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Facts About Divorce


Of all the proceedings that can occur in court, divorce has the potential to be the most emotionally difficult. The dissolution of a marriage is perhaps the most difficult decision a married man or woman can make in a lifetime, and is a personal, not a legal choice. No two people are expected to remain together if the marriage is not longer enjoyable arrangement; but factors such as religion, children and the feelings of parents inevitably considered.

There are numerous grounds which may be listed as a reason for dissolving a marriage. Traditionally in Massachusetts law there have been seven: Cruel and Abusive Treatment; Non-Support; Imprisonment; Gross and Confirmed Habits of Intoxication; Impotency; Desertion; and Adultery.

It is common today for divorce proceedings to be uncontested. In such circumstances the grounds for divorce may merely be "irretrievable breakdown of a marriage" and thereby the parties are spared the inconvenience of discussing delicate matters in court. In uncontested divorces the parties each sign an affidavit swearing that the marriage has deteriorated to the point that it cannot be saved. If one party refuses to sign, irretrievable breakdown of a marriage may still be ground may still be grounds for divorce but it is no longer uncontested.

In an uncontested divorce, the parties also prepare an exhaustive "marital agreement" which is a contract dividing property, determining custody and declaring the basic rights and responsibilities of each party after the divorce. Frequently, the parties cannot agree on a negotiated property division or alimony award and the judge will decide these issues. According to law, there are twelve factors which he must consider:

1. Length of the marriage.

2. Conduct of the parties during the mar¬riage.

3. Age of the parties.

4. Health of the parties.

5. The station of the parties.

6. The occupation of the parties.

7. The sources and amount of their income.

8. The vocational skills of the parties.

9. The employability of the parties.

10. The respective estates of the parties; i.e. what they already own.

11. The liabilities and needs of the parties.

12. The opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income. (See M.G.L. Ch. 208 '34)

Other factors such as the contribution of each of the parties to building the family estate may also be taken into account. In many instances the parties cannot agree on custody of minor children; in these cases courts will frequently appoint investigators to determine which parent would be more suitable for the child's interest. In every case, the sole determination for child custody is what is in the best interest of the child, i.e. which parent can offer the child the guidance, stability and care for his or her well being. More and more attention is now being paid to shared custody arrangements and the courts are usually careful to see that neither parent becomes estranged from a child excepting certain circumstances where the child's emotional or physical well being could be at stake.


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