Please call us if you have questions or if you require legal representation. Our telephone number is 617 366-2200
BassilBudreau handles all aspects of family law including divorce, custody disputes, paternity, modification, and prenuptial and post nuptial agreements. We understand that our clients are often in a state of personal crisis and pride ourselves in our ability to be compassionate and strong advocates. Our lawyers have practiced in virtually every county in Massachusetts and have developed relationships of mutual respect with judges and court personnel. We strive to resolve our cases in the most efficient manner possible and have a team approach to our cases. Whether your lead counsel is a partner or an associate of the firm, when you hire BassilBudreau, you are receiving the dedication, skill and compassion of all of us. The Family Law Group is managed by Janice Bassil and Linsay Goldstein.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can file for divorce in Massachusetts?
In order to file for divorce in Massachusetts, either 1) the grounds for divorce must have occurred in Massachusetts and one spouse is still a resident of Massachusetts; or 2) the spouse who is filing must have been a resident of Massachusetts for one year.
Where should I file for divorce?
The divorce should be filed in the county where the parties last lived together. If neither spouse is currently in that county, then the divorce may be filed where either party lives.
Does one spouse gain an advantage over the other for filing first?
There is no fault assigned by the Court to the party who files first. In the event of a trial, however, the party who filed first will present their case (i.e., witnesses and evidence) first. The ability to go first can be an advantage at trial.
What are grounds for divorce?
Massachusetts is a “no-fault” state, which means that spouses may obtain a divorce without specifying grounds such as “desertion” or “cruel and abusive treatment.” Spouses may jointly file an uncontested divorce action along with a separation agreement, or one spouse may file a contested divorce action. In both types of divorce, the “ground” specified may be “an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”
What is a legal separation?
One spouse may file for a legal separation or for separate support without beginning divorce proceedings. In an action for separate support, child custody and child and spousal support may be obtained. The residency requirement is the same as in divorce cases. Also, if the parties are living apart prior to a divorce, they are legally separated.
How is property divided in a divorce?
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. Marital property encompasses all of the property owned by either spouse, including gifts and inheritances. Although what is considered marital property is very broad, it is divided between spouses equitably, meaning according to what each deserves. Equitable division is based on many factors, set out by statute, which the Court must consider, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s homemaking and financial contributions to the marriage, each spouse’s occupation and ability to earn income, and the conduct of the parties during the marriage. All factors the judges consider are set forth G.L. c. 208, ß 34.
How do I tell my child about the divorce?
The decisions of how and when to tell children about divorce will depend upon the individual family. However, it is important to give your children information without drawing them into the parental conflict and while affirming that both parents love them and the divorce is not their fault. Massachusetts requires all divorcing parents to participate in an approved Parenting Education Course, in which the focus is on teaching parents about the effects of divorce on children. Frequently, therapy is helpful for both adults and children in addressing feelings of anger and loss that arise during a divorce.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
The life span of a divorce case will depend on the issues involved and their complexity. However, uncontested divorces can often be completed in a matter of a few months, while contested divorces may take a year or more before either a settlement or trial occurs.
Can I date while I am going through a divorce?
Once you are no longer living with your spouse, you may date. If you have children, however, you should be wary about introducing them to someone too soon after the separation. Meeting your new partner after you have separated from the children’s other parent can be very difficult for children, it may aggravate the emotional intensity of the divorce and may possibly give your spouse potential grounds to challenge your judgment as a fit parent. Use your common sense. Your children and their needs should come first before your social life.
Should I settle or go to trial?
Whether to go to trial or to settle is a decision that depends on the facts of your case and is best reached with your attorney. You should never be afraid to go to trial, which is before a judge and not a jury. However, it is important not to let anger or other emotions rule this decision.
Is alimony available in Massachusetts?
Yes. Either spouse may receive alimony or spousal support from the other. Alimony is taxable to the receiving spouse and tax-deductible to the paying spouse. The Alimony Reform Act provides for four types of alimony: General Term, Rehabilitative, Reimbursement and Transitional alimony. The type of alimony you may be entitled to will depend on the length of your marriage and the specific circumstances of your case.
