All posts by AlisonSilberEsq

General Preparation for Divorce

You should consult with an attorney to strategize the best preparation for your own divorce, since each divorce is different. Here are some of the more general ways to prepare:

  • Get your documents in order. Find the most recent statement (or better yet, all the statements) for each asset you have, your spouse has, and you and your spouse jointly have. One of the biggest expenses in divorce is discovery, when you and your spouse fight for documents. Avoid that expense by having proof of all assets from the beginning of the divorce.
  • Your social media is a gift to opposing counsel, so eliminate your social media presence. You might think your picture from vacation is cute, but opposing counsel will use it to show your lavish lifestyle. You might think nothing of the myriad comments on your posts, but opposing counsel may comb through them to suggest that your extramarital relationship began earlier than you say.  (While adultery is not all that relevant in Massachusetts, you don’t want to lose your credibility before the judge.)
  • Start tracking your expenses. In Massachusetts, the court requires all divorcing parties to file a Financial Statement, which requires you to list all your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Begin tracking all of the same, so that you can readily complete the Financial Statement.
  • Keep a journal. If your spouse has slept at home twice in the past fifteen nights, write it down. If your spouse has put your children to sleep once in the past month, write it down. These details could be helpful to your attorney, but you might have a hard time remembering them if you don’t write them down.
  • Communicate respectfully. All of your emails, texts, and notes to your spouse should be respectful. If they’re not, they will likely be used against you. Communicate with your spouse as if you were running a business together.

Deposition Basics


Depositions can be very intimidating to parties. Depositions are an opportunity for opposing counsel to ask you tons of questions and record your every answer in hopes that they will learn new information that will make or break their case. Here are five tips for deposition success.

  • Answer the question, and only the question. If the question is a yes/no question, then your answer should only be “yes” or “no.” If the question is open-ended, answer it as concisely as possible. A colleague likes to use this example—if opposing counsel asks you, “Do you know what time it is?” you should not answer “Yes, 4:45.” Instead, you should only answer, “Yes.”
  • Don’t fill the silence. Opposing counsel may deliberately take a long pause in hopes that you will have the human instinct to fill the silence. Do not fill the silence.
  • “That is all I remember as I sit here.” Opposing counsel is going to try to lock in your testimony. In other words, they may ask you to list every vacation you took during the marriage, and then ask, “Have you now told me every vacation you took during the marriage?” Instead of saying you listed  every single thing, since your memory may not be perfect, answer something like, “That is all I remember as I sit here.”
  • Take a break if you need one. If you are feeling stressed or exhausted, don’t be afraid to ask for a break. Opposing counsel won’t let you take a break before you’ve answered a question, but they should allow you to take a break once the question is answered.
  • “I don’t remember.” Opposing counsel may try to trip you up with complicated factual questions. For example, “In what month, did you roll over your 401k?” If you can’t remember, you can say, “I don’t remember” or “I’m not certain.” It’s better to say that you don’t remember than to state an untrue answer that will be later used to impeach your credibility.

“I” Statements


Research on marital satisfaction finds that couples who use “I” statements are generally happier in their relationships than couples who routinely use “you” statements. (For example, “I need to get out of the house during the weekend to decompress” vs. “You always abandon me with the kids and you take me for granted as a babysitter all weekend.”)

Marriage is not the only time to use “I” statements. Consider using them during your divorce for a smoother and more amicable negotiation. Here are some translations from inflammatory “you” statements into effective “I” statements.

On Custody

“You don’t deserve to have the children all the time. You are undeserving and entitled.”


“I would really like to have time-sharing with the children every weekend because I want to continue to coach Tommy’s baseball practice, take Sally to her Saturday ballet practices, bring the children to church, and bring the children to my family events. My extended family doesn’t do much socially during the week, but we spend a lot of time together on weekends and I want our children to be part of that so they can have strong relationships with their cousins and grandparents.”


