Header graphic for print
Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

The Divorce Process In 10 Not So Easy Steps: A Compilation

Posted in Divorce Process

Hi There,

Below is a compilation of the divorce process in 10 steps.  I’ve done a comprehensive post on each step, but decided to put them all together in one place.  Clicking on each title will bring you to the separate posts.

Step #1: The Complaint for Divorce, An Aptly Named Document
For most divorcing couples the legal process begins with filing what is called the complaint. This is a form which sets out the basic information the Court and the other side need. In addition to the obvious, it asks where you last lived together as this tells the court whether or not you have filed in the right county and whether Massachusetts has jurisdiction.

Step #2: Don’t Change Things
When the complaint for divorce is filed, the automatic restraining order on assets immediately applies to the filing party and as soon as the other side is served with the complaint the restraining order likewise then applies to him or her.

Step #3: Temporary Orders; The Road Map for the Future
After the defendant has been served or has entered an appearance, one or both parties usually file a motion asking the court for temporary orders. These deal with important issues.

Step #4: Discovery; Which Is Just That
Discovery is the point in the process where the attorneys, using various legal tools, are able to quantify just what is going on financially, as well as with other concerns, such as custody or parenting issues. 

Step #5: Depositions: Do’s and Don’ts
Absent a trial (and at least 95% of all divorce cases settle without one) a deposition is often the only time the parties to a divorce testify under oath.  

Step #6: What Is A GAL?
GAL is shorthand for a guardian ad litem, which is Latin for a guardian for the litigation, which is an arcane term for a person appointed by the judge in a divorce case generally to perform certain investigatory services in a custody or parenting matter. 

Step #7: The Four Way Meeting
This the term used to describe the Court mandated meeting between the parties and their lawyers that must take place prior to the pretrial conference.  

Step #8: The Pretrial Conference; for many, the last step
Done well, by both counsel and the judge, the pretrial conference is a great opportunity to settle a divorce case. The idea behind the pretrial conference is that the judge can read the memos and the financials; ask the lawyers if they have anything to add then the judge can tell everyone what he or she thinks about the areas of dispute. Then the parties and their lawyers (who hopefully have also brought draft agreements with them) go out in the hallways and try to reach an overall settlement. 

Step #9: The Uncontested Divorce Hearing or "Is That All There Is?!"
The uncontested divorce hearing is often a culture shock to the participants.  While there is a great deal of ceremony around the actual act of marriage, divorce itself has all the charm of a trip to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Step #10: Trial: Avoid it if you can
If you are one of the approximately 95% of couples whose divorce will settle by agreement, be grateful; for the remaining 5%, this post is the barest of bare-bones descriptions of the process.