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Stages of Divorce Before a Court Hearing

During the divorce process, a couple has to deal with different issues including marital property division and assignment of marital debts. Some couples can amicably agree on the terms of their divorce while others need a Massachusetts divorce lawyer or mediator to help them reach a resolution. If a couple can’t resolve their issues, a judge or arbitrator can help them make decisions. 

In Massachusetts, marital property or debts are divided equitably between spouses. Property divisions don’t need to be equal. A court determines what’s equitable for each case it handles. 

The divorce process involves a stage called discovery in which every party reveals all assets and liabilities, along with other important information. Equitable distribution of marital property and assignment of marital debts are only possible when the parties discovered these. The following are the stages of divorce before the court hearing:

Filing a Complaint

A plaintiff or a lawyer will file a complaint for divorce to initiate the divorce process. The complaint will name the parties involved and include the county where they live to establish venue and one jurisdictional ground or cause for divorce, so the court will establish power to divorce the parties. 

In addition, the complaint will request for the grant of a divorce, to divide property and debts equitably, and award custody and visitation rights. Also, it requests the court to grant other reliefs like alimony and child support. After paying the filing fee, the complaint, together with a summon must be served to the other spouse or defendant.

Waiting for a Response from the Defendant

After the complaint has been served to the defendant, the latter has 30 days to answer the allegations the complaint raises. They can deny, admit, or respond to every allegation. But, to establish a valid controversy, the answer of the defendant should deny the divorce grounds. 

Usually, affirmative defenses and counterclaims follow the admissions or denials. The counterclaim must allege the divorce claim in the same way as the plaintiff’s complaint. Also, the defendant must respond to the relief the plaintiff requested by stating their specific desires from the divorce. 

Getting Vital Documents

After the defendant has filed their answer, either party can file a discovery motion to get crucial information or documents that support their position. They can use scheduled depositions or subpoenas to demand the production of important documents from the other party. The discovery process can produce information on behavior, finances, as well as parenting and marital disagreements. 

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