Divorce and Domestic Relations
The goal of a divorce is not for the parties to see how much they can hurt each other emotionally or economically on the way out of a tragic turn of events. The goal is to arrive at an economic endpoint that puts the parties in as close to the same economic position that they enjoyed during the marriage. Obviously, it is not possible for two people to maintain the same standard of living separately that they did while living under one roof and sharing all assets and expenses. Because Massachusetts is a community property state, all property of every kind and description that was acquired during the marriage no matter who paid for it will be divided fifty/fifty absent some truly compelling reason to do otherwise.
Arriving at this split is often complicated, however, particularly when one or the other party is less than forthcoming with information about assets that the other party does not know exist and has never had any control over. This is one area in which the experienced divorce lawyer has a far greater ability to pry the information out of a reluctant party than the unrepresented spouse does.
Often, there are issues of alimony, child custody, support and visitation that must be resolved. While there are published guidelines for determining child support and, as of March, 2012, alimony as well, it cannot be overemphasized that they are only guidelines and the experienced divorce lawyer will know when and what circumstances warrant deviating from the guidelines and how to advocate for them.
Temporary Orders are usually issued by the Court after a hearing obtained by either party by way of a Motion for Temporary Orders. This hearing usually occurs at a very early stage in the proceedings, and addresses all of the previously discussed elements of the final divorce; temporary alimony, child custody, support and visitation. Although the orders are temporary only up until the final divorce, it is the usual practice to try to approximate as closely as possible what the final orders will be. They may remain in place for as long as the divorce is ongoing - even several years. Without having any knowledge about what to ask for on your own, this is a crucial stage at which to have legal representation.
In assessing what is a fair allocation of what were marital resources to the two parties following the divorce, the process known as discovery is designed to bring about disclosure of every asset and liability. The Domestic Relations rules require that the parties each disclose a voluminous amount of documents, but the circumstances of a particular marriage may warrant the production of additional material as well. Knowledgeable divorce counsel is in the position to determine and obtain the production of all documents needed to obtain the fairest result.
Most divorces are resolved short of trial by the parties reaching an agreement. The agreement is encompassed in a complex and detailed document known as a Separation Agreement. As this Agreement contains all of the provisions that will govern the final separation of the parties as well as their future obligations to each other, it is essential that skilled legal counsel is involved in either drafting or reviewing it. The unrepresented litigant is in no position to determine whether an agreement drafted by counsel for the other party is fair or reasonable. If the case can only be resolved through a trial, representation by a skilled divorce attorney is obviously critical as the unrepresented parties have no understanding of the rules of evidence and procedure governing such a trial.
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