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In general, most divorces filings in Massachusetts are "no-fault" divorces, meaning that neither party is to blame for the divorce.  The legal ground for the divorce would be an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage".  Either party can file for a divorce.  A common question is what happens when you file for divorce?  When a divorce is filed, there is an automatic restraining order on assets, meaning that neither party is allowed to do anything to deplete the marital estate.  You cannot move money overseas, sell property, or incur any unnecessary large expenses without the permission of the other party or the court.  The party who is served with the divorce paperwork has twenty days to respond with an "answer" and file his or her own counterclaim.  There are strict rules of procedure for family law, so the deadlines generally need to be adhered to, though a "late" answer is often accepted by the court.


What happens during a divorce case?

There are many things that are determined through a divorce.  Some items that can be at issue include the following:

  • physical custody of children, including parenting time/visitation

  • legal custody of children 

  • child support

  • alimony (spousal support)

  • division of marital assets (bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, etc.)

  • division of personal property (furniture, personal items, etc.)

  • custody of pets (who are often considered property)

  • division of marital liabilities (debt)

  • educational expenses for children

  • health and life insurance

  • whether the wife resumes her maiden name

After the other party is served, either side can seek temporary orders that will be in effect unless and until another order of the court modifies that order or there is a final judgment.  Divorces are resolved either through an agreement of the parties, which is referred to as a separation agreement, or after the judge issues a judgment upon the completion of a trial.  Divorce filings in Massachusetts can take many months or even years to resolve if they are heavily litigated, as there are often months between court dates due to the court calendar.  At a pretrial conference, the judge will provide input on any contested issue, which often helps resolve matters as that judge would be the one hearing a possible trial.  
Once you are divorced, the terms of the divorce judgment are not set in stone for the rest of your life.  You can file a complaint for modification so long as there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances.  Some examples are a change in job status or a change in the parent-child relationship.  Failure to follow a prior court order can also be brought to the court's attention through the filing of a contempt complaint.


Should I hire a lawyer for my divorce or post-divorce action?

Certainly, you can represent yourself in a divorce or post-divorce action.  However, the more complicated the situation, the more likely that you will benefit from having a divorce lawyer assist you with your case.  The court procedure and law is complicated, so you want to make sure that you are making the right decision for your future.  This is especially the case if the other side wants you to agree to something via a stipulation or a full separation agreement and you are unsure if you are being taken advantage of.  
There are many divorce lawyers in Massachusetts.  It is important to hire a lawyer who is both experienced in probate law and someone that you are comfortable going through such an emotional and personal experience with.  Attorney Michael Thaler has represented clients in both divorce and post-divorce actions in the Probate and Family courts throughout Massachusetts.  To set up a free consultation to review your circumstances with Attorney Thaler, call 781-366-0806 or email him directly at

To set up a free consultation, or for general inquiries, please use this form:

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