Worcester Divorce Lawyers
Also Serving Clients in Hanover & Westborough, MA
Divorce is a process that completely changes one’s life and can be extremely difficult on everyone involved. It often leads to a range of emotions, such as anger, jealousy, resentment, and even revenge. Conflicts that arise in divorce might be over one or more issues; these types of emotions can fuel disputes and may have stemmed from issues that began earlier within the marriage itself. Getting through the process can be overwhelming which is why a dedicated divorce lawyer can be the ally you need to stand by your side to protect you and your family throughout the proceedings. At O’Connor Family Law, we can help you navigate the difficult waters of divorce during this emotionally-trying time. With over 35 years of experience, we can help you understand what to expect, help you focus your outlook in a more positive way so you can actually start a new life, and fight for the outcome you deserve.
Divorce in Massachusetts
Besides death, a marriage is only terminated when a Massachusetts court enters a judgment of divorce. This will occur after all issues pertaining to the dissolution of your marriage are resolved.
These issues include:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- The division and distribution of marital property and debt
- Alimony (spousal support)
- Any other issues relevant to the process
These issues can be complicated in and of themselves. Allegations of drug and alcohol abuse or domestic or sexual violence may complicate them even further as can complex financial holdings such as family businesses, professional corporations, high net worth, hidden assets, and more. Furthermore, the process can be long, slow, and frustrating, fraught with uncertainty and stress. It is a situation that strongly calls for the services of a law firm such as O’Connor Family Law that is well-versed in the law, the procedures, how courts view vary issues, and how to prepare and fight for your best interests.
How the Process Works
Divorce has an underlying process providing a general roadmap for those facing it. This roadmap will give you a general idea of what to expect. However, every divorce case is unique and may present challenges that cause it to divert from the general path.
The procedure starts with a complaint for divorce filed with the court. After this, a court summons and complaint is served to the other spouse. A response, called an “answer” from the spouse is required within 20 days. Depending on the issues involved in your case, you may then need to attend a hearing on a motion for temporary orders.
Temporary orders generally are needed when children or assets are part of the divorce. These orders will be issued by the court for you and your spouse to follow until the divorce is concluded. They usually set forth a visitation schedule, child support, or alimony order, declare who shall live in the house, pay the bills, and can include a host of other issues that generally cannot wait for the case to be finalized. Either party can file a motion for these orders to be put into place at any point during the divorce process.
When going to court for the hearing, you will generally be required to meet with a family service officer through the Family Court Probation Services. This is not the same as probation in a criminal matter. It resembles a mediation where the probation officer will help you and your spouse come to an agreement on your issues. If the two of you reach an agreement, it can be entered as a stipulation with the court that consists of a written statement that lays out each of your rights and responsibilities during the divorce process. If you are unable to agree, you will go before the judge and each party will argue as to what they believe their rights and responsibilities should be. After the hearing, the judge will consider what both parties presented and then issue an order that will arrive by mail. Once you get temporary orders, they are legally enforceable and you must follow the terms.
During the divorce process, “discovery” can be conducted to help uncover any important information or evidence that either side feels is needed. The amount of discovery that is necessary varies considerably from case to case, depending on the circumstances.
The Pre-Trial Conference Hearing
A pre-trial conference hearing is usually scheduled approximately six months after the filing date, although it may take longer. This conference is not a trial. It is the chance to present your side of the case to the judge to get feedback that can help you settle the case. About 80 percent of divorce cases are settled at the pre-trial stage or shortly thereafter based on the judge’s feedback.
In cases where negotiation and compromise fail to work, you may need to fight for what you know is right. If an amenable compromise cannot be reached, your case will likely be scheduled for trial. Our Worcester divorce attorneys have extensive experience negotiating agreements as well as going to trial; we can fully handle all possibilities.
Filing for Divorce
You must file for divorce where you and your spouse reside. If you have lived in the Worcester area for at least one year, you would file at the Worcester County Probate and Family Court. If this is not the case, you will file in the last county where you resided. While the court makes every attempt to resolve cases expediently, the timeframe of divorce proceedings greatly depends on the level of conflict between you and your spouse.
Contested & Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce is one where you and your spouse cannot agree on the issues. These generally take longer to be resolved, generally between nine and 14 months. However, if custody is contested or allegations of drug, alcohol, child or spousal abuse are made, the process may take longer. When spouses hide assets or otherwise act in bad faith, it is essential to take the extra time to ensure that all assets are disclosed so they can be distributed fairly. O’Connor Family Law is not afraid to fight in court for a fair and just resolution to your divorce.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties have resolved all issues and put them into a written separation agreement before anything is filed in court. Once all paperwork is completed, you would then jointly file a petition for divorce. In these cases where no court intervention is needed, a divorce may be granted with as little as one court appearance.
Unfortunately, contested divorces more often take place due to each spouse having a different idea of what is fair. In a contested divorce, one party files for the divorce and the other is served the complaint. You may then obtain temporary orders from the court as mentioned above. Even though these are called contested divorces, most are still resolved through settlement rather than trial.
Let Our Firm Advocate for You During Your Divorce
The divorce process can be daunting and stressful. Our firm can stand by your side providing the knowledge and experience you need to bring peace of mind. Our legal team is passionate about giving you the confidence and support you need at this difficult time and helping you move forward into a better future.
Very sensitive, responsive, attentive, and professional.- David
I can’t thank her enough!- Tanya
I highly recommend this family law firm and wouldn’t want anyone else representing me in this tough time in my life!- Former Client
I am forever grateful for the team's incredible efforts to make my stepdaughter's dream of having "a normal life" with her dad come true.- Lauren
They were always quick to respond and provided the information I was seeking.- Melanie