Reason for Termination of Marriage
A divorce to end a marriage may stem from reasons including adultery, impotency, desertion, imprisonment, habitual intoxication, abuse, cruelty, neglect, or an irretrievable failure in the marriage. Divorces may be adjudged if an individual is sentenced to imprisonment or confinement for a period of five years or more. Desertion is when a party has relocated voluntarily for over one year and does not indicate intentions of returning. A divorce may be granted based on the presumptive death of a party in a marriage if they have been absent for a long period and the circumstances suggest such. An irretrievable breakdown is classified as a “no-fault” ground where both parties have agreed to terminate the marriage.
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Initiating the Process for Divorce
A divorce based on an irretrievable breakdown may begin with a petition signed by both parties, or a sworn affidavit(s) indicated their intent. A separation agreement may also be used if notarized. Actions involved with no-fault divorces (dissolution) may require a pre-trial meeting to address issues that may be contested. If one party is filing for a divorce, the other party must be served with written notice of a summons to domestic relations.
Proceedings & Temporary Support Orders
Once 30 days has elapsed after prior approval in a dissolution proceeding, the court may order a divorce nisi judgment and all provisions in the written agreement may take effect. After this point the “no-fault” divorce process is essentially concluded. During the pendency of divorce action, the court may order temporary arrangements for child custody and support, as well as alimony support, and for either party to provide health insurance. There may be requests entered for discovery, which begins the process of listing and disclosing all assets, debts, and liabilities they possess. Parties may request witnesses to gather information from and other such actions.
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Child Custody & Support
Child custody judgments are made by the court and have several potential arrangements:
- Sole legal custody: One parent has the responsibility for decisions of importance relating to the child, such as the child’s healthcare, education, and religious involvement.
- Shared legal custody: Both parents maintain responsibilities and contribute to the major decisions.
- Sole physical custody: The child lives with one parent, while the other may have visitation rights, if the court determines that is in the child’s best interest.
- Shared physical custody: The child will live with both parents for periods of time, thus sharing custody.
When the court makes an order for child support, or regularly provided financial assistance, the amount is determined according to guidance from the chief trial court justice and calculated according to a child support worksheet. The court does have some latitude to vary from the guidelines based on certain circumstances. Courts may modify orders of support when needed. Children over the age of 18, yet under the age of 23, may still have educational support ordered on their behalf that does not exceed the child’s achieving an undergraduate degree.
Property Division & Alimony
In instances of “no-fault” dissolution, a Joint Petition for Divorce will outline the division of property and issues of alimony support agreed upon.
In the other instances, the court decides the arrangements for alimony, after determining an equitable division of property. In place of, or in addition to alimony support, courts may allocate any assets or property of the estate such as retirement plans, pensions, a home, or annuities among the parties. Considerations involved in these decisions may include:
- Conduct of the parties within the marriage
- Age, health, or illness
- Occupational outlook, income, skills, likely employability, and health care coverage access
- Contributions of either party in acquiring or protecting the estate’s value, including efforts by a homemaker
Are you pondering or ready to proceed forward with a divorce in a town such as Andover, Dracut, or Ballardville, MA? It is important to retain an attorney who is a seasoned professional in advocating for the rights of those in such proceedings. At the DiBella Law Offices, P.C., they understand the concerns associated with support, custody and visitation rights for those residing in areas such as Groveland, Haverhill, and Lawrence, MA. For a complimentary consultation, contact the Andover office today at (978) 327-5140 to speak with a family law attorney.