Divorce Process in Massachusetts

Our practice is devoted to family law.  We support our clients in two ways.  First, we offer our services as neutrals in most forms of alternative dispute resolution including mediation, conciliation, case evaluation, and arbitration.  Secondly, we provide traditional client representation through negotiation and litigation and represent clients through the mediation process. Either way , there is a typical process in a divorce.  We outline it below so you have an understanding of what to expect. Our client representation begins with the goal of a negotiated resolution as amicably as possible.  If this is not possible then we continue through the court process and traditional family law to best meet the needs of our client.

Traditional client representation at the Law offices of Lisa J. Graff

  • Your first step is to call the office and ask to speak to one of the attorneys.  We will have a substantive conversation with you at no charge.  In this conversation, we give you the opportunity to ask enough questions to determine whether our firm seems to be a good fit for your needs.  We also assess the level of urgency and help you formulate a plan.  At this point, if you determine that we would be a good fit, we move forward.
  • If you wish to move forward with our firm, you will make an appointment to meet with an attorney in a timely fashion.  At this meeting we give valuable advice, evaluate the case, answer the client’s questions, make recommendations on the approach, summarize possible outcomes of the case and discuss legal fees.  Since it is a substantive meeting, we charge for our time.  We recognize that some other attorneys give free initial consultations but we do our preliminary discussion on the phone and a more in depth first client meeting.  It is our goal through this meeting to empower you with knowledge about the process and the outcome.  At the conclusion of this meeting, clients have reported that we have alleviated a large measure of their anxiety and given them an understanding about the divorce process.
  • Once we are formally retained, we formulate a plan that will protect the client and the children at the lowest financial and emotional cost.  We always seek an uncontested case as that presents the lowest emotional and financial cost for all parties.  If it is not possible, then we approach the case to minimize conflict and cost without compromising safety and the quality of the outcome.
  • When a case is filed or served in court, Massachusetts law demands an automatic financial restraining order.  We discuss the benefits of filing so that our clients make an informed decision whether to file the case or to work towards an uncontested divorce.  Since filing may escalate tensions, on cases where we do file, we may choose to send a message to the other party that we want to work towards an uncontested divorce with the hopes that filing will not escalate the tension or conflict at this time.
  • Whether the decision is made to file or to wait until a later time, the “temporary process” is the same.
    • Make sure that the status quo is fair.  This may include  whether a party should move out of the marital home or whether the parties should remain together until certain issues are resolved.
    • Establish a temporary parenting plan and temporary support.  It may also include ensuring the safety of assets.  Sometimes parties can resolve this by agreement and sometimes they need court orders.  Those court orders are called “temporary order”.
    • The next phase of a divorce is called “discovery”.  The purpose is to obtain all the information we need to make an informed decision.  Massachusetts law has some mandatory discovery and usually, supplemental information is required.
    • The final phase is “resolution” of the case.  We always try to resolve cases by settlement.  If we cannot, then we need the intervention of the court.  The first time we can have the judge’s significant input is at a pretrial conference that is scheduled to present disputed issues to the judge for his or her recommendations or suggestions for settlement.  This may give the parties an idea of how the judge would rule if the case goes to trial or the suggestions may be new options for possible settlement.
  • Settlement occurs when the parties reach an agreement and prepare a written “Separation Agreement”.  This Agreement is submitted to the Court for review and approval.  The Court reviews this along with the parties’ financial statements.  When the Court determines that the agreement is fair and reasonable, the divorce becomes final 90 days after the separation agreement is accepted by the court.
  • In the event that a negotiated settlement cannot be reached, then the case goes to “trial”.

Note: At any stage, the parties can sidestep the litigation and opt for ADR.  If ADR is unsuccessful, they can then return to litigation.

At the Law Offices of Lisa J. Graff, we try to be flexible and creative in formulating a unique and appropriate process for all clients.  By doing so, we provide individually tailored results for all clients and their individual needs.

Contact the Law Offices of Lisa J. Graff for a confidential consultation. We’re located in Sudbury, Metro West Boston, Massachusetts and service the following counties: Middlesex, Worcester, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Plymouth and Bristol Counties.