On Child Support

“You are useless with money and you are going to waste all the child support on booze and your boyfriend.”


“I feel concerned that there won’t be enough resources for the children after the divorce. I am hopeful that the child support money can be used for the children’s clothes, school supplies, food, and other necessities. How does that sound?”


On Alimony

“You are a philandering #&(@^& and you deserve to pay me every penny you’ve ever seen.”


“After this divorce is final, I will be responsible for my own rent, uninsured medicals, food, transportation, etc. I am going to need to be able to meet these needs with alimony, and I am hoping we can reach an alimony figure that is feasible for you and also allows me to maintain my independence without becoming bankrupt or a ward of the state.”


The Divorce Process

The divorce process can be confusing, and it’s helpful to have a sense of the stages in probate court.  Here’s what you can expect generally.

Opening Pleadings: The Plaintiff’s complaint opens a new matter in probate court.  The Defendant can respond with an answer and counterclaim.  It may also make sense to file a motion for temporary orders or other pertinent motions.

Temporary Hearing: If a motion for temporary orders has been filed, the court will schedule a temporary motion hearing.  This hearing is an opportunity to argue only the temporary issues in the temporary motion, such as a temporary time-sharing arrangement while the divorce is pending.  This hearing is not an opportunity to argue permanent issues like property division.  In fact, some judges don’t even like to hear custody issues on a temporary basis.

Discovery: Once you and your attorney strategize your position and arguments, you will begin collecting and organizing your supporting evidence.  Evidence can be collected through interrogatories, requests for production of documents, subpoenas, and depositions.

Pre-Trial 4-Way: Before the pre-trial conference, the court expects you and your counsel to meet with your spouse and opposing counsel to settle the divorce.  Try your very best to settle at this point!  In the event you are unable to settle, you will need to draft and file a pre-trial memorandum before the pre-trial conference.

Pre-Trial Conference: The court will hold a pre-trial conference at which time the court really wants you to settle.  You will present a nutshell summary of your theory of the case, and the court will give guidance on how the court might rule if the case went to trial.  The goal of this feedback is to help you settle.

Trial: In the unfortunate case you have not yet settled, you will have a trial, which is an opportunity for each party to present evidence in support of his or her arguments.  You should do your absolute best to settle before getting to this stressful and expensive point.

In between these hearings, you may have status conferences, case management hearings, motion hearings, and more as needed.

The Four Types of Alimony in Massachusetts

Types of Alimony

The recent alimony law clarified the distinctions between the four types of alimony, but why does the type of alimony matter? It matters for a few reasons. The type of alimony explains the intent of the alimony, the duration of alimony, and whether or not the alimony is modifiable.

General Term Alimony: General term alimony is based on the duration of the marriage, and is modifiable upon a material change of circumstances. General term alimony can be suspended, reduced or terminated when the recipient spouse has maintained a common household with another person for at least three months. General term alimony generally terminates upon the payor attaining full retirement age.

Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony generally shall not be more than five years, although it can be extended if unforeseen events prevent the recipient spouse from becoming self-supporting at the end of the term. Rehabilitative alimony can also be modified within the five year rehabilitative period.

Reimbursement Alimony: Unlike the other forms of alimony, reimbursement alimony does not follow the traditional calculation where the alimony amount is one-third of the difference between payor and recipient’s incomes. Once ordered, reimbursement alimony shall not be modified.

Transitional Alimony: Transitional alimony shall not last longer than three years, and transitional alimony shall not be modified, extended, or replaced with another form of alimony.

Alimony and Child Support

When the new alimony law was promulgated, we attorneys hoped it would provide consistency in the law. In some ways, the new alimony law has reached that goal. We now have a framework for determining general term alimony, we know when alimony should generally end, and we have a clear understanding of the categories of alimony.

Yet, the new alimony law has left one question unanswered and convoluted. The question is: how do you determine alimony and child support when a case calls for both?

