Manual A Step-by-Step Guide to Will Contest Cases: What You Should Do Before You Meet With a Lawyer

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These are:. Either party can file for divorce.

The person who does this is known as the petitioner. Also, if you think your spouse should pay, you can tick a box on the form requesting that the court considers asking them to cover this expense. Make sure you keep your own copy of the forms. If your spouse has instructed a lawyer to act on his or her behalf, the documents will be sent to them.

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Within eight days of receiving the petition, the respondent is required to issue a reply stating whether or not they intend to contest it. If your spouse fails to return the acknowledgement of service form within eight days, you can proceed with the divorce if the court decides your spouse has received the papers. If your spouse fails to respond within the time limits but you know they intend to defend the divorce, you can apply for directions for trial. A judge will then decide whether to grant you a decree nisi. This form will also tell you what steps to take next.

For example, you might be asked to provide additional information or you might be required to attend a hearing. Six weeks and a day following the granting of the decree nisi, you can submit an application for a decree absolute. This is the legal document that officially ends your marriage.

Understanding the steps you need to take to get a divorce can help you to feel more certain about the future, but the process of legally separating from your spouse may still be stressful and difficult. To make your life easier, you can seek expert legal help from the family law solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers. Our team are highly trained and experienced in all aspects of divorce law and will guide and support you each step of the way. Many of our family solicitors are members of Resolution, an organisation committed to a constructive approach to family law.

You can rely on us to help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family, minimising costs and where possible avoiding the courtroom. To contact our team of specialists you can call us for FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on At the divorce hearing, the judge can refuse to accept an agreement if she believes it is unfair under the circumstances, that you did not have the opportunity to talk to a lawyer, or signed as the result of intimidation or duress. If you are considering a Separation Agreement, it is a better to consult an attorney.

Some of the issues in a Separation Agreement can have far-reaching implications, including tax consequences. It is important that you spend some time on your own thinking about your particular situation and your needs and your children's needs if you are a parent. Keep in mind that circumstances change over time. Focus on the "best interests of the children" for now and in the future since the "best interests of the child" is the standard used by the courts in Massachusetts and in most other states. You can try to write up your own agreement using the list of issues in question five, but separation agreements are technical, so writing your own is difficult.

Divorce is a big decision and should not be made impulsively, recklessly or without a good deal of thought and investigation. As you probably know statistics show that 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce. Gather as much information as you can about divorce. Talk to friends.

Ask questions. Read books. Look at other articles on this website. Go to the Probate and Family Court in your county to observe hearings and trials. Most family court proceedings are open to the public. Don't wait for your spouse to agree to participate in counseling.

Inside this guide

Individual counseling can help. If it is safe and there is no violence in the relationship, parents and children can attend sessions together to help reduce the effects of a divorce or custody dispute on the children and to help the family heal emotionally. Divorce is often a lonely and emotionally draining experience. By getting support from other people and information such as the legal information on this website , you can gain some control in the process and the experience can be less painful.

Yes and no. You do need to choose a "grounds," or legal reason, for the divorce that fits your situation. It is sufficient that you and your spouse don't get along any more and don't want to be married any more.

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There are seven "fault" grounds or reasons and also a "no fault" grounds. The "fault" grounds, as the name implies, mean that one person was considered at fault in causing the marriage to end. A "no fault" divorce is a divorce in which the marriage is broken beyond repair but where neither spouse blames the other. In Massachusetts, the no fault divorce grounds is called "Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage.

They are often referred to as "1A' and "1B", referring to the section of the law under which they are found, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter , sections 1A and1B. By Agreement each party swears in an affidavit a written statement made under oath that the marriage has irretrievably broken down , and files that affidavit with a Joint Petition for Divorce , and a notarized Separation Agreement.

For more information about the process see these articles in our Self-Help Guide for victims of domestic violence. No affidavit or Separation Agreement is required. For more information about the process see these articles in our Self-Help Guide. This is the most common fault ground for divorce. You need to show that something your spouse knowingly did or didn't do caused you harm or upset. Acts of physical abuse are cruel and abusive treatment.

Sometimes certain forms of mental cruelty may be enough. How long it takes to complete a divorce varies with each case. See question 23 for time line information. Your spouse left the marital home voluntarily and without your forcing him to leave. He or she left, has no intention of returning home, and has not lived with you for at least one year before the date of your filing the complaint for divorce. You may be deserted even though your spouse never physically left the marital home. The judge will have to consider the circumstances of each case in order to decide whether desertion occurred where the other spouse never physically left the home.

Adultery: This means sexual intercourse outside the marriage. You will have to prove that your spouse had sexual intercourse with someone else. This makes adultery a difficult ground for obtaining a divorce. Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication caused by voluntary and excessive use of intoxicating liquor, opium, or other drugs: There must be a voluntary and excessive use of drugs or alcohol which has become a pattern.

Gross or wanton and cruel refusal or neglect to provide suitable support and maintenance for the other spouse: This means that your spouse has refused or neglected to provide support and maintenance for you. To use this ground, you will have to show that your spouse has the ability to pay support but has refused or neglected to do so.

You will also have to show that the refusal or neglect will cause injury to your life, limb or health or create a danger of such injury. Sentence of Confinement in a Penal Institution: This means your spouse has been sentenced for life, or for five years or more. This ground is based on length of sentence, not how much time he actually spent in prison. If there is an Affidavit of Indigency in proper form, the clerk should approve it and stamp it, and give you a copy. You will also get a Domestic Relations Summons. Arrange for the sheriff to give a copy of the complaint to your spouse.

When the sheriff does this, it is called "service of process," meaning that the sheriff has served legally delivered the papers to the spouse. Before trial, either party may request that the court make temporary orders , for example concerning custody, child support, parenting time or visitation. Either party must request a pre-trial conference, and then there is a final hearing, the trial. Going to court too quickly can sometimes make the case take longer and be more complicated, contested, and expensive.

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In making your decision to live apart, to divorce or to contest certain issues, weigh the price you will pay with your time, emotional pain and money. Every case is unique. When children are involved, your relationship with your spouse does not end with the separation or divorce. You probably, but not necessarily, will continue to have contact with him regarding support, parenting time or visitation, and other parental responsibilities. You both will be grandparents of your children's children.

If it is appropriate in your situation, for the sake of your children, keep the lines of communication open, but only if it is safe to do so. If possible, put your children's welfare ahead of continuing conflicts. Yes, if you need to keep your address a secret from your spouse because he has been abusive, you can file a motion asking that the court impound your address. You will need to tell the court why it is necessary that your abusive spouse not learn your address.

For more information about the time frames see these articles in our Self-Help Guide. There is a fee to file a divorce, and to get a summons. See Does it cost money to file for divorce or separate support?

Personal Injury

If your Affidavit of Indigency is in the proper form, the court is supposed to waive the filing fee and you will not have to pay the costs for "service of process. At the beginning of a divorce case, you can ask the court to order your spouse to help pay for your attorney. At the end of a case, the court can require your spouse to pay your attorney's fees, if your attorney can show that the legal work needed to be done and your spouse can afford to pay for it. Your local legal services program may be able to provide you with free assistance.

If money is a concern for you, do not hesitate to tell the attorney right from the start. Consider looking for a private attorney who will handle your case with little or no retainer. In certain cases, an attorney can seek attorney's fees from your spouse. See question 26 Keep in mind that your attorney charges by the hour so the less time it takes her to gather information the less it will cost you.