Getting divorced may be one of the most challenging events you may have to encounter in your life. It is accompanied by strong emotions and problems with the decision–making process.
During these difficult times, it is crucial to hire an experienced Boston divorce attorney who will guide you through the divorce process and provide skilled and effective legal advice and services.
Divorce attorney Michael S. Parousis can help you navigate through the divorce process and give you legal advice about your unique case.
- 1 The Division of Marital Property in Massachusetts
- 1.1 Equitable Division
- 1.2 Factors Used in Dividing Property via Equitable Division
- 1.3 How Long Will Your Divorce Take?
- 1.4 How Long Do You Have to Wait After Your Divorce Case is Done at Court?
- 1.5 Should You Choose a Do-it-Yourself Divorce?
- 1.6 What is Child Support?
- 1.7 How is Child Support Determined in Massachusetts?
- 1.8 How Long Do You Have to Pay Once Child Support is Ordered?
- 1.9 Can You Reduce Your Child Support Payments If Your Income Changes?
- 1.10 How Far Back Will the Court Go When Changing a Child Support Order?
- 1.11 How Do Visitation Rights Relate to Child Support Payments?
- 2 Alimony
- 2.1 General term alimony
- 2.2 Rehabilitative Alimony
- 2.3 Reimbursement alimony
- 2.4 Transitional alimony
- 2.5 Who Can Ask for Alimony?
- 2.6 How Does the Court Decide Whether to Award Alimony?
- 2.7 Can You Use Certain Guidelines or Formulas to Determine the Alimony Amount?
- 2.8 Who Gets Custody of the Children in a Massachusetts Divorce?
- 2.9 Different Types of Child Custody
- 2.10 Who is Responsible for Paying Child Support in Case of Joint Child Custody?
- 2.11 Can A Massachusetts Child Custody Order Be Changed Or Modified?
- 2.12 Are Specific Circumstances Required to Modify a Custody Agreement?
- 2.13 Can Your Ex Move Out of the State with Your Child?
- 3 Why Choose Parousis Law For Your Family Law Case?
Massachusetts Divorce Facts
If you are getting a divorce, you should be aware that two types of divorces exist in MA: no-fault divorce and fault divorce.
In Massachusetts, you are allowed to file a no-fault divorce, also known as the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. It means that you are not required to prove that your spouse did something wrong to get divorced. All you need for your request to be granted is prove that your marriage is irretrievably broken.
Two options for a no-fault divorce include the following:
- 1A divorce
- 1B divorce
You should file a 1A divorce if you and your spouse agree that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. In this case, you should reach a written agreement about alimony, child support, child custody, parenting time, and dividing marital assets. This is an uncontested no-fault divorce, which should be handled by an uncontested divorce lawyer, and you can expect it to be finalized in between 90 and 120 days. If a separation agreement is involved, you will need to wait closer to 120 days.
If you and your spouse are in complete agreement, certain simplified divorce procedures may apply to you. However, you should discuss the available options with experienced divorce lawyers specializing in these cases.
The second option is the 1B divorce. You should file a 1B divorce if you believe your marriage has broken down irretrievably, but your spouse does not. Also, you can file this type of divorce if both of you agree that your marriage has ended but haven’t reached an agreement about support, custody, and marital property problems. This is a contested no-fault divorce.
If you file a 1B divorce but reach an agreement later in the process, you can file a request to change your complaint to 1A divorce. It is best to consult with uncontested divorce attorney Parousis for more information about your available options.
Spouses file a fault divorce when one spouse claims that the other spouse is to blame for the breakdown of their marriage.
Opting for a fault divorce is more complicated and involves higher attorney fees. Because of this, it may be a better idea to file a no-fault divorce unless you have solid proof that your spouse is at fault or the prevailing situation produces sizable benefits to you.
When filing a fault divorce, the spouse who initiated the process must prove specific grounds or reasons for the divorce. The following grounds apply:
- A prison sentence lasting 5 years, or more
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication
Keep in mind that a fault divorce is more expensive and time-consuming compared to a no-fault divorce.
The Division of Marital Property in Massachusetts
Equitable division means that, during the divorce process, judges look to see how the marital property can be split equitably. The court will make a decision about the division of the marital debts and assets based on what the court determines is the best option.
Factors Used in Dividing Property via Equitable Division
Having the judge determine the proper outcome makes logical sense and helps to dissuade parties from avoiding the marital classification of assets to fare better in the divorce.