How long does alimony last?
This will depend on the type of alimony you receive and the length of your marriage. The length of your marriage may be increased if you and your spouse lived together prior to your marriage. Alimony usually ends upon the recipient’s remarriage and may end if the recipient lives with another person, referred to as “cohabitation,” for a certain period of time. Alimony may also end upon the payor’s reaching full retirement age as defined by the Social Security Administration. Every case is unique and judges continue to have discretion in how much alimony to award and for how long.
How much alimony can I expect to receive or pay?
There is now a formula for alimony which provides for the recepient spouse to receive between 30-35% of the difference between the payors gross income and the recepient’s gross income. If child support is being paid, alimony payments are unlikely unless the payor spouse’s income exceeds $250,000.
Who will get custody of the children?
The standard in Massachusetts for awarding either shared or sole custody is the best interests of the child. Parents can agree to a custody arrangement or, in cases where there is a dispute, submit the issue to the Court.
What types of custody are there?
Legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision making ability regarding major issues that affect the child’s health and welfare. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. For either of these types of custody, parents may have shared or sole custody.
How does the Court decide the issues of custody and visitation?
Deciding issues of custody and visitation are among the most difficult tasks facing judges in the Probate and Family Court. Frequently, at the request of a party, the Court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to conduct an investigation on issues of custody and visitation arrangements. Guardians Ad Litem are professionals approved by the Court and are usually licensed social workers, psychotherapists, or attorneys. The role of the Guardian Ad Litem is to conduct an investigation by interviewing the parties and the children (if they are old enough), and other collateral sources, such as pediatricians and teachers, and often making a recommendation to the Court as to their view of the best interest of the child.
Judges also take into consideration evidence presented by the parties, which may be challenged by the opposing party.
What is a ‘normal’ parenting plan?
Many factors may affect a parenting schedule depending upon the ages and needs of the child. The level of parental involvement while the family was intact may also be considered by the court.
Are there situations where parenting time with the children is supervised?
Yes. The Court may order that a parent’s time with a child be supervised by approved visitation centers. Supervised visitation may be appropriate in case where there has been domestic violence or child abuse, or where the non-custodial parents behaves inappropriately with the child in other ways, such as by manipulating the child during the divorce.
What if I am already divorced, can custody or parenting arrangements change?
If parents are amicable, they can agree to any changes in custody or parenting time that best suit the family’s needs. However, one spouse can petition the Court for a modification of custody or parenting arrangements at any time following a divorce (even where there is a separation agreement) based on the legal standard of a material change of circumstance.
What if I or my spouse is in a different state with the children, where do I file a complaint for modification?
The federal and state legislatures have enacted laws against parental kidnapping, which include provisions for determining which state’s court will have jurisdiction when disputes over children arise.
What if I want to move with my children to another state? What if I do not want my spouse to move with my children?
Children cannot be relocated without the agreement of both parties or the permission of the Court. These are very difficult cases and usually require a trial to resolve the issue. They are very case specific and you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in this area.
Do same sex partners have rights to custody or parenting time with a non-biological child?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recently ruled that if the non- biological partner has acted as a “de facto parent”, that partner may petition the court for parenting time. The determination of whether that person may have such rights with the child is based upon a factual review of the history of care-taking and involvement with the child.
Do grandparents have a right to visitation with children?
Massachusetts has a law the provides visitation rights to grandparents under certain circumstances. In order to obtain visitation rights, a grandparent must file a petition in the Probate and Family Court where the divorce, action for separate support or paternity suit was filed.
How is child support determined in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has enacted Child Support Guidelines, which provide formulas for calculating child support based upon the gross incomes of each parent, the number of children and their ages, child care costs and medical insurance costs, and the amount of parenting time each parent has with the child.
How is child support taxed?
Child support is not taxable to the parent who receives the support. The parent who pays child support cannot deduct child support as an expense.
Can child support be modified?
Just as custody and parenting plan arrangements can be modified after a divorce, so too can child support orders. The standard of a material change in circumstances applies.
How long will child support continue?
