Probably the most common question we receive and the most difficult question to answer. The cost of any matter is related to many often unknown factors. The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante charge an hourly rate for the services they provide. Each lawyer’s hourly rate is the same for every client. The attorneys often request an advanced payment called a “retainer fee” which is held in escrow for the client to be used by the lawyer as the case progresses. Each lawyer provides an initial consultation, then with an understanding of the issues and complexity of the case is able to quote both a retainer fee, as well as an estimate, but not guarantee, the overall projected cost of the matter. Our firm provides monthly bills, detailing our work and the charges for the work.
Massachusetts law now allows lawyers in our firm to unbundle their services and provide “limited appearance representation” for those parties who wish to hire a lawyer for a specific purpose to handle one or a limited number of pieces of their case, to limit the cost and to maximize a lawyer’s usefulness in cases where a lawyer’s help on a particular issue or proceeding is requested, without need to have the lawyer involve in the entire case.
The lawyers at Schwartz & Plante know that as families grow and change, often times Judgments from the Probate Court must do so too.
In many instances, yes, Judgments of the Probate Court are modifiable based on various changes in circumstances. Most often, Judgments relating to child custody and parenting time, child support and alimony, health insurance and life insurance are modifiable based on some change in circumstances that requires a review and modification of the existing judgment.
In other instances Judgments are not modifiable according to Massachusetts law, and it often depends on the certain case specific factors.
Having your prior Judgments from the Probate Court reviewed by the experienced lawyers at Schwartz & Plante can help you understand what changes can be made.
Yes, Prenuptial Agreements are enforceable under Massachusetts law. However, Massachusetts law requires significant steps take place to make the agreement enforceable. Having one of our qualified Attorneys represent you during the Prenuptial drafting process will make sure that you enter your new marriage fully protected.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante are deeply experienced in the respectful negotiation and drafting of Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements. We develop agreements that protect our clients’ assets, while understanding the delicate nature of the existing intimate relationships that require these agreements. Additionally, the Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante are extensively experienced in litigation seeking to enforce a proper Prenuptial Agreement or set aside an improper Prenuptial Agreement.
Massachusetts law allows a parent to ask the Court to allow them to move to a state or country other than Massachusetts, if a “real advantage” exists in support of the move. This is called “removal”. Many parents feel the need to seek removal for familial support, changes in employment and other financial opportunities that may exist.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante have extensive trial and appellate litigation in the area of removal law, including the negotiation of agreements to allow removal. Additionally, both Attorney Schwartz and Attorney Plante have had extensive trial experience in removal matters, both seeking removal, and defending against removal. Additionally, Attorney Plante has argued before the Massachusetts Appeals Court on removal related appeals.
Meeting with an Attorney at Schwartz & Plante can allow a qualified attorney to review the specific facts of your case, explain the law, and discuss with you the options that might exist with respect to your particular case.
No. And they shouldn’t be.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante believe strongly that every custody arrangement and parenting plan needs to be individually tailored to address a families’ particular needs. We pride ourselves on working with our clients to understand their particularized needs, and the needs of their children so we can create a meaningful plan that works for our client and their family.
It is certainly true that Massachusetts courts have evolved over recent years to increase their willingness to consider sharing physical custody with equal or substantially equal parenting time between parties to a divorce. Even with this evolution, Massachusetts courts still seek to implement parenting plans that work for each individual family.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante recognize that no one custody arrangement or parenting plan is suitable for every family. Our Attorneys will work with you to understand your needs, and the needs of your children, to draft a custom parenting plan that works for your family.
Massachusetts recognizes two forms of custody. Legal custody is the parental responsibility to make major life decisions for children, and generally relate to medical, therapeutic and academic decisions. Physical custody is where the children primarily reside, and relate to the day to day decisions of a child’s life.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante will work with you to understand your children’s needs and draft a custodial arrangement that works for you and your family. Additionally, the Attorneys are highly experienced in both negotiating comprehensive custody and parenting plans as well as strongly litigating, when necessary, to achieve a custody and parenting plan that works for our clients and their families.
Alimony is financial support paid by a higher earning spouse to a lower earning spouse who is economically dependent on the higher earning spouse to maintain a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage. In 2012, Massachusetts overhauled its laws relating to Alimony creating categories of alimony, time periods for alimony, as well as creating some basic equations that determine how Alimony is calculated and when it will stop. The primary issue in determining alimony relates to determining whether or not a spouse has a need for alimony and whether or not the higher earning spouse has an ability to pay alimony. If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then alimony will likely be ordered. The court will utilize a series of factors to determine each party’s need, each party’s true income, and create an alimony order based on those factors.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante are skilled at litigation relative to alimony cases – both in obtaining alimony for a truly dependent spouse, or defending against an alimony claim that is brought without basis. From determining someone’s true income, to ascertaining the actual needs of a party, the lawyers at Schwartz & Plante utilize the most up to date technological tools and experts in finance to make sure that any case involving alimony is handled properly.
Massachusetts has provided comprehensive guidelines for the calculation of child support orders. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines provide a formula that lawyers and courts use to calculate child support. However, there is much more work than “punching in a program” in almost every case. Various factors like determining income, considering parenting plans, the interplay between child support and alimony, as well as the payment of college tuition and expenses present in some way in almost every case.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante have extensive experience in child support matters. From conducting comprehensive discovery to determine a person’s “true” income, to considering the tax benefits that maximize the economic support within a particular family, we are well prepared and committed to achieving the best possible economic support order for our client’s, so that they can conclude their divorce proceedings with confidence that their financial situation is as secure and fair as possible.
In Massachusetts, the law requires that Judges consider a series of factors set out by Massachusetts law, and divide property “fairly”, which is not the same as equally. Because there is a presumption that favors an equal division of property, often times, the property division is equal. However, there are many circumstances that call for an unequal division of assets. For example: pre-marital assets, inheritances and gifts from parties outside of the marriage, financial misconduct, and many other circumstances can call for an unequal division of property.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante are highly experienced in the division of marital property incident to divorce. We are familiar with the statutory factors that judges are required to consider, and are current on the most up to date case law providing instruction and guidance on property division. Whether negotiating the most beneficial agreement, or litigating property division, Schwartz & Plante is ready to provide expert legal services, marshaling facts and evidence, to achieve the most financially beneficial property division possible for our clients.
Massachusetts has no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. Fault based grounds in Massachusetts are rarely used. With no-fault grounds, either party may bring a complaint for divorce based upon the marriage being “irretrievably broken.” If parties are unable to settle their divorce, the parties’ conduct is taken into consideration by the judge when a determination is made on the issues of alimony and property division, but is not alone determinative. Neither party can prevent the other from getting divorced if the complaint is based upon grounds of irretrievable breakdown.
Once a divorce is settled, the parties and their attorneys need to appear before a judge for an uncontested hearing. The judge reviews the separation agreement and parties’ respective financial statements and makes an independent determination that the agreement is fair and reasonable, and provides adequately for the parties and their children.
In other matters that are not divorce actions, it is possible that if a full agreement is reached, the parties will not have to appear in court, but instead may submit comprehensive signed agreements, with supporting paperwork for the judge to approve administratively.
The Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante are strong, capable trial lawyers. When a case needs to be tried, we are well prepared, and effective advocates before the Court. However, the Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante are capable negotiators as well, and expertly resolve cases with complete agreements. In many instances, the Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante have taken advantage of the latest developments in arbitration, mediation and conciliation to avoid a contested trial.
Approximately eighty percent of our divorces settle prior to the conclusion of a trial.
Additionally, the Attorneys at Schwartz & Plante frequently serve as Mediators, Arbitrators and Conciliators themselves.