Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce
How do I go about hiring a lawyer?
Unlike many other firms which charge consultation fees, the Law Offices of Andrew K. Keutmann offers a free consultation to discuss your needs in a no pressure, no commitment atmosphere. We can talk about your options and then, if you decide to retain the Firm's services we can talk about retainers of flat fee costs. The consultation provides you with valuable legal advice with no cost or commitment for you.
How do I begin the divorce process?
The first step in obtaining a divorce is filing a complaint for divorce. You can file either a contested complaint for divorce or an uncontested complaint for divorce.
Should I file a contested complaint or an uncontested complaint?
It depends. In order to file an uncontested complaint you must have all issues agreed upon ahead of time. These issues include but may not be limited to: property division (including retirement accounts, bank accounts, and motor vehicles), a parenting plan, child support, alimony, health insurance, real estate (who will live there? will it be sold? will it be transferred to one party?), and division of debts. If all of these issues can presently be agreed upon between you and your spouse then you can file an uncontested complaint. Otherwise you will have to file a contested complaint.
What is a Separation Agreement?
A Separation Agreement is a contract between two divorcing parties which settles all issues necessary to settle when people are divorced. As discussed above there are many issues which need to be in a Separation Agreement and there are other optional agreements which can be added. Some of these provisions include the requirement to maintain life insurance for the benefit of a spouse or child, provisions dealing with extracurricular activities, or how college expenses will be paid. Both parties must sign the Agreement for it to have effect. Once they do, it is usually incorporated into a judgment of the Probate and Family Court which makes it court order. It is very important to consult a qualified domestic relations attorney before signing a Separation Agreement because it is a legally binding instrument which will have long-lasting at times, irreversible consequences on you and your family.
Can I write a Separation Agreement myself?
You can, but it is always better to consult an attorney. The issues that are resolved in a Separation Agreement will have a multitude of implications, some of which cannot be undone including tax consequences. Many issues that need to be resolved require technical writing and those who try to do it themselves often wind up with Agreements that cause more conflicts in the future than if it had been written by an experienced professional. Additionally, issues such as child support, alimony, child custody and the division of assets will be reviewed by a judge in the future who will apply legal standards to assess the fairness of the agreement. If it does not meet these standards, the court will require you to rewrite your agreement which may require you to start from the beginning. So it is better to involve a knowledgeable attorney at the beginning of the process to help guide you through what the court will be looking for and offer suggestions as to possible resolutions.
What if my spouse and I cannot agree on some things or anything?
If you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse you can always file a contested complaint for divorce. This document will start a legal case. You will be the plaintiff and your spouse will be the defendant. The case proceeds as many legal cases do but with a strong emphasis on full disclosures of all your income, assets and liabilities and those of your spouse. Once both parties are satisfied that a full disclosure has been made and all the required documents have been exchanged, the case can progress to a pre-trial conference and eventually a trial. These cases are heard by the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts and each county has one. The judge will along the way offer suggestions and incites into how they might resolve the case if they went to trial in order to help the spouses and the attorneys reach a settlement. If a settlement still cannot be reached the case will go to trial and the judge can decide all the issues which need to be resolved in order to divorce the parties.