When you’re interviewing with a divorce attorney, you should make sure that all your questions are answered to your satisfaction.  Write down your questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget them when you meet with the attorney.

Questions to ask your divorce attorney should include the following:

Cost.  How much do you believe my divorce will cost?   What is your hourly rate and the rate of others in the firm that might be working on my case? How will I be charged and billed? What is the amount of your retainer to begin the case?

Recommendations.  What is the course of action that you recommend I take and why?  What step or steps should I take now, if any, to protect myself (or my children)? Is there anything I should not do?

Options.  Do you offer limited assistance representation?  What should I know about mediation, collaborative law, conciliation, arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution?

Outcome.  What can I reasonably expect in terms of a range of outcomes—on property division, support, custody and parenting, health insurance, life insurance, etc. What is a realistic time frame to reach an end result?

Settlement v. Trial.  What is the likelihood of my case being settled by agreement without a contested trial? What is the percentage of your divorce cases that are ultimately settled by agreement? (this should be quite high) Are you prepared to try my case in Court if a settlement cannot be reached?

Experience.  How many years of experience do you have in representing clients in divorce and family law matters? How many clients have you represented in  divorce cases from beginning to end?

Approach/Philosophy.  What is your general philosophy or approach in these types of matters, and in my case in particular? (make sure you agree with his/her philosophy or approach).

You have a right to know, and should receive satisfactory answers to all of your questions.  Let your attorney know your priorities and wishes so that you can understand how to achieve your goals.  We at Ryan Faenza Carey believe our clients have a right to transparency, and to full and open lines of communication.   

What is a contempt action?

Contempt actions deal with a party’s failure to comply with a clear or unequivocal order or judgment of the Court.  A contempt action can be civil or criminal in nature, although most contempt actions in the probate and family court are civil in nature.  Your spouse or ex-spouse can file a Complaint for Contempt against you if you have failed to obey the terms of any court order or judgment.  A Contempt Judgment can have serious consequences to you, including paying interest, paying the other party’s legal fees, or jail time.

How to avoid contempt

#1 – Do what you are ordered to do

First and foremost, you should periodically read through any orders or judgments to ensure that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and to be mindful of any upcoming deadlines.  Failure to pay child support is a common reason someone files a Complaint for Contempt.  If you are found in contempt for failure to pay child support, you could be ordered to pay the other parent’s legal fees, have your wages garnished, or spend time in jail.

# 2 – Be cautious about informal agreements

Sometimes when a person falls into hardship and is unable to meet a financial obligation, he or she makes an informal arrangement with his or her ex-spouse to reduce payments.  If the arrangement is not reduced to a signed writing and approved by the Court, then the arrangement will not necessarily relieve you of your obligation under the prior order or judgment.  The Court may determine that you violated an existing order despite an informal agreement to the contrary. 

#3 – Seek a modification

If you cannot comply with the terms of an order or judgment, you should seek a modification to change the terms before a Complaint for Contempt is filed.  Although, your inability to pay may be a defense against a contempt action; you will incur costly legal fees in defending the contempt.  The best defense is sometimes a good offense.

#4 – Show up for all court appearances

If a Complaint for Contempt is filed against you, then you are required to appear in court for a hearing.  A common mistake is not knowing that the “return date” on the summons is an actual hearing date.  If you are unsure about the date and time of the court hearing you should contact the court immediately.  Failure to show up for the court hearing could have serious consequences, including the judge finding you in contempt, jail time, or unfavorable decisions in your legal matter.

#5 – Call your attorney

If you believe that you may be in violation of an order or judgment, you should contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney.

Think that dividing assets in divorce is easy and anyone can do it?  Think again.  You may be risking thousands or tens of thousands of dollars if you forget to dot the “i’s” and cross the  “t’s”.  A recent Boston Globe article highlighted the Court case of former Patriots running back Mosi Tatupu. His case underscores the importance of careful and timely drafting and consistency in dividing assets in a divorce. It also illustrates how important it is to fully understand the terms of your settlement.