Child support will typically continue until the child is legally emancipated. In the absence of an agreement between the parties, a child is usually emancipated at age 18, unless the child is a full-time student and principally dependent upon the custodial parent for support, in which case, support continues until the child is 23 or graduates from post-secondary school (i.e., college), whichever is first in time. A child’s residence in a dormitory or college apartment is not considered to emancipate the child but the amount of child support may be adjusted depending on how college costs are allocated between the parents. Other circumstances that would emancipate a child include marriage, or enlistment in the armed services.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior where one intimate partner or spouse exerts power and control over the other. Domestic violence can include physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse. Perpetrators of abuse may use the children to manipulate the victims: by harming the children directly; by threatening to harm or abduct the children; by using visitation as an occasion to harass or monitor victims; or by fighting protracted custody battles to punish victims. Perpetrators often invent complex rules about what victims or the children can or cannot do, and force victims to abide by these frequently changing rules.
How do I know if my partner is abusive?
Ask yourself these questions:
Does your partner:
- Embarrass or demean you with bad names and put-downs?
- Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
- Control what you do, who you see or talk to, or where you go?
- Stop you from seeing or talking to friends or family?
- Act jealously, by doing things such as calling you repeatedly at work or home to check up on you, or accuse you of having an affair?
- Take your money, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
- Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
- Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault or even deny doing it?
- Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
- Force you to have sex, make you do things during sex that make you feel uncomfortable, or demand sex when you are sick, tired, or sleeping?
- Shove you, slap you or hit you?
- Force you to drop charges?
- Threaten to commit suicide?
- Threaten to kill you?
What should I do?
Everyone must answer that question for themselves. You know your partner better than anyone else and his/her capacity for violence. Regardless of whether you decide to leave or stay, reach out to someone and tell them what is going on whether it is a shelter, your doctor, a minister, a neighbor or a friend. Make sure you have the police on speed dial on your phone and that your phone is with you at all times. Have a safety plan in place. Remember that no one deserves to be abused or intimidated. Domestic violence is not your fault and it is not your responsibility to make your partner change his/her behavior.
What is an abuse prevention order?
If you or your children is being abused or threatened with abuse, you may obtain an order from the Court protecting you and your children from further abuse.
What is ‘abuse’?
Abuse is defined by statute as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members: (a) attempting to cause or causing physical harm; (b) placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; (c) causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress. G.L. c. 209A, ß 1.
Who can get an abuse prevention order?
You may obtain an abuse prevention order if you are being harmed or threatened with harm by a family member (by blood or marriage), a household member, someone with whom you are or were in a ‘substantive dating relationship,’ or someone with whom you have a child.
Do I need a lawyer to get a restraining order?
You do not need a lawyer to obtain a restraining order. If there has been an episode of domestic violence and the police are involved, they will offer an emergency restraining order issued by an on-call judge. You will then be required to go to court the next day to get a restraining order. The order must be served and there will be a hearing scheduled in 10 days in which the order may be contested. If you intend to contest the restraining order or you believe that the order will be contested, it is best to consult with an attorney. The restraining order may be requested in the district court or the probate and family court.
Can I get a restraining order because my spouse will not leave even though we are going through a divorce?
Restraining orders are serious proceedings and should not be sought to control a partner or to remove someone from their home because you want a separation.
The probate and family court will carefully consider whether or not the restraining order was obtained to seek an advantage in a divorce or paternity case. A lawyer can advise you on whether or not there are adequate grounds for the family and probate court to order a party to vacate a home.
The law now provides or a restraining order under Chapter 258E without the necessity of a family relationship or a substantive dating relationship. These cases are not heard in the family and probate court and may be filed in the superior court or district court. The law requires evidence of 3 or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property and that does in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property” or a single act that “by force, threat or duress causes another to involuntarily engage in sexual relations” or a single act that constitutes one of 12 enumerated crimes involving sexual assault, stalking or harassment. General Laws c. 258E authorizes the court to issue four orders to the defendant: 1) to refrain from “abusing or harassing” the plaintiff (2) not to contact the plaintiff (3) to remain away from the plaintiff’s household or workplace, and (4) to pay restitution for directly-resulting losses.