Tips to Save Money During Divorce Litigation

1) Be prepared to settle at any moment.  If you are called into court for a motion hearing, bring a Separation Agreement with you.  If you can get the opposing party to sign it at the hearing, you can get divorced that day.

2) Gather every piece of documentation you can.  Attorneys spend a lot of time and money fighting over unknowns.  If you can prove your salary, your spouse’s salary, the value of all assets, the value of all liabilities, and all expenses, you will cut down on the amount of fighting and time spent in your divorce.

3) Try to resolve some things directly with your spouse.  For example, if you know you and your spouse really only disagree about the disposition of the marital home, consider sitting down with your spouse to work out everything else.  Then your attorneys will only charge you for litigation over the marital home.

4) Find an attorney who will do Limited Assistance Representation.  This allows you to represent yourself for some of the easier motions and hearings, and only pull in your attorney for the more challenging issues. 

5) If you live in the state of Massachusetts, complete the Financial Statement on your own before you even hire an attorney.  This will save time, and your attorney can’t bill you as much for the completion of the financial statement when you give him or her a draft.

6) Finally, think before you call your attorney.  If you are fighting with your spouse about whether the custody exchange should occur at 5:00 pm or 6:30 pm this week, is it really worth calling your attorney who will charge you for that conversation? 

Guardianship of a Minor: What to Expect

For most parents, there is nothing as terrifying as someone taking your child away from you.  It’s even more complicated when that someone is not the other parent of your child.

In Massachusetts, a third party can petition the probate courts for temporary and permanent guardianship.  Like traditional custody proceedings, the petitioner is required to give all parties notice of the proceeding.  Then all parties are called into court for a hearing.

So what makes the court grant guardianship to a third party?  The court will look at whether the parents are unfit and whether it is not in the best interests of the minor child to remain with the parents.  Parental unfitness is a high standard to meet.  Concern that a parent is sloppy, runs late, or is a poor communicator does not meet that heightened standard.  Evidence of a parent’s use of heroin or evidence of the parent’s exposure of the child to sexual assault is more likely to qualify.

If you are petitioning for guardianship, you should work with an attorney to compile your evidence and ensure that you can prove unfitness.  If your attorney advises you that you’re not in a position to meet your burden of proof, ask the parents if they would consent to your guardianship instead.