Common Questions a Divorce Judge Might Ask You
To say that going through a divorce is stressful is not news to those who have experienced it or who are currently in the throes of divorce. After you have gone through the grueling process of working out an agreement with your soon-to-be ex, there is still one step left. You and your spouse are both required to appear in court to answer a few questions posed to you by the family law judge.
In an uncontested divorce, even when the parties have had their attorneys help them work through the issues, and the attorneys have prepared their settlement agreement, many divorcing people choose to make this final appearance on their own without the presence of the attorneys. This saves legal expenses, and is usually a straight forward experience, even though you likely are apprehensive about it.
What to Expect at Court
If possible, it is a good idea for you and your spouse to enter the designated courtroom at the same time. Your case will be called according to your last name and case number, referred to as the docket number. When your name and case number are called, step up to the gate that separates the spectators (those like you that are sitting in the seats behind the rail). Open the gate if the court officer does not, and step up so you are in front of the judge. The court officer will guide you to the proper place.
You will be “sworn in,” which means you promise to tell the truth and, if you do not tell the truth, you could be charged with perjury. Then, the judge’s questioning will begin. The two findings he or she must make before granting the divorce decree are:
- Confirm that under Massachusetts law, there are legal grounds for the divorce, like an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, or any other reason allowed by law.
- Is the agreed upon Separation Agreement “fair and reasonable.”
The judge will ask both you and your spouse questions so that neither of you will be able to later allege that your marriage could have been saved, or that the Separation Agreement was not fair or reasonable.
Questions the Court May Ask at the Dissolution Hearing
The court has leeway to ask almost any question. Although the judge may ask you about any behavior that may affect the children, the court may not question whether or not there was adultery by either party. The court will primarily focus on the Separation Agreement to be sure you both signed it voluntarily and that you are willing to abide by its terms.
Some questions the judge may ask that you should be prepared to answer include:
- The date and place of the marriage.
- The address where you and your spouse last lived together.
- The names and birth dates of your children.
- If you believe there is an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage.
- Is the financial disclosure you signed true, accurate and up-to-date? Does it reflect all of your assets and liabilities? The judge may ask you to sign the financial disclosure in the presence of the court.
- If you are the wife, you may be asked if you want to keep your married name, or resume using your maiden name.
Additionally, the judge will review each section of your Settlement Agreement to be sure it is fair, reasonable, and complies with the law. Some questions may be:
- Is it your signature on the Separation Agreement?
- Do you agree that the division of debt and assets is fair?
- Will there be alimony? If not, do both parties understand what this means and does the one who may qualify for alimony understand what he or she is giving up?
- Does the child custody agreement represent what you both believe is in the best interest of your children?
- Does the Child Support agreement fall within the Massachusetts calculation guidelines? If not, is there justification for it.
When the questioning is over, that is the end of your divorce process. Your uncontested divorce will be final 120 days after the date of the hearing. You will not get a notice of this and will have to go to the court clerk’s office to get a copy for yourself. Within 30 days of the hearing, you should receive in the mail a document called “Findings and Order.” This will verify that the judge found your Separation Agreement acceptable as fair and reasonable.
If you have any questions about your divorce, your Separation Agreement, or what to expect at court, contact us at Infinity Law Group. For your convenience, we have three locations in Massachusetts: one in Boston, one in Quincy, and one in Needham.