"Attorney Carrozza cares. Not only will you receive the most professional of services and attention to detail, but you will be guided by someone that takes a personal interest in your case. Attorney Carrozza takes a vested interest in your case. I was stuck in a horrible custody battle and maternal international abduction case in 2009, with no positive outcome foreseeable. Attorney Carrozza handled my case with true professionalism and ultimately steered it to a very successful outcome for myself and my son."
~ S.C., Uxbridge, MA
"Throughout my case, Jason remained professional, courteous, and thorough. He understood the need to balance emotions with law, and was able to quickly put me at ease. He conducted a thorough intake session, and kept the process moving towards resolution. During the settlement process, he respected input from me, and while quick to point out the law, he was able to take my wishes into consideration. While a divorce situation can be tense, he constantly reminded me of how the law is written to protect my interest as well. This helped me tremendously to feel secure throughout the process, and I was able to convert his guidance into the final agreement. If I got divorced again, my first phone call would be to Jason!"
~ J.W., Bellingham, MA
When deep in the throes of transition, uncertainty, and charged emotions, Carrozza Law Office, P.C. compassionately guides its clients through the big picture surrounding divorce in a path directed towards healing, restored stability, and increased harmony.
COMMITTED TO PROTECTING YOUR INTERESTS
"A quick, amicable, and fair resolution is in everyone's best interest."
UNCONTESTED DIVORCE: DIVORCING ON THE TERMS OF THE PARTIES
Arriving at the decision to divorce is one of the most emotional and difficult decisions a person will ever make. At Carrozza Law Office, P.C., we are committed to protecting your rights and reducing your risks. We also believe that taking a reasonable approach to divorce is in everyone's best interest. Reaching an amicable resolution in a timely manner ensures that the parties can move on with their individual lives and their children can adjust to those changes. While the objective in every case is to reach a fair and reasonable settlement short of litigation, this scenario is not always possible if negotiations fail due to the competing forces at work. In either event, settlement or litigation, our goal is to seek the most satisfying outcome for each of our clients.
Representation for family law issues is no easy undertaking. Your attorney should be well versed in the law, an effective negotiator, and a practical problem solver. In this area of law, Carrozza Law Office, P.C. prides itself on its courtroom experience, keen attention to detail, and behind the scenes preparation.
I. TWO ROADS THAT LEAD TO THE SAME DESTINATION: UNCONTESTED VS. CONTESTED DIVORCE
Despite the common public misperception, there is no such thing as a legal separation in Massachusetts. To obtain a divorce in Massachusetts, one can proceed in one of two ways: uncontested (also known as a Section 1A Divorce) and contested (also known as a Section 1B Divorce). Where the parties are amicable and willing to reach agreement on issues central to the divorce, the uncontested divorce option presents the quickest cost-effective approach. Conversely, where the parties cannot agree upon such central issues, or perhaps where one party does not want the divorce, then proceeding in a contested fashion proves to be the only alternative.
If you and your spouse have come to the mutual understanding that securing a divorce is your only option, there is a road to divorce that is streamlined, cost effective, and amicable. It is called uncontested divorce. In this scenario, you and your spouse dictate how your marriage ends by agreeing on the major components of your divorce action, which includes: child custody and parenting plan, child support and spousal support (alimony), property and debt division, insurances (health and life), and any tax implications.
CONTESTED DIVORCE: DIVORCING ON THE TERMS OF THE COURT
Even in the most friendly and amicable circumstances, it is important to know the playing field and ground rules before agreeing to anything. Accordingly, it is critical that you consult with an attorney to be properly advised of your rights and obligations in light of the existing law and your unique circumstances. At Carrozza Law Office, P.C., we frequently consult with clients who are on the brink of divorce to provide them with a preview of coming attractions and properly advise them of their rights and potential risks. Proper divorce planning is important to protect the client. Click here [Link to divorce planning handout] to learn some important divorce planning tips.
In the uncontested divorce arena, the Court is not involved at the outset of the divorce. The time it takes to obtain a divorce is left in the hands of the parties and their respective attorneys. The key here is that the terms and duration of the divorce are in the control of the parties and not the Court. The attorneys, representing each spouse, are usually utilized by their clients to operate more as the draftsmen and/or reviewer of legal documents rather than as "hired guns" to fiercely negotiate the terms of settlement. As such, this setting is much less adversarial and confrontational, thereby preserving the amicable nature of the divorce.
In any divorce action (whether initiated as contested or uncontested) reaching settlement short of trial, the central divorce document is known as the Divorce Agreement which encapsulates the entire understanding of the parties, provides the terms settlement, and spells out the post divorce duties and obligations of the parties. Because of the permanent legal consequences of entering into a Divorce Agreement, it is critical that it is well drafted – containing all of the must-have clauses – and properly understood by the client to ensure his or her future compliance. This is the stage where consulting with an attorney is immensely important.
At Carrozza Law Office, P.C., when representing a client in an uncontested divorce matter, we ensure that all issues are effectively assessed and dealt with and that the proper documentation is drafted and filed correctly. If there are issues that still need to be negotiated before the parties can come to an agreement, we know how to stay on task to ensure the divorce remains painless and efficient. Click here [Link to contact us form] to contact our office to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your uncontested divorce action.
The term contested divorce means that you and your spouse do not agree on every issue that needs to be resolved during your divorce proceedings. This may be as simple as determining child support or as complicated as where the children should live. In some situations, the contested nature of the divorce is as fundamental as one party simply not wanting to get a divorce.
