To My Prospective Clients:
Thank you for considering using my services to represent you in the area of Family Law. As you undertake this difficult process, I hope the following information will help you understand the Massachusetts Divorce Process. This letter is intended to answer questions usually asked and thereby curb your fees.
Generally a half-hour conference takes place giving the client an opportunity to explain the history and circumstances of his/her case as well as give the client an opportunity to consider retaining my services. During this consultation, I will explain the pertinent law and outline many of the legal procedures often used in Family Law matters. I will also explain the fee structure employed by our office as well as make a determination as to whether my services are needed. If it is established that I will represent you, an initial retainer fee is required before any services are performed. A written fee agreement is mailed to you. The client and attorney will each retain a copy of this agreement. If desired, a contact letter is sent from me to the opposing party or his or her attorney.
Generally, I represent an equal amount of men and women in Divorce, and have for over 30 years. Most clients, after the extreme stress and grief of Divorce, enjoy their new life free from the conflicts that characterized their marriage. It is important that the process helps with recovery from Divorce as well as protect rights and property interests.
COMPLAINTS OF DIVORCE
A matter of Divorce begins with the filing of a Complaint or a Petition. This step begins the process with the Probate Court. Notice to the other side, if not a joint Petition must also be accomplished by our office. This demonstrates the opposing side knows of the proceedings and also notifies all parties of the authentic restraining orders on asset transfers and guards against sudden one-sided actions that might negatively effect the security of the parties.
MOTIONS FOR TEMPORARY ORDERS
When needed, parties often require Temporary Orders or defend requests for Temporary Orders at the Probate and Family Court. These orders set the rules under which the parties will exist during the time period before the granting of a Divorce. If the proceedings are not for an initial Divorce, but for Modification or Contempt of a previous Divorce Judgment, the initial hearing for Temporary Orders is generally not required. However, on initial Divorce actions, Temporary Orders determine such matters as who shall reside in the marital residence, legal and physical custody of minor children, visitation schedules, temporary alimony, support payments, as well as many other matters on which the parties cannot agree privately. To prepare for a Court hearing, such as Temporary Orders, it is necessary that a Financial Statement including all assets, liabilities, weekly income from all sources, and living expenses for the client and any minor children living with the client be prepared, and include a copy of a pay stub, if applicable. It is usually necessary for the client to produce copies of the past three years earnings in the form of tax returns or other documents. At this time, we also like to review copies of the most recent Bank Statements.
If parties do agree on all pre-trial matters, our office drafts a Stipulation for the parties to sign. In most cases, this document provides written proof of what has been agreed upon.
In order to establish the facts for negotiations and Trial, a picture of both parties must be established. Attorneys do this by using Discovery. We may use a Deposition of the opposing party, which is done at our office with a court reporter in attendance. The opposing party is interrogated on financial, personal, and child custody matters, previous or subsequent to which the opposing party’s attorney may request your Deposition under the same circumstances. If you are deposed, you will be advised on how to prepare yourself for your Deposition and what documents will be necessary for you to produce. Other forms of pre-trial discovery include obtaining documents such as tax returns, credit card statements, bank accounts, canceled checks, certificates of deposits, and stock certificates from the opposing side. We may also prepare and file Interrogatories, which are written questions, which must be answered by the opposing party within 30 days. Pre-trial discovery may also include obtaining appraisals of real estate and other marital assets, as well as Subpoenas. Discovery is necessary as much for the purpose of settlement as it is for preparation for trial, and the amount of pre-trial discovery is determined by the opponent’s honesty, the magnitude of the dispute, and the assets involved. I will discuss in advance of each procedure whether the Discovery process will be useful and cost effective in your case.
When either side, requests a Pre-Trial date, it is required by law that a Pre-Trial Memorandum be prepared. The Pre-Trial Memorandum is essentially the script upon which the Trial and your position will be based. The preparation of this document requires careful joint effort. The Court also mandates that a settlement conference take place with the parties and their respective attorneys prior to a Pre-Trial Conference with the Court. Often, parties reach an agreement as a result of this negotiation session. Every effort is made to avoid the expense, emotional strain, and risk inherent in a formal trial. However, failing settlement, your case will be tried before a Judge of the Probate and Family Court. Uncontested cases are marked to be heard on a shorter waiting list than Contested Divorce Trials.
Our office is open from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. weekdays, and your incoming calls will be handled by myself or by a Legal Assistant. Many of your questions regarding procedure, scheduling, and the like can be handled by a paralegal, but if you desire to talk to me, you will receive a return call, generally within 24 hours. Please remember that my Court schedule often precludes me from taking or immediately returning incoming calls. However, for emergency situations, your message is relayed to me as soon as possible, as I contact my office weekdays between the hours of 9 and 5 for messages. During regular business hours, a staff member is always available to answer your calls. We also have a 24/7 answering machine and fax number.
CORRESPONDENCES AND COURT PLEADINGS
You will receive copies of correspondence between our office and opposing counsel as well as copies of Court pleadings such as Plaintiff’s Complaint, Defendant’s Answer, various Motions, requests for Financial Statements and Discovery requests. Should you have any questions about any document you receive, you should call us with your questions.
The nature of my work usually involves unpleasant circumstances and a specialized tool we call Justice. I will attempt to lessen the tension as much as possible. I strongly recommend that you exert all reasonable effort to resolve minor issues directly with the opposing party as a cost savings.
If you have other questions, please call me at my office or set up an appointment for a conference.
Very truly yours,
Wanda M. Milik, Esquire