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Contested Divorce

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce can happen in two circumstances.

First, many couples cannot agree on a fair distribution of assets, property, debt and custody.

In the other case, only one spouse wishes to get divorced. There are many difficulties associated with a contested divorce.

Contested divorces can take years to reach a resolution, and couples and their families are often left in limbo until the process is complete. In addition to the costs and time involved, contested divorces can also be very emotionally draining and confusing for all involved parties.

This can be especially difficult for young children that do not completely grasp all of the events that are taking place. In many cases, the living arrangements of children have been abruptly changed when one spouse left the residence.

When temporary orders of custody, visitation, and child support have been granted, there is some resolution to their new living arrangements.

However, they must get used to the new living arrangements of at least one parent. In addition to not having both parents around consistently, they may feel abandoned.

To compound those issues, temporary orders are sometimes altered when judges make their final rulings on the divorce hearing. The entire process can be quite confusing for children of any age.

In fact, for involved children, contested divorces are significantly more difficult than uncontested divorces. In some contested divorces, children may be asked to make a choice as to which parent they would like to live with, and this can cause great psychological and emotional discomfort for the child.

In addition to feelings of alienation, they also feel that they have alienated one parent.

There are many other surrounding issues in contested divorces. In some divorces that involve disputes regarding property and assets, neither spouse may have access to any jointly contested marital assets.

For example, a marital home may be left in limbo even though neither spouse wishes to reside there. The couple may be unable to take any action in regards to selling the house until the divorce proceedings are finished.

Divorce proceedings can prevent both spouses from being able to move on or live their lives in a manner in which they are accustomed.

In addition to assets being tied up, couples often incur large legal bills. Any money that spouses do have access to, may be utilized to pay legal fees.

In essence, contested divorces are much more difficult than divorces in which couples are able to reach an agreement in the absence of intervention by the courts.

Contested Divorce

Contested Divorce

Collaborative family law can often be utilized to help to divorce couples reach a mutually beneficial agreement, in fact, some studies have suggested a 95% success rate for resolutions utilizing collaborative family law.

Yet, not all couples will be able to utilize this practice, as it requires a certain degree of mutual respect and sympathy for each other.

In cases where couples are unable to get along, collaborative law may not be the proper approach for a settlement of a divorce. However, many couples will find that collaborative law will effectively bring a resolution to all disputed issues that are related to the divorce.

In fact, even couples that have found themselves involved in the constant conflict have been pleasantly surprised with the collaborative family law experience.

Collaborative family law agreements can help families to retain any sense of shared goals and togetherness. Children of the spouses that utilize collaborative family law agreements often fair much better than children involved in other types of divorce.

In general, most parents want to achieve results that are in the best interest of the children. In collaborative family law, parents work together to realistically access the needs of the children and the manner in which those needs can be met.

On the other hand, cases that end up in divorce court leave all of the decisions in the judge’s hands.

While judges strive to make the best decisions, they do not have ample time to get to know every member of the family unit or understand that particular family’s dynamics.

Because of the vast success of collaborative law, many states have taken action on making determinations for the allowance of the practice. Many states now have rules and regulations in place for collaborative family law.

While some states have specific rules relating to collaborative law, others only have rules in place within local jurisdictions.

In any case, collaborative law is quickly becoming recognized as an effective manner in which to deal with conflict resolution.

However, some states have raised ethics issues regarding the agreement to avoid litigation, while introducing the possibility of enacting new rules and regulations as the process becomes more popular.

Collaborative law is quickly becoming the chosen method for divorcing couples that have remained in an amicable relationship. While many couples are able to settle their disputes through court-ordered mediation, collaborative law allows couples to avoid litigation altogether.

Avoiding court hearing allows for lower stress levels, and are often involved in fewer battles in order to reach a resolution; collaborative law is an effective way of avoiding further conflict among divorcing couples.

Contested Divorce in Massachusetts

Contested Divorce in Massachusetts

What is a Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce is a more complex form of divorce.

