Divorce as Homemaker After 20+ Years of Marriage

Long Term Marriage and Divorce

Divorce is a life-altering event, particularly for homemakers who have dedicated decades to raising their children and managing the household. After 20+ years of marriage, the prospect of starting over can be overwhelming. Common questions often arise: Where do I start? Do I need a lawyer? Do I need to move out of the marital home? How will I be financially secure? How will our assets be divided? Here’s a guide to help you navigate this challenging time, with specific insights into Massachusetts law and the divorce process.

Where Do I Start?
The first step is to acknowledge your emotions and gather your thoughts. Divorce is not just a legal process but an emotional journey. Take time to process your feelings and consider talking to a therapist for support. Once you feel ready, start documenting important information about your finances, assets, and liabilities. This documentation will be crucial during the divorce proceedings.

Do I Need a Lawyer?
Yes, it is highly advisable to hire an experienced family law attorney. Divorce laws can be complex, and having a lawyer will ensure that your rights and interests are protected. In Massachusetts, an attorney can help you understand your entitlements and guide you through the legal process, including filing for divorce, negotiating settlements, and representing you in court if necessary.

Do I Need to Move Out of the Marital Home?
You do not need to move out of the marital home immediately. In fact, staying in the home can provide stability for you and your children during the divorce process. However, if living together becomes untenable, discuss temporary arrangements with your lawyer. In Massachusetts, the court may issue temporary orders regarding who stays in the home, child custody, and support during the divorce proceedings.

How Will I Be Financially Secure?
Financial security is a major concern, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for many years. In Massachusetts, you may be entitled to alimony (spousal support), which is determined based on factors such as the length of the marriage, your age, health, income, and the standard of living established during the marriage. Child support may also be awarded if you have minor children. You may want to engage a financial professional to help determine the best plan for you going forward. Work with your lawyer to ensure you receive a fair amount to support your transition to financial independence.

How Will Our Assets Be Divided?
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, meaning assets and debts are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. The court will consider various factors, including the length of the marriage, contributions to the marriage (including homemaking and child-rearing), source of the asset (whether an item is a gift or an inheritance can affect how that item is viewed by the Court) and each spouse’s financial situation. Your attorney will help you negotiate a fair division of assets, including the marital home, retirement accounts, savings, and personal property.

Massachusetts Divorce Process and Timeline

  1. Filing for Divorce: The process begins with filing either a Joint Petition for Divorce (in which settlement was reached prior to filing) or an individual Complaint for Divorce in the Probate and Family Court. You must have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year, or the grounds for divorce occurred in the state.
  2. Temporary Orders: The court can issue temporary orders for custody, support, and use of the marital home during the divorce process.
  3. Discovery: Both parties exchange financial information and documentation.
  4. Negotiation and Settlement: Many divorces are settled out of court through negotiation, mediation or other dispute resolution techniques.
  5. Trial: If an agreement cannot be reached, the case goes to trial, where a judge will make the final decisions.
  6. Final Judgment: Once all issues are resolved, the court issues a final judgment of divorce. This can take several months to well over a year, depending on the complexity of the case and the Court’s schedule.

Experienced Family Law Attorney
Divorce after a long-term marriage can be daunting, but you don’t have to face it alone. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney is crucial to understanding your rights and options. They can provide the guidance and representation you need to navigate this challenging time and help secure a stable future for you and your children. Contact Attorney Schutzbank today to begin the next chapter of your life with confidence and support.

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