Family Law Attorneys in Methuen
Protecting Massachusetts Families' Rights
Divorce, separation, and other family law matters can be life-changing. You want to make certain that you have a caring and experienced lawyer on your side who will do everything possible to make the change as stress-free as possible. At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., we are committed to helping you set the stage for a positive future for you and your family. We take great care to pursue positive changes, no matter what family law issue you are faced with.
Our Methuen family lawyer handles all types of legal issues, including:
Handling Divorce & Related Matters
If you are looking for an efficient, hard-working attorney for your family law needs, you have come to the right place. Our team looks forward to representing your case, your best interests, and we work to bring you positive results.
Divorce is a process for legally terminating a marriage. The divorce classifications include either “fault” or “no fault” and “contested” or “uncontested.” A contested divorce implies that the parties do not agree on the terms of the divorce, while uncontested means the parties are in agreement on how they wish to proceed. A divorce based on a fault means that one party seeks to terminate the marriage based on actions such as adultery, desertion, imprisonment, or other reasons. The no fault divorce, is commonly referred to as a marriage that has reached an “irretrievable break”.
Division of Property
Massachusetts allows those entering a marriage to create a contract outlining how property will be divided if the marriage is terminated. Such contracts are referred to as premarital or prenuptial agreements. Without a premarital agreement, a couple terminating their marriage must agree on asset division. Parties not in agreement may have the court conduct an equitable distribution of assets. MA property law is such that all assets are subject to distribution, regardless of who acquired them or when they were acquired. Judges have significant latitude in determining a fair and reasonable split, as there is no specific formula. The judge will weigh a host of factors such as the length of marriage, as well as the health, income, and employability of each party.
Courts may order support be paid to either party in the form of alimony, along with support for any children from the marriage. In the interim period of the divorce process, courts may issue temporary orders. The court may also assign responsibility for health coverage when applicable. Child support is partially determined based on state guidelines, and varies according to what is determined to be in the child’s best interest. In addition (or instead of), courts may award assets from the estate as compensation. These assets could be in the form of property, retirement plans, pensions and more.
Child Custody Arrangements
Courts can make child custody determination orders, outlining the arrangements for any minor children based on what will best provide for the child’s happiness and welfare. Courts may assess the potential living arrangements in relation to the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health. There are several custody variations:
- Sole legal: One parent is exclusively assigned responsibility for the major aspects of the child’s well-being.
- Shared legal: Responsibilities for the child’s major aspects of well-being are shared.
- Sole physical: The child lives with one parent and the other has reasonable visitation rights.
- Shared physical: The child will have periods where they reside with both parents.
Courts generally encourage parenting time (visitation time) with both parents as long as the child’s safety is not a concern. Typically one parent is assigned physical (residential) custody with a visitation schedule for when the child visits the other parent. Schedules are based on the child’s needs, parent work schedules, and more. If the communication between the two is not good, then a written schedule is best. If courts determine that visitation could jeopardize the child’s safety, they may order a third party to facilitate a “supervised” visitation arrangement.
Children born to unmarried parents are entitled to the same rights as all children. Parents may voluntarily acknowledge their parentage, or upon complaint, the court can intervene to determine paternity. Each is responsible for supporting their children until they are 18 years old.
Grandparents may petition for visitation rights. Consistent with the court’s outlook on visitation, they may grant these rights if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
High Net Worth Divorces
In marriages where the couple has significant resources, divorce proceedings may increase in complexity and contentiousness. It is necessary to work with a family law attorney to ensure that your assets are handled appropriately during this process.
Parties in a divorce are asked to make full financial disclosure. Exchanging financial data is known as discovery. The process may be essential in cases of disputed assets. Some key items to provide include:
- Tax returns
- Bank account statements
- Pay stubs
- Information on health insurance coverage
- Pensions, IRA’s, and stocks
- Recent loan or mortgage applications
- Any additional information necessary to compile an accurate statement of assets and liabilities
You may deem it necessary to subpoena a witness, requesting their presence to complete discovery. Witnesses may provide testimony under oath in the form of a deposition. Both attorneys may question the individual, and usually the deposition is converted to a transcript.
Judges may issue orders for financial reasons such as child support or alimony and enforce them through a trustee process. This insures that the obligor’s employer or other income source(s) transmit a determined amount of funds each pay period.
Obligors who fail to adhere to a court order may be subjected to a contempt action. Judges may order them to appear in court for contempt and impose penalties. A contempt action should be filed in the same court that issued the original order.
An order may need to be adjusted, or modified, at times. For example, a party assigned with providing the health insurance coverage has changed jobs, and no longer has coverage access. Changes in residence, income, or marital status may impact the status of alimony or child support for the court to address.
Comprehensive Family Law Services in Massachusetts
Whether you need help with a divorce or any other family law matter, you will have questions. We are ready with answers and to address all of your various concerns. Our legal team takes pride in our ability to provide you with our full attention, listening to your unique needs, and give you personalized answers to your questions, no matter how far your case has progressed. We stay by your side until the end of your legal journey.
With offices in Methuen, Burlington and Andover, we handle a wide range of family law cases in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Contact our offices online today at (978) 327-5140.
- Family Law Blogs
- Divorce - Massachusetts Court System
- The Basics of Equitable Distribution and the Treatment of Gifted and Inherited Assets in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Department of Children & Families