Getting divorced and resolving family law issues involves transitions that are not easy. I am an experienced divorce mediator and family lawyer, and I will guide you through these transitions with compassion, treating you and your concerns with respect. We will work together, one issue at a time, to create solutions that work for you and your family and ensure that the focus stays on the healthiest process and outcome for you and your children.
I use only processes—mediation, collaborative law divorce, and out-of-court negotiation—that emphasize open, respectful communication. I am currently not taking "contested" cases. If you have been served with divorce papers or need legal representation in court, you must contact a different attorney.
I treat all parties in negotiations with respect. My goal is not to create winners and losers but to use my creativity, my empathy, and my knowledge of the law to create win-win solutions to the practical problems posed by divorce in a cost-effective way. This approach to reaching divorce agreements avoids the high costs, delays, and interpersonal conflict and stress that are inevitable in litigation through family law courts. As a Springfield divorce attorney mediator, I prepare the legal papers and Massachusetts divorce forms reflecting your decisions so that a judge can approve the separation agreement and issue the divorce decree.
I provide legal services for families facing family law issues in Amherst, Springfield, and Western Massachusetts. I specialize in mediation, uncontested divorce, out-of-court divorce negotiations, and divorce consulting and document review. I will work with you to arrive at solutions regarding child support, custody, visitation, parenting plans, property division, debt division, and spousal support issues. I will help you to make thoughtful transitions that ensure financial stability, secure parenting plans for children, and legal closure on difficult emotional issues.
I invite you to explore this website to learn more about me, about mediation, about how divorce works and different kinds of divorce processes in Massachusetts, and to read client reviews of my work.
As a divorce mediator, I act as a neutral facilitator to help you and your spouse come to agreement on the terms of divorce without battling in court.
In collaborative law divorce, your spouse’s attorney and I sign a binding contract to drop out of the case if we cannot come to an agreement. This aligns our financial interests with your interest in reaching an agreement without the time, costs, and stress of court litigation.
In an uncontested divorce, a couple come to agreement on the terms of the divorce outside of court, and present these terms to a judge who approves them in a very brief hearing.
In “no fault” divorce, a spouse does not need to accuse the other spouse of specific wrongdoing in order to divorce. The couple simply need to assert an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage.
Child support is money paid from one parent to another to financially support children when the parents no longer live together. The State of Massachusetts uses a mathematical formula to determine the amount of child support.
Alimony is court-ordered payment of monetary support from one spouse to the other for a period of time after divorce. The 2011 Alimony Reform Act gives guidelines for the amount and duration of general term alimony. In cases with child support, there is only alimony if gross family income exceeds $250,000.
Division of marital assets in MA must be “equitable”, which means “fair”. This can empower you, as a couple, to divide property in the ways that work best for you, as long as you both find it fair, even if it is not 50-50.
I prepare QDRO’s and DRO’s. A QDRO (“Qualified Domestic Relations Order”) is a legal order, entered as part of a divorce or legal separation, that is required in order to split ownership of a retirement plan to give the divorced spouse his or her share of the asset or pension plan. A DRO (“Domestic Relations Order”) is the usual name for this document if a government pension is being split.
The flowchart below gives an overview of different processes for completing a divorce in Massachusetts. In 95% of divorce cases in Massachusetts, the final terms of the divorce are agreed upon in a separation agreement that is written up outside of court and presented to a judge who approves it in a 20-minute hearing. There are very different routes, however, for reaching this separation agreement and brief hearing. In many cases, there are court actions–litigation or “contested divorce” processes–before a couple agree on the terms of the divorce in a separation agreement.
These court actions add delays, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of costs, and interpersonal stress to the process of reaching a separation agreement. As the chart illustrates, the only way to guarantee an uncontested divorce, with no expensive, antagonistic, and time-consuming court actions, is through divorce mediation, a collaborative law divorce process, or out-of-court divorce negotiations. Attorney Julia Rueschemeyer specializes in these forms of divorce, which avoid high costs, delays, and court legal battles. You can learn more about mediation, collaborative law divorce, and differences between fault, no-fault, contested, and uncontested divorce on other pages of this website.
What is the difference between legal separation and divorce in Massachusetts? Spouses can live separately, but there is no “legal separation” status in Massachusetts family law. You are either married or divorced. It is, however, possible to be married, live separately, and receive “separate support” for spousal support or child support. This requires filing a Complaint for Separate Support.
If one of us had an affair, how does that affect the divorce? Although it can be emotionally painful and it can devastate a relationship, an affair matters very little for the terms of the divorce . The one exception is if a spouse secretly spent thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on an affair. That counts as “marital waste” and can be calculated into the eventual division of marital assets.
I want to get divorced, but my spouse doesn’t. Can my spouse prevent us from getting divorced? No. Your spouse can, however, refuse to work together on the terms of the divorce. If that happens, you would have to file for divorce and have your spouse served. Unfortunately, this would mean a contested divorce process, which is long and expensive and tends to generate new animosity between you. Faced with that prospect, many spouses eventually cooperate to develop a separation agreement and file an uncontested divorce.
