It is a rough day when you realize that your marriage is over. There are so many questions and even when the parties are in agreement about the divorce, no one really knows where to begin. Here are the basics that everyone getting divorced should know.
Figure Out What You Can Agree On
The first step is to determine whether you and your spouse will be able to reach an agreement to resolve issues of division of assets, custody, visitation, child support, and alimony. If both parties are willing to work together, you should consider mediation to help work out the details before emotions escalate the situation resulting in a lack of cooperation among the parties which may not be in the best interest of any children. Even parties with the best intentions run into issues when trying to disentangle their lives from one another. A mediator can assist the parties in reaching a fair and equitable agreement in regard to assets and a parenting plan that is best for children. This is also, generally, the least expensive avenue to pursue in obtaining a divorce. If the parties can agree on the terms of the divorce then you will file an uncontested “1A” divorce. If the parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce then you will file a contested “1B” divorce.
The Importance of Civility Among Divorcing Parents
If the divorcing couple are parents it is important to remember that the more amicable the divorce is the easier and less tumultuous it is for not only yourselves but more importantly for your children. It is always in the best of interest of children for parents to be able to work together. Divorcing parents with minor children are required to attend a Parenting Education Program by a Court approved educator. This certificate of attendance will need to be filed with the Court after the Complaint is filed. The Court will not place your divorce on the calendar for hearing without the Certificate being filed by each parent. Both parents must take the course and the course is attended separately. The purpose of the course is to educate parents on how to communicate during and after the divorce to maintain a civility between the parties and to understand the impact of divorce on children. Thus, I always recommend that clients take this program as soon as possible. The clerk’s office at your local Probate and Family Court will have a list of approved programs.
What Documentation Will I need?
The Probate and Family Court requires disclosure of the following information by documentation within 45 days after service of the Complaint. (See Rule 410- Mandatory Self Disclosure)
- Federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the past 3 years and any non-public, limited partnership and privately held corporate returns for any entity in which either party has an interest together with all supporting documentation for tax returns, including but not limited to w-2s, 1099’s, 1098’s, K-1, Schedule C and Schedule E.
- Four (4) most recent paystubs from each employer.
- Documentation for the cost and information of available health insurance.
- Statements for the last 3 years of all bank accounts of each party or held for the benefit of many minor child.
- Statements for the past three (3) years for any securities, stocks, bonds, notes or obligations, certificates of deposit owned or held by either party or held by either party for the benefit of the parties’ minor child(ren), 401K statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements for all accounts listed on the 401 financial statement.
- Copies of any loan or mortgage applications made, prepared or submitted by either party within the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint.
- Copies of any financial statement and/or statement of assets and liabilities prepared by either party within the last three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint.
Filing the Complaint
Once a Complaint for Divorce is filed neither party can change, hide, sell, or transfer assets. The Court will not look kindly upon the party that attempts to hide and deprive assets that are to be divided. Remember, in Massachusetts all assets are “on the table” including property, gifts, assets, inheritances, pensions, etc. that were received, earned or obtained prior to and during marriage and occasionally those that are anticipated.
Who Has Custody?
It is also important to remember that until the Court orders otherwise, both parents share physical and legal custody of their minor children. If the parties can work together to reach an agreement, it is advisable to consult with a mediator and/or attorney to assist in the preparation of a separation agreement based upon the wishes of the parties. Even if you think you can resolve all of the issues on your own, it is advisable to consult with a divorce attorney to ensure you have covered all the issues that are likely to arise so you are not brought back into court to modify agreements based upon future changes. It is also advisable to consult a divorce attorney so that assets are divided equitably, as this part of a divorce cannot be modified at a later time even if there is a substantial change in circumstances. Modifications are generally limited to issues of custody, visitation, and child support.
If divorce is inevitable contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you through this process. We will assist you in obtaining a divorce with dignity and respect.