Judges are answering this question differently. Some judges believe that the first $250,000 of income should be used to calculate child support and the remaining income should be used to calculate alimony. Some believe that alimony should be calculated first and then child support should be determined after.   Some believe that a certain percentage of the income should be used for child support, and the rest should be used for alimony. Some like to see all the different options presented to them and then they will choose whichever feels most equitable.

Your attorney is best suited to navigate these unpredictable waters. Where the law is unclear, an artful and persuasive argument is crucial and most likely worth the attorney’s fees.

Determining Child Support When There Are Children From Multiple Relationships

For some families, child support is a straightforward calculation. You plug each parent’s income in the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and you get a final figure.

However, where a parent has other children from another relationship, the child support calculation is more complicated.   Let’s say Dad pays child support pursuant to court order for child Annie from his prior marriage. He is now divorcing his second wife who is mother to child Brian. In that scenario, the court will deduct Dad’s court-ordered child support for Annie from his gross income and then use the remainder as his new gross income for the calculation for child support for Brian.

Now, let’s imagine that there is no court-ordered child support for Annie. Instead, Dad pays Annie’s mother a voluntary payment. As long as that payment is reasonable, actually being paid, and Annie does not reside with Dad, then the court will still deduct that voluntary child support for Annie from Dad’s gross income before calculating child support for Brian.

Finally, let’s imagine a situation where Dad lives with Annie, so he does not pay child support for her. In that scenario, the court would calculate a hypothetical amount of child support for Annie, pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines, and deduct that hypothetical amount from Dad’s gross income before calculating child support for Brian.

As you can see, these variations get complicated, which is why it’s important to meet with an attorney.

Preparing Your Financial Documents for Divorce

Divorce is a lot of work! In order to get divorced, you and your spouse need to make a complete financial disclosure. Preparing for this can take months.

As soon as you realize you want to get divorced, you should start preparing your documentation. The first step is to make a list of every source of income, piece of real estate, motor vehicle, retirement asset, bank account, investment, and debt that is linked to either you or your spouse.

Next, collect supporting documentation for that item. For example, for a source of income, gather the most recent paystubs and most recent W-2s. For a piece of real estate, gather the deed, the mortgage statements, the most recent appraisal, and statements from any home equity loans. (You ultimately will need several years of statements, but think twice about making any requests that will alert your spouse that you are considering divorce. For now, do your best to gather documentation discreetly.)

Finally, once you’ve copied this documentation and organized your copies in a safe location, comb through the documentation. Are there any mysterious transfers? If so, can you figure out where the money went? Any forensic leads you can give your attorney at the initial consult will be helpful. Also, look for patterns. Does your spouse spend a lot of money on online poker? Again, these observations may be useful in your divorce proceeding.

Ultimately, your divorce attorney will give you final instructions on document preparation. The more financial documentation you provide to your divorce attorney upfront, the better prepared she will be and the less she will charge you during the discovery stage of your divorce.




When Do You Stop Negotiating?

In negotiation, it’s necessary to know when to end negotiation efforts. If you don’t sufficiently attempt to settle, you may miss an opportunity to craft a settlement that meets the needs of both parties better than an order from the judge. On the other hand, if you hang on to negotiation attempts too long, you may reveal all your cards, giving opposing counsel ample time to construct counterarguments.

The length of negotiation should be determined by a cost-benefit analysis. Ask your attorney what the legal costs will be if you don’t settle at the temporary motion hearing? What if you don’t settle by the pre-trial conference? What if you don’t settle by trial? Most likely, twenty hours of negotiation costs far less than the price tag for trial. This is an analysis that your attorney should be willing to walk you through.

If you and your attorney assess that negotiation makes the most financial sense, next assess the likelihood that negotiation will lead to settlement. Is the opposing party softening? Does s/he seem willing to collaborate with you? Does the opposing party listen to your offers and contribute reasonable offers of his/her own? If you’re making progress, keep going. Even a partial stipulation should lessen the cost of trial.