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Cornetta, Ficco   & Simmler PC
Cornetta, Ficco   & Simmler PC - Attorneys At Law

Family Law

Our family law practice involves the representation of individuals in the process of divorce, separation and efforts to establish paternity rights. We are experienced in handling all types of litigation, including child custody and support, visitation, division of property, including business and other significant assets such as retirement accounts, and spousal support. Our relationship with our clients doesn't always end when the matter is concluded, often times changes in circumstances necessitate modifications to custody, visitation, relocation or child support arrangements.

For more information about our family law practice, please select a subject below:

Child Support / Spousal Support
Child Custody and Visitation
Enforcement Actions
Prenuptial Agreements
Restraining Orders
Frequently Asked Questions

We strive to provide our clients with the highest quality and most creative representation possible. While we focus our efforts on resolving matters amicably, we are known for our aggressive and proactive style.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Family Law

How long will it take to get divorced?

The duration of an action for divorce can't be predicted with any certainty. Many times parties enter the action believing that they and their spouse will agree to all items and have an easy, uncomplicated case, or that they will have a difficult fight on their hands. Many times these people overlook an item of dispute or are actually able to agree on many facets of the divorce. It is possible to obtain a judgment in no longer than two months in an uncontested divorce, however, if there is a contested action that divorce could take between one and two years.

How does custody of the children work?

There are two distinct elements of child custody. Physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with and the courts will generally keep the child with the primary caretaker parent, but if the court warrants that is not in the best interest of the child, the other parent could obtain physical custody. Legal custody in Massachusetts is usually joint between the parents and refers to the rights that each parent has in making important life decisions for their child. In some cases, the parent with physical custody may also obtain sole legal custody when the parents are unable to communicate to the detriment of the child. While it is preferred to give one parent sole physical custody and allow the other parent reasonable visitation, some situations call for shared physical custody, in which the child would live part of the time with each parent.

I'm afraid my spouse is going to hide assets that I may not be aware of. How can I prevent this?

We can act immediately to obtain a "freeze" on assets and prevent your spouse from either selling or otherwise hiding them. Assets should be appraised to ensure that they are not undervalued, and we can review all sources of income from bank and brokerage records as well as tax returns and other statements. If assets are unknown, income can be imputed based upon your lifestyles. The process to obtain information on these assets is known as discovery, can become very costly and is not a guarantee that all assets will be uncovered.

I don't want to file for divorce right away, but I'm afraid that my bills won't get paid. Is there a way to get my spouse to pay for some of our expenses?

You do not have to file for divorce in order to get support or to obtain reasonable visitation if you are the spouse living out of the martial home. You can file a Complaint for Separate Support, this will require your attendance at a hearing to establish the support necessary and whether there is an ability to pay by the other spouse. The other spouse may at that time seek to establish a court ordered visitation. At any time, the separate support action can be modified into an action for divorce.

How much can I get for child support and alimony?

In Massachusetts, child support is governed by the Child Support Guidelines which set out the formulas for the amounts to be paid by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent based on each party's gross incomes and the costs of health insurance. Alimony can be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis. Just a few of the factors that the court considers in determining whether alimony will be paid or not and its' duration include: the need of the party seeking alimony, the ability of the other party to pay alimony, the length of the marriage, the skills and education of the parties and their abilities to obtain gainful income in the future. Unlike the child support amounts, these are more complicated to determine. In the case of child support where the obligor is employed, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue may be required to obtain payment from the obligor directly by wage assignment. This is a benefit to both obligor and obligee as it prevents non-payment as well as mistaken or false claims that a parent has not been paying his or her child support.

How is property divided in a divorce?

Property division in Massachusetts is done by "equitable division." All property is included as marital property subject to equitable division, regardless of which spouse "owns" the property and includes both gifts and inheritances. Equitable division seeks to divide the property depending upon what each spouse deserves and is based on factors which are found in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, § 34. These factors the Court must consider include, the length of the marriage, the contribution of each spouse to the marriage which includes both financial and homemaking contributions, occupation and ability to earn income, as well as conduct during the marriage.

I was divorced a few years ago. Is there any way I can change child support, custody and visitation?

If the parents are agreeable, you can modify custody or visitation in a manner that is best suited to everyone. Alternatively, you can file a Complaint for Modification for custody, support and / or visitation. At the hearing, you would need to show a "material change of circumstance" that warrants the change.

Do grandparents have a right to visitation with children?

Massachusetts has a law that provides visitation rights to grandparents. In order to obtain visitation rights, a grandparent must file a petition in the Probate and Family Court where the divorce, action for separate support or paternity suit was filed.

I had a child with a woman I never married. I've given her money but she isn't allowing me to see my child. What can I do?

You need to have your parental rights established by a court. You may voluntarily acknowledge paternity or may take a blood test to determine whether you are the father. Once the court is satisfied that you are the child's biological father, orders to allow visitation as well as formal child support payments can be established. Until a court has adjudicated you the father you are under no legal obligation to financially support the child, but you also have no rights to visit with your child.

My ex-spouse shows up every other weekend for visits but never pays me child support. Can I stop the visits until he pays?

No, visitation and support are mutually exclusive. The parent who doesn't pay support may still visit with his child because it is in the best interest of the child to have quality time with each parent. On the other hand, a parent who pays support each and every week may be unable to visit with the child because of substance abuse or other issues. You should return to court, seek an order enforcing the support obligations and establishing any past due amounts due you. You may also ask the Department of Revenue to attach your former spouses' wages to obtain the ordered support.
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