Westborough Divorce Process
Our team understands first-hand the emotional ups and downs of a divorce based on our own personal experiences, and through our 25-plus years of cumulative and exclusive family-law representation, we have extensive knowledge of the law and divorce process for couples in Westborough. To achieve the end of your marriage in Westborough, the divorce process must be navigated in a way that balances your end goals while remaining efficient to get you that outcome as quickly as possible. Allow our extraordinary legal team to stand by your side as both allies and advocates, helping to navigate you through the divorce procedure and educate you so you can make the best choices toward furthering your goals.
The Roles of Each Spouse During Divorce in Westborough
In a contested divorce, the spouse that initiates the divorce process is called the Plaintiff. It’s that spouse’s responsibility to have the other spouse served. The service is what officially begins the timeframes that are involved with the divorce process. The Defendant spouse is responsible for filing an Answer to the Divorce within twenty (20) days from being served. This is very important to fix any mistakes that may be present within the complaint for divorce and to reserve your right to seek any alternative outcome by filing a counterclaim to the divorce.
The Plaintiff will generally have the opportunity to present his or her side of the case first. This can be important to many people who want the Judge to hear their story first. Being the Defendant is not the end of the world though because you get to hear what the other side is arguing and then be able to directly respond to that argument through yours. In some cases, you will want to be the Plaintiff because it gives you the ability to get the ball rolling, which is very important if you need support or bills to be paid that your spouse has refused to contribute to.
Whether you file as the Plaintiff or sit back and wait as a Defendant may be influenced as to whether you are close to the five, ten, fifteen, or twenty-year anniversary of your marriage. You may go ahead and file to keep an alimony duration restricted to a lower tier by getting your spouse served before that next five-year period passes. Or, you may decide you do not want to do anything so you can try to let that clock run to enable you to collect alimony longer.
If a spouse is served with a complaint for divorce and they do not want to respond, they do not have to respond. However, to not respond carries significant risks. If the case continues and they have not filed an answer and they do not show up to the court hearing, the Judge could move forward with no input from them whatsoever and basically give the Plaintiff spouse everything he or she is requesting. When you are dealing with the divorce process for marriages in Westborough, we can help make sure that you don’t miss any key deadlines or forfeit your rights.
What if I Do Not Know Where My Spouse Is?
To obtain a divorce, it is absolutely required that your spouse be notified of the complaint for divorce. If you do not know where your spouse is, there are ways to be able to legally have him or her served that satisfies the notice requirement. If you live in Westborough or any other town in Worcester County, you will need to file a motion for alternative service in the Worcester County Probate and Family Court. The most common method of alternative service is through publication in the newspaper. That can only be done with a court order though. Your divorce is already going to be stressful enough and, when your spouse is nowhere to be found, that stress can be even worse. Let our dedicated attorneys work for you and find a creative solution to serve your missing spouse, allowing your divorce process to continue smoothly.
Judge Assignment and Filing the Complaint in the Divorce Process
In order to file a complaint for your divorce in Westborough, the process starts with a packet of documents that the Plaintiff must fill out and file with the Court along with paying a $220 fee that the court charges. There are some instances where that fee can be waived, but only if the Court finds that you are indigent, meaning you receive state aid or do not have enough income to meet your expenses. To be found indigent, you must file an Affidavit of Indigency and have it approved by the Court. Generally, most people are going to have to pay that $220 expense though. Once all those pleadings are filed with the Court along with an original copy of the marriage certificate and the filing fee is paid, the case gets docketed, assigned to a Judge and the Court mails the summons back to the Plaintiff to be served.
The docketing process is when a Judge is assigned to your case, is registered with the Court, and a summons is issued. Generally, in Massachusetts, once your case gets assigned to a particular Judge, that Judge will oversee and decide your entire case unless that Judge no longer hears cases in the Court your case is in (due to retirement, relocation of the Judge to another Court, or death). In emergency situations, or if your Judge is sick, sometimes your case may be heard by another Judge, but usually, your Judge is your Judge and you cannot request a different Judge. As each Judge does and decides things slightly differently, it is very important to have an attorney who has practiced in front of each Judge regularly. At O’Connor Family Law, we have extensive experience with all of the Judges sitting at the Worcester County Probate and Family Court and can offer insight into how they might rule in your situation if your case is presented to them.
Do Children Change the Divorce Process in Westborough?
Whether you have children or not, the divorce process remains the same. There is an additional form to fill out when you file for divorce if you have children together, but the underlying process will generally not change. What does change is the fact you also need to make decisions involving the care, custody, and support of your children, which can often make divorces more complicated if the two parents have differing ideas about what is best for them. These decisions can have long reaching effects. Currently in Massachusetts, divorced parents can be ordered to pay for their children to go to college. So, even if little Jimmy is only three-years old when you’re divorcing, you may need to think fifteen years ahead to when he is graduating high school!
This will usually cost you more time and energy to be able to come to agreements about all the different issues involving your children. Within a divorce, there is often more conflict involving kids when each parent has very different ideas of what they each feel is best for their kids. That can make a divorce more costly and can make it take longer, especially if there are allegations of child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, or any other type of situation raised where there is a question regarding the safety and welfare of the children. Other individuals, such as a Guardian Ad Litem or an ARC attorney can also be ordered to get involved in the divorce process to try to help the judge understand what is in the children’s best interest in complex cases.
Let a Lawyer in Westborough Help You With The Divorce Process
We will be there to help you through the divorce process step by step. We will provide you with the education and knowledge you need to help the divorce process make sense to you. It is your attorney’s responsibility to explain the rights that you have and what you might be giving up through negotiations. Your attorney will also provide you with advice as to how any decision can affect your future. Your attorney can also tell you how things typically turn out in a divorce in front of a particular Judge. This can sometimes influence whether a person concedes and settles or continues to argue and let the Judge decide. It’s all about weighing the risks and likelihood of success. Without knowing that information, it’s next to impossible to make an educated decision about the issues involved in your particular divorce.
Our real job as your attorney is to educate and guide you through the process so that when you move forward post-divorce, you are really moving forward with your best foot possible to create a great life after marriage. It is our job to fight for your rights and make your voice heard in the courtroom. It is our job to give you both good and bad news – not just tell you what you want to hear. You cannot weigh the pros and the cons if you do not know the risks involved. When you are dealing with the end of your marriage in Westborough, the divorce process can be confusing for many reasons. Your team at O’Connor Family Law is here to help you however you need us. Call today to learn more about what creative solutions we may have for all your divorce concerns.