The spouses can keep the assets from being part of the marital property in Massachusetts by not owning the assets. In order to create a proper and equitable distribution of marital assets, the judge, both parties, and the attorneys need to consider all the circumstances of the case.
The mandatory factors that need to be considered include the following:
- Estate, liabilities, and needs of each of the parties
- Occupation of the parties
- The amount and sources of income
- The age, health, station of the parties
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income,
- The present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage
- Vocational skills and employability of the parties.
Michael Parousis, Attorney at Law, will help to determine the proper weight that should be given to the factors present in the case.
How Long Will Your Divorce Take?
According to the tracking system used by the court for all types of cases, divorce cases should go to trial, be dismissed, or be settled within 14 months.
How Long Do You Have to Wait After Your Divorce Case is Done at Court?
In Massachusetts, after your divorce case is done at court and you and your spouse enter a binding Separation Agreement, you need to wait for the so-called “Nisi Period” of 90 to 120 days before your divorce becomes final.
Should You Choose a Do-it-Yourself Divorce?
A do-it-yourself divorce may seem straightforward, but it can become very complicated. You can choose this option if you want to, but it may not be the best idea for your case.
No matter if they are contested or uncontested, all divorces involve:
- Disclosure of all financial documentation
- Mediation and/or court hearings
- Legal pleadings
- Paperwork that needs to be completed and filed before the specified deadline
- All documentation must be prepared in accordance with Massachusetts Law to prevent problems that may arise during the divorce process.
What is Child Support?
Child support represents the amount of money a parent pays to support their children if the children do not live with them. It is paid to the other parent or someone else responsible for caring for the children; it is not paid to the children.
This financial support is used to help pay for the children’s needs. Some of the things child support should help pay for include:
- Childcare costs
- Education costs
- Food and clothing
- Health insurance and medical costs
No matter if the parents are married, separated, divorced, or they have never gotten married, they must support their children according to Massachusetts laws.
If your children spend most of the time with you and live with you, you are the custodial parent and entitled to child support. On the other hand, if your kids live with the other parent most of the time, this makes you the non-custodial parent.
Besides having to pay child support, the non-custodial parents are also often responsible for providing health insurance for the kids. However, the court can add health insurance coverage to child support only if this insurance is available at a reasonable price.
If the kids are on public assistance, such as welfare, the state will collect child support and then send $50 of child support to the other parent while using the rest for covering the cost of the public assistance the children get.
How is Child Support Determined in Massachusetts?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts uses a formula to determine child support, which takes into account several factors, including:
- Gross incomes of custodial and non-custodial parents
- Childcare costs
- Children’s age
- Health insurance costs
Considering the factors listed above, the court determines the amount believed to be fair to both parents. This amount should be high enough to cover the children’s needs and meet the child support guidelines set by the state.
How Long Do You Have to Pay Once Child Support is Ordered?
After the court determines the amount of child support payments, the non-custodial parent must make these payments until the children emancipate from their parents.
However, emancipation depends on each kid’s circumstances. For example, if the kid is over 18 years old and doesn’t depend on the parents’ support, they no longer need child support.
If the kid is aged between 18 and 21 years but still depends on the parents’ support, they need child support payments. If the child goes to college, the payments may last up through the age of 23. The judge may also order a parent to help pay for the child’s college tuition. However, this expense must be considered when making the support order.
If the child still needs support after turning 18, but the support order doesn’t say what happens in these situations, a parent can file a new complaint. In this case, it would be best to consult Attorney Parousis for help.
Can You Reduce Your Child Support Payments If Your Income Changes?
The support order can be modified in the following cases:
- A change in a parent’s income has occurred
- A change in a parent’s health insurance choices has occurred
- Specific expenses related to taking care of a child have changed
Keep in mind that any parent can ask the court to modify the child support order if his or her life has changed in any of these ways; no matter if that parent pays or receives child support.
These modifications only apply to the period since the complaint has been served and not before that. It is crucial to file a complaint for modification as soon as you realize that you need to modify the support order.
The factors that can change a parent’s income include:
- Going on welfare or unemployment
- Losing a job
- Getting a job with a higher income
- Getting fewer hours at work
- Sustaining injuries or going on disability
- Going to prison.
How Far Back Will the Court Go When Changing a Child Support Order?
If the court changes your current child support order, the modified order will only go back to the date when the modification complaint has been served. The served date is when the other parent gets the complaint and the summons.
- Non-custodial parent loses job on May 15th
- Files a Complaint for Modification on June 25th
- The custodial parent receives the official notice and complaint on July 5th
- The court reduces child support order on July 22nd
In this case, the non-custodial parent will start paying less money on July 5th, not May 15th.
