Attorney Marie K. Spring

SERVING SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS

Family Law

A New England School of Law Graduate, Attorney Spring has worked hard at assisting families in the Bristol, Barnstable, and Plymouth County areas. Focusing on the person as an individual and not just a case, you can be sure Attorney Spring will use her 23 years of experience in the field of law to provide you with quality services at an affordable cost.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE MASSACHUSETTS PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT

Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts are divided into two sections, Domestic and Probate. On the Domestic side of our Court we provide clients with assistance regarding matters such as:

  • Divorce
  • Child Support and Custody
  • Visitation
  • Paternity
  • Contempt
  • Modifications of previous domestic orders
  • Grandparent Visitation
  • Protection from Abuse/209A and Restraining Orders

Some Common Questions Asked concerning domestic cases:

1) How long will it take to get divorced?

There are two types of Divorces in Massachusetts, a M.G.L. ch. 208 § 1A or 1B. Divorces which are amicable are called a 1A and can usually take an average of three to six months depending on the county. A Joint Petition for Divorce is filed along with Affidavits of Irretrievable Breakdown, a Separation Agreement, financial statements and Certificate of Absolute. Where children are involved additional documentation is required. 1A divorces are final 120 days from the date of the divorce decree. Although 1A divorces are fairly easier and quicker than 1B divorces, there are a host of legal issues involved which a party may not be aware of. While representing yourself may initially save money, often times it leads to unexpected costs and unwanted consequences in the future. You should always consult with an attorney before signing or preparing any legal documentation. Divorces for which there are disputed matters are called 1B and can take upwards of 18 months or longer. Typically a Complaint for Divorce is filed with a copy of the Summons and Complaint being served on the opposite side by a sheriff of constable. Six months after filing a party may request a trial date. It may take several more months or longer to get a trial date depending on the county. Should you have emergency matters that need to be addressed before the trial date you may file a Motion for Temporary Orders. A 1B divorce is final 90 days from the date of the divorce decree. As 1B divorces are much more complicated that 1A divorces parties should always be represented by counsel to make sure your needs are met and you are moved through the process in a more timely fashion.

2) Am I eligible for a Modification of my existing child support Order?

A child support order may be modified providing it is two years old and there are changes in circumstances which would warrant changes to the order such as an increase of decrease in income. Typically a party will file a Complaint for Modification and serve the other party with a copy of the same, together with a Summons and Track Notice using a sheriff or constable. It may take six months or greater to receive a Pre-trial or trial date depending on the county. Should you need immediate assistance from the court a Motion for Temporary Orders is filed. There are certain circumstances for which a reduction in support or an increase in support which must be considered before filing such as is the additional income being derived from a second or part-time job following the initial order, the type of employment the payor is involved in, etc. Since there are many legal issues involved in filing a Complaint for Modification an attorney should always be consulted to make sure you are fully prepared for the process and your rights are protected.

3) Am I eligible for Alimony?

Under the new Alimony Reform Act, certain parties which would not have been eligible for alimony in the past may now be eligible, i.e. marriages less than 5 years, etc... Also, where alimony was once considered for life, that may no longer be the case, i.e. payor reaches retirement age. Alimony is based on the need of the recipient and the ability of the payor to pay. The new alimony act is quite complicated, containing formulas for calculating the length of time alimony may be received. You should consult with an Attorney to be sure your rights are protected.

On the Probate side of our Court we provide clients with assistance regarding matters such as:

  • Formal and Informal Probate of Estates
  • Guardianships and Guardianship Alternatives
  • Conservatorships
  • Change of Names
  • Equity

Some Common Questions Asked concerning probate cases:

1) What happens if a person dies without a Will?

Estates involving less than $25,000.00 of personal property (excluding vehicles) and where at least 30 days have passed since the date of death an interested person may file a Voluntary Administration Statement. Letters of appointment are then issued by the Court and the personal representative/Administrator may then distribute property of the estate without further notice or assistance from the court. Where an estate contains personal property of more than $25,000.00 a Petition for Appointment of Formal or Informal Personal Representative may be filed. If all heirs are in agreement regarding the disposition of the estate a Petition for an Informal Representative may be filed with seven days notice to all heirs. Notice must be made to the Division of Medical Assistance and publication must be made in the local newspaper. Once Letters of appointment have been received the personal representative may proceed with the disposition of the estate without further assistance of the court. Where heirs are not in agreement and/or where real estate is involved, a party must proceed by filing a Petition For Formal Appointment of Personal Representative. All heirs must be noticed along with the Division of Medical Assistance. Publication must be made in the local newspaper. A formal probate of an estate is quite an involved process requiring complicated documents and time constraints. Formal proceedings should always involve supervision of an experienced attorney to ensure the estate is properly probated and moves along in a timely fashion.

2) Is there an alternative to a formal Guardianship of a Minor proceeding?

Where parents are in agreement, a Massachusetts Caregiver Authorization Affidavit is one method which may be used which gives a caregiver authority to make medical and educational decisions for a minor without the need of a formal guardianship proceeding. The parent, legal custodian or legal guardian of the child(ren) may exercise concurrent rights and responsibilities with the appointed caregiver. Appointments can last up until 2 years; however, they may be amended or revoked at any time with notice to all parties to whom the Affidavit of Appointment was given to previously. Formal Guardianships involve complicated paperwork and time restraints which an experienced attorney should oversee in the best interest of the child(ren).

3) What should I do if my parent(s) can no longer care for themselves or handle their finances?

An interested party of a person who has not prepared in advance a Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney may file a Petition to be Appointed Guardian of the Person and a Petition to be Appointed Conservator of the Estate. Guardianships grant authority over the person and allow the guardian to make decisions concerning health care, i.e. whether the Ward should be placed in a nursing home, etc.. An appointed Conservator may handle the finances of the Ward, i.e. paying bills, etc.. Guardianships and Conservatorships of incapacitated persons are very complicated, requiring the filing of numerous documents, including medical certificates, etc., under strict time restraints. An experienced attorney should be consulted before proceeding with a Guardianship or Conservatorship in order to avoid unnecessary delays or denials in an appointment for the benefit of the ward.