In the United States, there are typically two forms of divorce: an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce. With an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all issues pertaining to the divorce filing; whereas in an uncontested divorce, the spouses cannot come to an agreement on one or many of the issues surrounding the perspective divorce settlement.

The issues that may lead to a contested divorce filing may include spousal support, child custody, and the division of debts and/or marital property. Because of the disagreement, the divorce proceeding is complicated and extended in a contested divorce filing.

In a contested divorce, the spouses will go through a number of legal steps before the divorce is affirmed. Following the delivery of the divorce petition—and the subsequent response by the receiving spouse—the discovery phase and prospective settlement occur.

During the settlement, the spouses are often unable to resolve their issues. Although lawyers and the presiding divorce judge may encourage the spouses to come to an agreement, a contested divorce often ends up in divorce court.

During the trial, each spouse will present their case. This legal battle will often include witness testimonials, cross-examinations—conducted by each spouse’s divorce lawyer—and closing arguments.

After the trial is over, the presiding divorce court judge will construct a final order and finalize the divorce to the terms as he/she sees fit.

In a contested divorce, the settlement is established by the presiding divorce court judge.

After a review of the spouse’s financial records, testimonies offered by spouses, witness testimonials, and any available police or medical records, the judge will determine how the couple’s debts, assets, and future wages are divided.

The evidence presented in a contested divorce filing establishes a fair division of debts and assets and the best interests of the child of the marriage.

Contested Divorce in Massachusetts:

The Main Steps to a Contested Divorce in Massachusetts are as follows:

 1. A contested divorce in Massachusetts begins when one spouse files a “Complaint about Divorce” with their local Probate and Family Court. The spouse filing the complaint in a contested divorce in Massachusetts is referred to as the Plaintiff.

The complaint—along with a summons and track assignment (notice which specifies what judge is assigned to the case)—is delivered or “served” to the other spouse, who is the acting defendant in a contested divorce in Massachusetts.

In addition to this paperwork, a copy of Rule 411 is delivered to the defendant; this form is a financial restraining order that automatically goes into effect.

2. The defendant or their acting lawyer will answer the complaint within 20 days and forward a copy of the answer to the appropriate court and the opposing divorce lawyer.

3. After the defendant responds, the contested divorce in Massachusetts enters a pre-trial phase. This stage of the contested divorce in Massachusetts is referred to as the discovery period.

During discovery, each side will collect the pertinent information required to prepare a divorce filing.

Discovery methods in a contested divorce in Massachusetts include: Exchanging financial documents, medical/police reports, depositions, requests for admissions, and interrogatories.

4. Temporary Orders and Motions: Divorce lawyers often file motions with the presiding divorce court. A motion is a request—filed with the court—that formally begins the divorce hearing.

There are several types of motions; however, in a contested divorce in Massachusetts, a temporary order will typically be filed.

5. If child custody issues are being disputed, the Court will appoint a GAL or Ad Litem to conduct an investigation regarding visitation and custody. The appointed GAL or Ad Litem will interview parents, teachers, caregivers, and sometimes the children.

6. Pre-Trial Conference: If a contested divorce in Massachusetts remains unsettled, a pre-trial will be held at the presiding divorce court.

Here, the divorce lawyers will submit Pre-trial Memorandums before the meeting to outline what issues are in dispute, and which have been tentatively agreed to if any.

This conference also gives each side the opportunity to get some feedback on their positions.

7. The Trial: In Massachusetts, less than 10% of divorce cases reach this stage. For that contested divorce in Massachusetts that cannot be settled, a trial will commence before a judge.

Testimonies will be provided by the couple’s witnesses and the Judge will issue a decision—the decision is rendered a number of days after the trial date.

After the judge issues the decision, there is a waiting period of 90 days for a contested divorce in Massachusetts. During this waiting period, the divorce is regarded as “pending”—after the 90-day period passes, the divorce is finalized.