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Divorce is not something that two people believe will happen when they get married. But with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s more common than many people realize. If your marriage is coming to an end then you are probably grappling with uncertainty and apprehension. Dispelling some of the most common misunderstandings about divorce is one of the first positive steps you should take. LaFountain & Wollman P.C. is here to help.

Misconception 1: Divorce will necessarily be contentious

It’s true that some divorces turn into drawn-out fights, costing the spouses significant amounts of time and money. But divorce doesn’t have to end up this way. It’s possible to instead settle most aspects of your divorce. Negotiating and settling the divorce outside of court can avoid the above problems and yield other benefits such as:

  • Allowing the parties to develop creative solutions that a judge won’t
  • Saving the embarrassment and stress of a public trial
  • Maintaining confidentiality, since mediation discussions and settlement offers cannot generally be disclosed
  • Minimizing the impact of the divorce on the spouses’ children
  • Applying the spouses’ personal knowledge and experience, which a judge can never fully understand
  • Facilitating positive communication, which will be especially useful if the spouses have children

An experienced family lawyer can represent you during negotiations (in or outside of mediation) to ensure your rights and interests are protected. A negotiated settlement agreement can avoid a trial and let both spouses move on with their lives.

Misconception 2: The judge will definitely award custody to the mother

In the past, family courts across the country favored mothers in custody decisions. Here in Massachusetts, however, the mother does not automatically win custody. That’s because judges are bound to determine what is in the child’s best interests, not the parents’ best interests. Either parent can be awarded custody regardless of which gender he or she is.

To make your case for sole physical and legal custody, you must present evidence that the child’s personal well-being will be best entrusted to only you. You may also present evidence that the other parent is unfit to have custody. Regardless of how the court decides to award custody, it won’t be on the basis of gender alone.

Misconception 3: Both spouses will divide everything equally

In community property states, the spouses generally divide all marital assets and debts 50/50. But Massachusetts is not a community property state. For marital property and debt division, the state follows the equitable distribution model. “Equitable” means fair, not necessarily equal. That means the judge is not required to award an even 50/50 split to both spouses.

The court must first determine what the assets and debts are. Once this determination is made, the judge will apply several factors to decide how to fairly divide marital assets and liabilities. These include but are not limited to:

  • The length of marriage
  • How the spouses conducted themselves during marriage
  • The ages and health of both spouses
  • The vocational skills and employability of both spouses
  • The needs of the children of the marriage

Misconception 4: There’s no need to hire an attorney

While you can represent yourself during divorce proceedings, it is strongly advised against. First, a skilled attorney understands the state’s family law statutes, how they will apply in your case, and what impact they will have on your financial and parental rights. Second, litigation involves numerous rules regarding evidence, civil procedure, discovery, and other matters that are best left to an attorney. Failure to follow these rules could result in sanctions, valuable evidence being needlessly excluded, and likely a worse outcome.

Representing Your Best Case in Divorce Court

Lastly, an attorney can objectively evaluate your position in the case and advise you accordingly. Your lawyer can represent you in mediation and give you a fair, law-based evaluation of settlement offers. If a trial is necessary, your attorney will zealously advocate for you in court. That is the level of comprehensive representation you can depend upon from our firm. Call LaFountain & Wollman P.C. today.

About the Author
Attorney Nicholas J. LaFountain has extensive experience litigating and negotiating civil disputes of many types. He has been successfully representing clients in the courtroom since 2004.