How Do Visitation Rights Relate to Child Support Payments?
In general, the connection between visitation rights and paying child support doesn’t exist. Parenting and visitation rights are determined by the court depending on the child’s best interests. If a parent pays child support, it doesn’t automatically entitle them to have parenting time. While not paying child support will not automatically stop parenting time.
Alimony represents spousal support to a spouse who needs financial help, as long as the other spouse can pay this type of support. In Massachusetts, alimony may be affected by child support.
The spouse who gets alimony is required to pay income taxes as if the received amount was earned income. The payer (the spouse paying alimony) can deduct this amount from the gross taxable income.
Different Types of Alimony:
General term alimony
General term alimony represents support that is paid on a regular basis to an ex-spouse who depends financially on the former spouse, and the length of time it is paid depends on the length of the marriage.
If the marriage lasted twenty years or less, general term alimony should terminate no later than a date certain under the following limits:
- If the marriage lasted five years or less, general term alimony will continue for no longer than one-half of the marriage’s duration in months.
- If the marriage lasted ten years or less, but no less than five years, general term alimony will continue for no longer than sixty percent of the number of months of the marriage.
- If the marriage lasted fifteen years or less, but no less than one decade, general term alimony will continue for no longer than seventy percent of the marriage’s duration in months.
- If the marriage lasted two decades or less, but no less than fifteen years, general term alimony will continue for no longer than eighty percent of the marriage’s duration in months.
- If the marriage lasted more than two decades, the court may order general term alimony for an indefinite length of time.
General term alimony automatically ends in the following cases:
- Either spouse dies
- The spouse who receives the alimony remarries
- The spouse who pays the alimony reaches full retirement age
It is possible to suspend, reduce or end general term alimony if the spouse paying for the alimony can prove that the spouse receiving the alimony has cohabitated with another person. The term cohabitation includes keeping a common household with another person continuously for at least 3 months.
However, if both spouses agreed in writing that it is impossible to modify the alimony, the judge usually can’t change it; the judge can only change the general term alimony if there’s no written agreement stating that the alimony can’t be changed.
Suppose there is no agreement discussing modifying the alimony. In that case, it is necessary to show to the judge that there’s been a material change of circumstances, and this change has to happen after the general term alimony order. This change of circumstances means that something important in your situation has changed, such as:
- One spouse becomes disabled
- A spouse has cohabitated with a new partner continuously for more than 3 months
General term alimony modifications can be for a specific duration, indefinite, or permanent. The judge can change the amount or the duration of the alimony.
Rehabilitative alimony represents support paid on a regular basis to an ex-spouse who is expected to be able to support themselves by a specified time. The judge can order rehabilitative alimony for up to 5 years for any length of the marriage.
Rehabilitative alimony automatically ends in the following cases:
- Either spouse died
- The spouse who receives the rehabilitative alimony remarries
- A specific event has happened
It is possible for the court to change the amount of rehabilitative alimony based upon a material change of circumstances within the specified period.
Reimbursement alimony represents support that is paid on a regular basis or as a one-time payment after a marriage that lasted less than five years to cover for expenses that the ex-spouse has paid in order to help the paying spouse.
These expenses may include enabling the paying spouse to complete a job training or an education.
The judge can order reimbursement alimony if the marriage lasted no more than 5 years for any length of time.
Reimbursement alimony automatically ends in the following cases:
- The spouse receiving reimbursement alimony dies
- When the date the judge ordered the alimony to end arrives
The court can’t change the alimony order, and neither spouse can ask the court to modify reimbursement alimony.
Transitional alimony represents support paid regularly or as a one-time payment after a marriage that lasted less than 5 years to help the spouse receiving the alimony settle into a new location or lifestyle due to the divorce.
The judge can order transitional alimony if the marriage lasted no more than 5 years, for up to 3 years.
Transitional alimony automatically ends in the following cases:
- The spouse receiving transitional alimony dies
- When the date the judge ordered the alimony to end arrives
It is not possible for the court to extend, modify or replace transitional alimony with other types of alimony.
Who Can Ask for Alimony?
You, your spouse, or both of you can ask for alimony after you decide to get divorced.
Additionally, if the original divorce judgment has failed to mention alimony, you are eligible to file a complaint for alimony for the first time at any time after the divorce.
It is possible to modify alimony after a divorce through a process called Modification.
How Does the Court Decide Whether to Award Alimony?
