As many experienced divorce attorneys will attest, divorce proceedings are some of the most emotionally charged cases that end up in a courtroom. Common reasons include: the major life changes the parties are dealing with; the associated uncertainty regarding what the future will hold; disputes over child custody, visitation, and parenting time; the feelings of failure, betrayal and / or abandonment many divorcing individuals experience; the stress of the divorce process itself; allegations of wrongdoing; the financial cost of divorcing; the financial cost of setting up two households after pooling resources while married; domestic violence; disputes over spousal support (alimony) and child support; and the competing arguments for what each party should receive out of the marital estate.
One of the best things a person facing or contemplating divorce can do is to hire a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to guide them through the divorce process. While a skilled divorce attorney will argue vigorously towards achieving the best outcome for their client, a divorce lawyer’s job does not begin and end with zealous arguments at trial, motion hearings, or other conferences. Both before and during the divorce process, a divorce lawyer also needs to offer both compassionate and dispassionate guidance and advice to their clients. Divorce law is complex, and divorcing spouses are entitled not only to forceful arguments, but also to know what the law likely provides for, and what the client can reasonably hope and expect to achieve through the different available proceedings.
How to go about getting a divorce depends on the unique circumstances of each case. Massachusetts divorce law provides for two basic types of proceedings. In many cases, the best approach is to file a joint petition for divorce, which typically involves working out a mutually agreeable separation agreement before the divorce case is even started in court. The parties then file a joint petition for divorce and approval of their separation agreement, along with additional requisite documents (and of course the filing fee). Depending on the specific Probate and Family Court and its caseload at the time, joint petitions for divorce can be filed and allowed in a single day in some cases.
While a joint petition often saves litigants tremendous time, money, and stress, it is neither right nor advisable for every divorce case. Each person and marriage is unique. Whenever a joint petition is not practical or possible, one of the spouses needs to file a complaint for divorce, and begin what is commonly called a contested proceeding. The person who files the complaint is then called the plaintiff, and the other spouse is called the defendant. The plaintiff needs to files the complaint for divorce with the Probate and Family Court in the appropriate county, though sometimes multiple counties are appropriate depending on the locations where the divorcing spouses reside. After the complaint is filed, the plaintiff must then arrange for service of process upon the defendant. The defendant then files an answer, and often a counterclaim for divorce as well. From that point on, how the proceedings advance further depends on a myriad of factors, but ultimately, the case will proceed to trial if a separation agreement is not reached in the interim.
Regardless of what approach you are considering or want more information on, please contact an experienced divorce lawyer at LaFountain & Wollman, P.C., for a free initial divorce consultation today. We can help you both understand the law and your rights and responsibilities, and will work with you towards achieving a divorce by whatever process you are most comfortable with after consultation.