What Mosi Tatupu’s widow thought she was getting from her former husband’s NFL pension, and what she ultimately got, were two different things. The provisions of the parties’ divorce Separation Agreement, and the court-submitted document dividing the pension (DRO) were inconsistent. After Mosi’s death, his former wife sought to enforce terms of a DRO to divide the pension, and a federal Court in Massachusetts denied her claim.

The division of pensions and other assets in a divorce is complex and should be handled by an experienced professional.  It is essential that you know and understand your rights, as property division provisions are usually final.  Insist on having your rights explained to you and leave nothing to chance; it is unlikely at best that problems with property division can be rectified after the fact. 

We at Ryan Faenza Carey have seen first hand the difficulties and problems that arise in cases such as Mosi’s, among others.  These difficulties and problems can mean the loss of thousands or even millions of dollars down the road.  Consult with one of our experienced professionals.

There are many divorce attorneys and firms who like to define themselves as specializing in representing “men” or representing “women” in particular. Over the years, divorce has become more gender neutral, although not completely gender neutral.  “Parenting” has replaced the traditional notions of “custody” and “visitation,” recognizing the importance of both parents.  Recent significant changes in both the alimony and child support laws have resulted in more gender neutral treatment in these areas (i.e. alimony and child support orders received by both men and women).  

So do you need a “divorce attorney for men” or a “divorce attorney for women”?

We at Ryan Faenza Carey believe the selection of an attorney to represent you in a divorce is an important one, and that there are many considerations more important than gender.  Experience, professionalism, and high rate of settlement are all important considerations in selecting an attorney.  It is critical that you feel trust and confidence in your attorney, and that you are able to communicate with him or her.  Over the decades, our firm has represented roughly equal numbers of men and women in divorce and family law matters.  We believe this broad base of clientele allows us to be strong advocates for both men and women, resulting in a meaningful resolution in most cases.

Decide for yourself. Call us for a consultation.

A divorce can feel like a liberating experience once legal proceedings are finalized. Many people leave our office for the last time with the feeling that the past is behind them, and nothing but opportunities for the future await. They don’t expect to have to deal with any more court or legal proceedings. 

Nevertheless, here are some post-divorce considerations we share with all of our clients to ensure they are avoiding additional legal headaches down the road:

Don’t Forget your Agreement Terms:

It is good practice to periodically read through your Agreement or Judgment after the divorce to carry out the terms of the divorce. Typically, parties forget some of the terms of the final orders. There are probably provisions concerning splitting up the assets, who takes the dependent exemptions for the children, life insurance you may have to establish or verify, provisions regarding payment of uninsured medical expenses for the children, or other things to be done to carry out the agreement reached.

Make sure you’re legally divorced before remarrying

Be sure to wait until the Judgment of Divorce Absolute—the final judgment—before you remarry. This is the formal document that recognizes you as legally single in the eyes of the law.

Consider a Prenuptial for the next one

If you do remarry, a prenuptial agreement can save you a lot of headache by determining in advance what should happen if your subsequent remarriage ends by divorce or death.

Be aware of your right to modification

If circumstances of the parties or children change, you may want to explore a modification– a  change in the Court orders—typically these changes concern support, parenting schedule, medical insurance, life insurance triggered by changes in income, job, or changes in parenting schedules.

You may have to involve the court if orders aren’t followed

If your former spouse doesn’t obey the Court orders, you may need to explore a contempt proceeding—to enforce the Court orders.  Typically this involves failure to divide pensions or retirements, failure to pay support, etc.

Laws change- and this can affect your agreement

Sometimes laws change and can have retroactive effect.  Periodically explore whether or not any changes in the laws may affect you.

You should plan ahead

Put together a post-divorce estate plan—to insure that your wishes are carried out the way you want them to be carried out in the event of your death.  

Get creative with social security

When it is time to consider collecting social security, remember that your previous marriage may allow you considerable options of collecting under your work record, or that of your former spouse, or a combination of both, in order to best maximize your benefits.