During marriage, we kept our paychecks, bank accounts, and credit cards separate. How does this affect the division of assets and property if we get divorced? In Massachusetts, all of your assets and debts are considered marital and belong to both of you. It doesn’t matter whose name is on the accounts or credit cards or who paid which bills during the marriage.
If you and your partner are planning to get divorced, you can do it together. This is sometimes referred to as “uncontested divorce” or “amicable divorce,” and it is a form of no-fault divorce.
You must file all papers with the appropriate Massachusetts Probate Court (Family Law Court) and pay a fee of $215.
Sign and file a “Joint Petition for Divorce.” (Divorce court officials sometimes refer to this as the “1A form” and this divorces process as a “1A Marriage Dissolution.”) This is a divorce form that a) states when you were married and last lived together, b) identifies minor or dependent children of the marriage, c) identifies any family law court actions already in process, d) suggests an approximate date when the marriage irretrievably broke down (when it effectively ended), e) requests a divorce, and f) asks the judge to approve your “Separation Agreement” (see below).
Sign and file a “Joint Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown.” In this divorce form you confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
File a certified copy of your Marriage Certificate.
File a “Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment.” This is a form that helps the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics to record the divorce.
Fill out and file Financial Statements. These statements document a) income, b) assets (house, cars, pensions, etc.), c) living expenses, and d) debts. There is a Long Form version if your annual income is over $75,000, and a Short Form version if your annual income is below $75,000. These forms disclose financial information that is necessary for coming to an agreement on Division of Marital Assets, Child Support, and Alimony (see Separation Agreement, below).
File a “Military Affidavit.” On this form you say whether you are in the military service or not.
If you have children under 18, also file:
An “Affidavit of Care and Custody”. This form identifies any previous or ongoing child custody court proceedings or actions.
A “2018 Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.” This form is used to calculate child support according to Massachusetts child support laws. You can calculate your child support right now with the free 2018 Massachusetts Child Support Calculator on this site and then click a button to download the results into a court-ready Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.
A “Findings and Determinations for Child Support and Post-secondary Education Form. “This is a form that documents reasons why your child support amounts might deviate from the presumptive (“expected” or “standard”) amount.
A “Parent Education Certificate”, which confirms that you have attended a “Parent Education Program” for parents of minor children. These education programs are required by Massachusetts divorce law and focus on how to co-parent during and after divorce in a way that is in the best interest of your children.
File a notarized “Separation Agreement” signed by both parties. This is a written contract between spouses that addresses all issues related to:Property division (How are property and debts to be divided? Will one of you keep the house or will you sell the house? How will your retirement accounts be divided? What happens with credit card and student loan debts?)
Child Support (If applicable, how much support, for how long, and from which spouse to which spouse?)
Child Custody and Visitation/Parenting Plan (Legal custody: Will you have joint legal custody or will one of you have sole legal custody? Physical Custody: What is the schedule for where the child spends particular days, nights, and holidays?)
Alimony or spousal support (If applicable, how much and for how many years?)
Health Insurance and Life Insurance
Filing taxes and dependent deductions
There is no specific Massachusetts form for your separation agreement, but several probate courts have made available templates that a committed person could use for a do-it-yourself divorce or pro se divorce. You can download a Massachusetts separation agreement form, or template, for divorce with no children here, created by Worcester County probate court, or a Massachusetts separation agreement with minor children form, or template, here.
After filing all your divorce forms and fee, you will receive a court date by mail. The uncontested divorce hearing usually takes about 15 minutes in court. After the judge grants your divorce at the hearing, there is a 120 day waiting period before the divorce decree (divorce judgment) becomes final.
As a Western Massachusetts divorce mediator and family law attorney, I am happy to speak with you about divorce mediation, uncontested divorce, and legal document review.
You file for divorce in the county where you last lived together. If you have both moved out of the county, you can file in a MA county where one of you now lives.
Agawam, Brimfield, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Holland, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Palmer, Southwick, Springfield, West Springfield, Westfield, or Wilbraham You should file in Hampden County Probate Court in Springfield, MA
Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Hatfield, Huntington, Northampton, South Hadley, Southampton, Ware, Westhampton, or Williamsburg You should file in Hampshire County Probate Court in Northampton, MA
For: Bernardston, Buckland, Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague, Northfield, Orange, Shelburne, Sunderland, or Turners Falls You should file in Franklin County Probate Court in Greenfield, MA
Athol, Auburn, Charlton, Dudley, Fitchburg, Gardner, Holden, Leicester, Leominster, Oxford, Rutland, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Templeton, Webster, Westminster, Winchendon, or Worcester You should file in Worcester County Probate Court in Worcester, MA
Adams, Becket, Cheshire, Dalton, Great Barrington, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield, Sheffield, Stockbridge, or Williamstown You should file in Berkshire County Probate Court in Pittsfield, MA