Massachusetts law dictates factors a judge needs to take into consideration when making a decision whether to award alimony or now, and if yes, for how long, and how much. The factors include the following:
- Length of the marriage
- The health and age of each spouse
- The income of each spouse
- The employment and employability of each spouse
- Economic opportunities that either spouse lost because of the marriage
- The economic and non-economic contributions of each spouse to the marriage
- The standard of living and lifestyle of a married couple
- Other factors the court deems relevant
Can You Use Certain Guidelines or Formulas to Determine the Alimony Amount?
No, you can’t, since there are no formulas or guidelines to determine the exact alimony amount. However, in general, according to Massachusetts law, alimony should not exceed 30% to 35% of the difference in income between the paying and the receiving spouse, nor should it be higher than the need of a receiving spouse.
Keep in mind that this rule doesn’t apply to reimbursement alimony or cases in which a deviation from the ordinary rules is appropriate.
Who Gets Custody of the Children in a Massachusetts Divorce?
If both spouses come to an agreement regarding custody in the event of a divorce or separation, these terms can be outlined in a custody agreement. A custody agreement needs to contain an outline of how major decisions will be made, what birthdays, holidays, and vacations the children will spend with each parent, and similar.
If it is not possible to come to an agreement regarding custody, the court may need to be involved to make a final custody ruling based on the child’s best interests.
Different Types of Child Custody
Two types of custody can be granted by Massachusetts Courts – legal and physical, but both of them have two variations.
- Sole legal custody – only one parent has the right and responsibility to make important decisions, such as a matter of education, medical care, moral, emotional, and religious development.
- Shared legal custody – the parents have a mutual responsibility to make important decisions, such as a matter of education, medical care, moral, emotional, and religious development.
- Sole physical custody – a child will be under the supervision of and reside with one parent. The other parent will have reasonable visitation rights unless the court decides this visitation is not in the child’s best interest.
- Shared physical custody – a child will have periods of being under the supervision of and residing with each parent, but the custody will be shared in a way that ensures continued and frequent contact with both parents.
Who is Responsible for Paying Child Support in Case of Joint Child Custody?
One parent is always responsible for paying child support, even in joint custody cases. In most situations, the non-primary custodial parent is responsible for paying support to the primary custodial parent.
If the split is 50/50, the spouse with the higher income usually pays child support to the spouse with the lower income in order to ensure the child’s standard of living is the same in both locations.
Can A Massachusetts Child Custody Order Be Changed Or Modified?
Yes, your child custody order can be changed or modified. To do this, you need to file a Complaint for Modification that pleads substantial changes of circumstances since the Final Order was approved.
This complaint needs to contain either new facts or facts that were not known at the time of the last order. It is not possible to modify the child custody order based on old facts, only because you may assume the initial order was not right.
Are Specific Circumstances Required to Modify a Custody Agreement?
Yes, specific circumstances are required for the custody agreement to be modified. Courts are reluctant to modify custody agreements unless the parent filing the action can show that their home is better for the children. If both parents’ homes are equally good, there will be no modifications to the custody arrangement.
You have a chance of changing a custody agreement if your circumstances have improved while the circumstances of the other parent have decreased. Courts change custody arrangements because of the following reasons:
- Recent alcohol or drug abuse
- Toxic remarriage
- Denial of rights for the non-custodial parent
- Failure in school
- Inability or unwillingness to attend to a child’s needs
If you have a substantial change in life circumstances, feel free to schedule a consultation with Attorney Michael S. Parousis to determine the best solution for your child’s needs and your unique situation.
Can Your Ex Move Out of the State with Your Child?
If you are divorced and a parenting agreement is in place, your ex-spouse cannot move out of state with your minor child without your consent. A parent can move out of the state if they desire, but they are not allowed to take the children with them.
If you are still married, or there isn’t a parenting agreement in place, it would be possible for the parent to move out of state without informing the other parent or getting permission from the court. However, when the other parent finds out, they have the right to go to court immediately and ask for the child’s return while a parenting plan is sorted out through the courts. In case you or your ex-spouse are considering relocation, you should consult your attorney for help and legal advice.
Why Choose Parousis Law For Your Family Law Case?
When you hire Attorney Michael S. Parousis, you’re working with an experienced and knowledgeable legal professional who will help you through all aspects of the divorce process.
Parousis Law strives to achieve the best possible outcome of each case while avoiding needless confrontations. If you are looking for an attorney to help you move on with your life, don’t hesitate to contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case.
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