Facts About Divorce
BY DAVID GROSSACK
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
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.