As the name implies, when a contested divorce is initiated it becomes adversarial from the beginning because the court is involved. The party filing for divorce is required to "serve" the other party with legal paperwork in order to commence the divorce action. However, getting the court involved right from the beginning can also be a good thing as an asset restraining order is imposed which prevents the parties from transferring any assets during the duration of the divorce. Filing for a contested divorce opens the door for a party to immediately seek relief from the court in the form of "temporary orders" for child custody or support or alimony while the divorce action is pending. Ensuring the appropriate "temporary orders" are requested is important to establish or maintain the status quo and also to prevent the other side from taking hard-to-correct actions.
The commencement of a contested divorce action also permits the parties to obtain and/or formally request financial and other documentation through a process called "discovery". Depending on the complexity of the matter and the level of disagreement amongst the parties, the "discovery" stage is often a critical fact finding and trial building component.
On average, it takes more than a year for a contested divorce case to go through the court system and be scheduled for trial. Sometimes the parties' disagreements can be resolved during negotiation, but nonetheless, contested matters must be hammered out in court before a judge. Simply put, any issues that the parties cannot agree upon are ultimately determined by the court.
At Carrozza Law Office, P.C., our first words of advice to clients involve assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each aspect of their case. Providing the client with a well defined risk assessment allows the client to decide which strategies to employ or avoid. Click here [Link to contact us form] to contact our office to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your contested divorce action.
II. LEGAL ISSUES THAT ARISE DURING DIVORCE
When emotion is taken out of the equation, divorce is simply a process to disentangle the financial affairs of two people choosing to live separate and apart. It is really a matter of charting a new course for their future separate and exclusive lives. However, when children are involved, the process is much more complicated as issues such as child support, custody, and a parenting plan must be determined. The following provides some of the premier issues that need to be resolved during the divorce process:
Property and Debt Division: In accordance with Massachusetts' equitable distribution statute, a "fair distribution" does not necessarily mean an "equal division" of assets and debts. Under the statute, many specific factors are closely considered by the court when determining the equitable division of assets and debts.
Child Custody and Parenting Plan: Child custody consists of legal and physical custody. Any custody determination, whether it is awarded to one parent or shared, is based upon an evaluation of the best interests of the children. A parenting plan must be decided upon to ensure both parents have uninterrupted time with the children.
Child Support: Child support is determined by a formula which considers the gross income of the parties, number of children, and which party assumes health insurance and child care costs.
Spousal Support (Alimony): Presently there is no bright line formula in place (as with child support) to determine an appropriate alimony amount. As with property division, many specific factors are evaluated by the court when arriving at a fair alimony award. Not only can alimony vary in amount, it can also vary in duration.
Complaint for Modification
Insurances: Life insurance is regularly ordered to secure any child support or spousal support obligations. Health insurance may be carried by one party for the benefit of the children and divorcing spouse. Uninsured medical expenses are usually shared by both parents equally.
Tax Implications: Tax deductions/exemptions/credits relating to the children and the marital home must be properly assigned to one or both of the parties.
III. LEGAL ISSUES THAT ARISE AFTER DIVORCE
When a material change in circumstances occurs, a party may be able to modify the terms of the divorce decree.
As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. Because circumstances change over time, there may be a need to go back to court to modify the terms of the divorce decree (for which the Divorce Agreement was incorporated). Issues relating to children can always be reviewed upon showing a material change in circumstances, whereas issues relating to property and debt division generally are not.
Child Custody and Parenting Plan: Your child's changing needs or a former spouse's demonstration that they are unfit to parent your child may warrant a change in custody or the parenting plan.
Child Support: Typically, a child support order may be modified if any of the following circumstances exist:
- The existing order is at least three years old; or
- Health insurance previously available at reasonable cost is no longer available; or
- Health insurance not previously available has become available; or
- Any other material change in circumstances has occurred.
Spousal Support (Alimony): In Massachusetts, a substantial change in need or ability to pay can be grounds for the modification of alimony. You may be able to lower what you pay, increase what you receive, or have payments terminated all together.
Complaint for Contempt
When a party willfully disregards a divorce decree or order, the aggrieved party may seek court assistance.
At the time of your divorce, child support, custody and parenting plan, and spousal support (alimony) orders were finalized by the court. From that point forward, both you and your spouse were legally obligated to follow the court's order. The purpose of contempt action is to coerce the disobedient party into complying with an outstanding order or judgment. To put it another way, contempt is used to enforce clear, unequivocal court orders which are willfully disregarded and not being obeyed. Essentially it is the process you use to force the other party to comply with the court order or judgment.
IV. OTHER FREQUENTLY ENCOUNTERED FAMILY LAW ISSUES
In Massachusetts, grandparents may receive visitation rights if the child's parents have divorced or separated, if a parent is deceased, or if the child was born out of wedlock but paternity has been established. Establishment of paternity is not required for visitation by the maternal grandparents. Under all situations, the best interests of the child must be considered.
Regarding a child who is born out of wedlock, the process for having a man legally declared that child's father is called paternity. This step in the process is necessary before custody, parenting plan, health insurance, uninsured medical expenses, and child support orders can be made by the court. In establishing these rights and duties by statute, Massachusetts has made clear its policy that children born to parents who are not married to each other shall be entitled to the same rights and protection of the law as all other children.
Massachusetts has laws about moving out of state with your children. Massachusetts laws refer to this as "removal" of the child from the state. These removal laws deal with when a parent must ask the other parent for consent to remove the child, and when, if the other parent does not give consent, the parent who seeks to remove the child must get permission from a judge.