Are you considering divorce but are not sure what to do or expect? Are you seeking guidance after your spouse has filed for divorce? At Hera Law Group, we know that the end of a marriage is a difficult time, regardless of the circumstances. We are here to support you and to educate you regarding the divorce process. Below is a brief overview of what to expect once you know that divorce is inevitable.
In the state of Massachusetts, a divorce can be considered either contested or uncontested depending on if the spouses agree to the terms of the divorce. A contested divorce means that the parties do not agree on the divorce and terms of settlement while an uncontested divorce means that both parties agree on the divorce and on settlement terms. Terms of divorce that are often contested include custody arrangements, child and/or spousal support, and the division of assets and/or liabilities, including any real estate. Whether you and your spouse agree on terms related to these issues will determine how you proceed with your divorce.
Filing for an uncontested divorce (often called a “1A divorce”) is the most efficient way to move through the divorce process, as settlement terms are reached and an agreement, called a “Separation Agreement” in Massachusetts, is drafted without the court’s involvement. The Separation Agreement and joint pleadings, including a Joint Petition for Divorce, are signed by the parties and filed with the appropriate Probate and Family Court. Then, a brief hearing is scheduled by the Court to allow the judge an opportunity to review the Agreement and to hopefully approve the Agreement. Typically, parties to a 1A or uncontested divorce only appear in Court once for this purpose.
If your divorce is contested (often called a “1B divorce”), it means that one party has filed a Complaint for Divorce in the Probate and Family Court without an Agreement already being reached. In this circumstance, the person who filed is the “Plaintiff” and the other spouse is the “Defendant.” There is no real advantage to being either the Plaintiff or Defendant. After filing, your attorney will work with the other party and their attorney if they have one to try and reach an agreement as well as seek the involvement of the Court if needed. In contested, or 1B divorces, the divorce cannot be finalized until at least six months after one party has filed for divorce and served the other party. However, if you and your spouse agree to the terms of a Separation Agreement after a 1B Complaint has been filed with the Court, you can change your case to an uncontested, or 1A divorce, to avoid waiting for this six month period to elapse.
Almost all divorces in Massachusetts are “no-fault” divorces, regardless of whether filed as contested/1A or uncontested/1B. A no-fault divorce is when the marriage is broken beyond repair but neither spouse alleges or claims that the other party is at fault for the marriage ending. The grounds for this type of divorce is an “Irretrievable Breakdown of the Marriage,” which means that the parties are no longer compatible and there is no chance of reconciliation. This is the most common basis for a divorce in Massachusetts.
Very few divorces are filed on fault-based grounds which requires one party to claim and prove that the other party was at fault for the marriage’s termination. In Massachusetts, there are seven grounds on which a party can file for a fault-based divorce: “adultery, desertion, gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, cruel and abusive treatment, non-support, impotency, or a prison sentence of 5 or more years.” Filing based on fault doesn’t typically provide a significant advantage to the plaintiff and, therefore, is seldom pursued. It can however, allow you to get divorced quicker than a no-fault divorce.
In order to file for divorce in Massachusetts, you must meet certain requirements. Your attorney can advise you whether you meet these requirements after learning some of the facts specific to your case.
High Asset Divorces
If you are getting divorced and your marital assets are valued at $1,000,000 or more, it is considered a “high asset divorce.” Dividing marital assets can be complicated and it is imperative that you seek the advice of a qualified divorce attorney to protect your interests in any division of assets. The more assets you have, the more you have to lose in a divorce. In order to protect your wealth and to ensure a fair division of assets, you will need an experienced family law attorney to represent you. Hera Law Group can offer you just the guidance you need.
International Divorce and Custody
International divorces and custody agreements often include a layer of complexity that domestic divorces do not as divorce and custody laws differ depending on the country. Furthermore, facilitating a divorce across national borders can present communication and logistical challenges. International divorces and custody cases should always be handled by an experienced and qualified family law attorney. Navigating divorce and/or custody disputes is hard enough on its own, but with the additional stress and uncertainty brought by international circumstances, it is crucial to have a dedicated attorney on your side. Let us help guide you through the nuances and complexities of international divorce and custody cases.