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Divorce and Separation


When getting a divorce, you and your spouse must be prepared to discuss property division (assets and liabilities), child support, parenting plans, alimony, medical insurance, life insurance and other family–related and financial issues.

Attorney Pontisakos has experience in handling a variety of complex divorce issues, including issues involving complex income issues and the division of assets.  Asset division in divorce cases may require business valuations or real estate appraisals or the division of retirement assets using Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO).  Asset division may also include a review and analysis of inherited assets and trust assets.  Complex income issues may include the division of stock options and restricted stock units and the “buy-out” of alimony obligations (in Massachusetts).

Divorces are either “contested” or “uncontested.” If parties file for an uncontested divorce, they will work together with a mediator or with their respective divorce attorneys to reach an agreement on the necessary issues. If the divorce is contested or if the parties cannot come to agreement, the court will assign dates for various hearings, including a formal trial before a judge.

The Divorce Process: Mediation, Collaborative Law or Litigation?

Out-of-court processes such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law can save you both time and money. However, if the divorce is contested, and you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, then the divorce will need to be litigated in court.


What Is Legal Separation?

 In Massachusetts, legal separation is an order of the court for financial support for a spouse or children while spouses are living apart, when there is some justifiable reason for living apart or one spouse has abandoned the other without providing for the spouse’s financial support. A Complaint for Separate Support is often appropriate for individuals who either want a trial separation or are considering the possibility of reconciliation, or for individuals who might have moral or religious reasons related to divorce. In Massachusetts, the court does not have authority to divide marital assets under a Separate Support Complaint. The conveyance of the marital home is limited to its relationship to providing support.

In New Hampshire, the law of Legal Separation is different than the Massachusetts law. In New Hampshire, parties to a Legal Separation may obtain all of the same orders that can be obtained under a divorce decree, except that the parties are not free to remarry. The New Hampshire law, RSA 458:26.I provides: “In any case in which a divorce might be decreed, the superior court, on petition of either party, may decree a legal separation of the parties, which separation shall have in all respects the effect of a divorce, except that the parties shall not thereby be made free to marry any third person and except as hereinafter provided.”

What Is the Process for Legal Separation?

In Massachusetts, the process is started with the filing of a Complaint for Separate Support. In New Hampshire, the process is started with the filing of a Petition for Legal Separation.

Contempt and Modifications

After a final divorce, paternity judgment, or other family court determination has been made, you may need to change something that is in the original court judgment. In Massachusetts, this is referred to as a Modification. In New Hampshire, this is referred to as a Petition to Change a Court Order. Both states have legal standards that must be met in order for the court to change prior judgments or decrees.

If a party willfully fails to follow court orders, a contempt action can be filed against that party in court.

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