it is something you want your children to see someday. Think about whether it is something you would like an employer to see. Do not post anything that you would not want read in front of a judge.
It is never appropriate to post negative information … Keep reading
This year has been filled with strange new and different ways of interacting (or rather not interacting) with family and friends. I was happy to see that one thing stayed the same – holiday photo cards. I have to admit that the new life December brings to my mailbox is something I look forward to every year. I genuinely enjoy the cards adorned with family photographs. Holiday cards that I have received over the years have included engagement photos, wedding pictures, birth announcements, images of trips to exotic places, and updates on the lives of friends who I don’t hear from often enough. The images evolve over the years as babies are born, move through childhood, then grow up and start families of their own.
There is one holiday card I received years ago that sticks out in my mind. On this card was a picture of a mother with her two sons. On the back was the tale of how dad had “left the family” and a difficult divorce was in progress. That Christmas card later became an exhibit at the divorce trial.
Divorce happens. When it happens, it can be truly painful. But a holiday card is … Keep reading
Another uneventful election year is in the books. Well, almost uneventful . . . In reality, it was (is?) as contentious a political battle as we have seen in a very long time. In many ways, the nation’s political divide is analogous to a common divorce theme – each party has completely disparate views and priorities on a variety of issues which can lead to some (ahem) “irreconcilable differences.” Perhaps for some of you out there, opposing political views within your household may even be a cause that leads to a divorce. Regardless of the reason for the divide within the household (remember, Massachusetts is a “no-fault” divorce state after all), it is important to follow what happens next in the political process, as divorce and politics are always going to be intertwined, and no time is that principle more apparent than after an election year.
Without getting too deep into a fifth grade civics lesson, the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary) on both the state and federal levels create, implement, interpret, and contextualize the laws and policies which have a direct and indirect impact on the divorce process. Divorce is fundamentally governed by each state’s … Keep reading
Attorneys Lisa Cukier and Tiffany Bentley address the varying ways that trust assets come into play in a divorce. How are trusts treated when equitably dividing assets? Can a trust be shielded from division? Can your prenup or postnup limit later access? Learn more about creating a divorce-proof strategy to protect your assets.
Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading
When a marriage becomes irretrievably broken, both spouses generally agree that a divorce is necessary. However, some divorces are contested by one party, which may make the process more difficult and lead to prolonged negotiations and delay the ultimate resolution. What can make things even more difficult is when one spouse refuses to even respond or engage in the divorce process.
When a spouse is dilatory or refuses to participate in the divorce process, here are some helpful tips:
The first hurdle in any divorce process is actually getting the process started. Once a Complaint for Divorce is filed, the Summons and a copy of the Complaint for Divorce needs to be served upon the other party. This is typically done by having a Constable or Sheriff deliver the Summons and Complaint for Divorce to the other spouse. Once the Summons and Complaint for Divorce are served on the other spouse, the Original Summons, along with a Certificate of Service signed by the person who hand-delivered the Complaint, is returned to the Court for filing. After the Summons is filed with the Court, the case is ready to proceed and the Court will likely issue a notice of … Keep reading
In the fifth episode of our divorce-focused webinar series, Gregg Cohen, President and Financial Aid Lead of Campus Bound, joins attorneys Francine Gardikas and Andrea Dunbar to discuss the implications of divorce on college-aged children. Learn to navigate the college admissions process during separation or divorce by keeping the focus on your kids, and gain insight into shared expenses, financial aid rules, and potential scenarios — such as what to do if your ex refuses to pay for tuition.
Watch the full episode here.… Keep reading
As I mentioned in my last blog post outlining a few tips for videoconferencing, a discussion of the decision-making process as to whether to participate in mediation or conciliation via videoconference could be its own blog post. So, here it is!
On July 13, 2020, Massachusetts state courthouses physically reopened to the public for limited purposes, including some in-person proceedings. However, most hearings continue to be conducted by telephone or videoconference, often scheduled half an hour apart from other cases. The result of the Court’s closure in mid-March due to COVID-19 and only gradual reopening since then is that the Court system is struggling to play catch up on matters that were not able to be heard during the Court closure, plus keep up with the continual new filings. Parties are facing significant delays in getting their “day in court,” which is requiring parties and their counsel to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions to address the ongoing needs of divorcing parties and their families. One of these solutions may be to participate in mediation or conciliation via video conference. While there is a difference between these two forms of alternative dispute resolution, for … Keep reading
According to the Massachusetts divorce statute:
Judgments of divorce shall in the first instance be judgments nisi, and shall become absolute after the expiration of ninety days from the entry thereof, unless the court within said period, for sufficient cause, upon application of any party to the action, otherwise orders.
A “judgment nisi” means a judgment that comes into effect on a specified date unless within a certain time period cause is shown why it should not go into effect. For spouses getting divorced in Massachusetts, the nisi period results in the parties remaining married for 90 days after the Judgment of Divorce is issued. So what exactly is the reason for the nisi period?
The nisi period is a waiting period designed to allow parties to change their minds about the divorce, even those who have gone through protracted litigation and a trial. For couples who file an uncontested Joint Petition for Divorce pursuant to G.L. Chapter 208, Section 1A (instead of a contested action initiated under Section 1B), there is an additional 30 day waiting period between approval of their settlement agreement and the issuance of the Judgment of Divorce, elongating the wait to be single to … Keep reading