The Bristol County Probate and Family Court has jurisdiction over all Attleboro divorces and paternity matters, Fall River divorces and paternity matters, New Bedford divorces and paternity matters, and Taunton divorces and paternity matters.
Additionally, any domestic relations matter (alimony, child support, custody, modifications, parenting plans, or temporary orders) in the following towns also fall within the court's jurisdiction: Acushnet, Berkley, Dartmouth, Dighton, Easton, Fairhaven, Freetown, Mansfield, North Attleborough, Norton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea, and Westport.
Learn About the Judges and Courthouses in Bristol County
Effective in 2012, the family court judges most assigned to the Bristol Division of the Probate and Family Court Department are: First Justice Anthony R. Nesi, the Honorable Katherine A. Field, Judge Richard McMahon, and the Honorable Justice Virginia Ward.
Based on which judge is assigned your case, your matter will be heard at one of the following courthouses:
Fall River: 289 Rock Street, Fall River, MA 02720
New Bedford: 505 Pleasant Street, New Bedford, MA 02740
Taunton: 40 Broadway, Taunton 02780
How Divorce Law is Applied
In Taunton, New Bedford, and Fall River, MA
There are two kinds of divorces: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot agree about the terms of the divorce, such as the property division, alimony, child support, or the custody of children. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on everything and do not need the court to divide assets or make determinations about spousal or child support or custody.
If you and your spouse disagree about any aspect of your case, you should hire a local divorce lawyer. The importance of a local lawyer cannot be emphasized enough. You need one who is familiar with ins-and-outs of the Bristol Probate and Family Court, and how each of the four judges thinks. Our attorneys are a part of the every day routine and see the inner-workings of the Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford family courts on an ongoing basis.
In the Bristol County Probate and Family Court, there is no such thing as an instant solution like those you may see on television. Problems don't happen quickly and they don't get resolved quickly. In contested cases, with situations as dire as whether children will be taken from their parents, or which parent gets custody, the judges assigned to Bristol County won't let speed trump good decisions.
Overview of the Bristol County Divorce Process
When you first appear at the courthouse, issues concerning children - custody, the parenting schedule, whether you and your spouse need a parenting coordinator, child support, etc. - will first be heard with the probation department.
Once you agree on the issues, a stipulation is written up and signed, and then presented to a judge to finalize. Even when all the issues aren't settled, those remaining points become focused in order to help the judge concentrate on those requiring immediate resolution.
When it comes to disputes relating to the children, no matter which divorce judge you and your lawyer stand before, make sure that you are concise and have a plan. Don't prepare for a half-hour argument, because it is not very likely that you will be allowed to continue for that long.
Address the most important issues immediately. Don't waste time summarizing the facts, but offer proof that will help confirm your account of important events - diaries, calendars, school records, doctor letters, and police reports. Because your time will be limited, it is important that you have a plan for your presentation.
Bristol County Divorce?
Your Financial Statement is the
Most Important Document in Your Case
Your first court appearance, which is usually a motion session for temporary orders, is where financial statements are analyzed and financial obligations are established.
When a couple has no significant assets or debts, the matter is resolved quickly and cost-effectively. But the task is more complicated when the parties, their lawyers, and the court begins to analyze each party's financial statement. Given that the first appearance is where impressions and reputations are established, make sure your financial statement is a full representation of all your property. Don't limit your thinking to just real estate, but also investments, retirement accounts, and even personal property you may own, like your jewelry, your golf clubs, your cars, or your family business. In Massachusetts - especially Bristol County - you'll probably only get one chance to get it right. Temporary orders are difficult (if not almost impossible to modify) once they've been established.
How the Judge Divides Assets and Debts
Throughout the Bristol County divorce process, if the parties themselves can't decide how assets and debts are to be divided, your assigned judge - whether it be Judge Nesi, Jude Field, Judge McMahon, or Judge Ward - will make a property division of his or her own. A number of statutory factors will be considered, including:
- The Massachusetts Equitable Distribution Statute (M.G.L. Ch. 208 §34): No Massachusetts court divides assets evenly, but rather they are divided fairly, taking into account issues such as: length of the marriage, conduct of the parties, age and health of both parties, the needs of both parties, etc.
- Commingling: Once property is mixed into the marital estate, certain assets such as either party's inheritance, business ownership income, or property that was bought or acquired before the marriage may require a judicial ruling.
- Tax considerations: Certain assets have different tax ramifications, and a judge may consider the impact on one, or both, of the parties in making a decision.
A Local Bristol County Divorce Lawyer
Can Make THE Difference in Your Case
Massachusetts divorce cases are handled at the local level. Although the law is the same throughout the Commonwealth, individualized judges and courthouses interpret the law and handle certain procedures a little differently from the others. For that reason, it is very important that you work with a divorce attorney with experience advocating and defending family law matters in the New Bedford, Taunton, and Fall River divisions of the Bristol Probate and Family Court.
How Our Attorneys Can Help You
From our offices in Norwood, Mansfield, and New Bedford, we represent clients throughout all stages of the divorce process. This includes the drafting and filing of the initial divorce action, drafting Motions for Temporary Orders, drafting discovery requests, drafting appropriate responsive pleadings, drafting Pre-Trial Memorandums and attending all Court hearings including motion hearings, Pre-Trial Conferences and trial dates.
For a free, no-obligation consultation, call (800) 763-1030 or contact us online. When you arrive at your meeting, an attorney best suited for your case will review the facts of your matter, explain the divorce process specific to the judge and courthouse where your matter will be heard, and help you make a plan of action that improves your chances of an equitable settlement and winning resolution of your case.