On the Boston-North Shore, the Essex County Probate and Family Court has jurisdiction over divorce, paternity, child support, and custody matters including, but not limited to, parenting plans, termination of parental rights, and abuse prevention orders relating to those residing within Essex County.
No matter where you live, all matters are heard at one of the two courthouses listed below:
- Essex Probate and Family Court, 36 Federal Street, Salem, MA 01970
- Essex Probate and Family Court, 2 Appleton Street, Lawrence, MA 01840
How Judges Are Assigned to Cases
In Essex County, all new cases (and cases in progress) are assigned to a particular judge. The last two digits of the docket number of a file govern the judge responsible for all proceedings relating to that matter. Cases are assigned to the following judges:
- 00-24 - Judge Blake
- 25-49 - Judge Sahagian
- 50-74 - Judge Abber
- 75-99 - Judge Susan D. Ricci (may be replaced by the Honorable Theresa A. Bisenius)
Motions, trials, contempts, and other matters are heard on different days of the week - based on which judge is assigned to your case. For example, Judge Blake only hears motions on Mondays, Judge Abber hears motions on Tuesdays, Judge Ricci hears them on Wednesday, and Judge Sahagian hears motions on Fridays.
If You Do Not Have an Attorney, You Are Held
To the Same Standard as an Attorney Would
Each of the judges in the Essex County Probate and Family Court hold self-represented litigants to the same standard as lawyers. Given that self-represented people don't know the law, court procedures, how the judge is likely to decide, or other specific court requirements, the decision to handle a case on your own can often ruin your case in a matter of seconds. not know the law, the court procedures, what is reasonable, or how the judge will likely decide, he or she can often ruin their entire case in seconds.
In any type of domestic relations matter, highly-charged emotions are expected and anticipated in the Essex Family Court. Judges, family service officers, and court officers see more action in a week than other courts - such as the Berkshire County or Dukes County - court sees in an entire year.
No matter what day of the week, allegations of a wife selling her husband's things on eBay, a father with ten aliases and prior convictions of drunk driving and drug trafficking, or a wife not being able to attend her children's school play because of mutual restraining orders are common. In some cases, the first one who arrives is the one who gets to stay.
When Divorce Involves Children...
Does your case revolve around parental fitness? If so, you will likely have a Guardian ad Litem or parenting coordinator assigned to your case. During the investigation, you will end-up in trouble if you are viewed as a parent making false allegations, general conclusions, or overblown charges about your spouse's parenting skills.
Rather than insisting that your (former) spouse is an unfit parent, be specific: speak and cite examples of their sexual misconduct, your child's high number of school absences when in his or her care, how there are serious health concerns, or how there is a pattern of all night partying or not having food in the refrigerator.
If there is a serious enough concern, a court-appointed evaluator, or even the Department of Children and Family (DCFS) will spend hours gathering up information, interviewing the children and third party witnesses, and the end result may even result in some psychological testing.
Here's a hint about how to handle yourself in Essex County if you have children...always refer to your children as "our" children, not "my" children. Another strategic tip for court is, if you have any evidence such as photos or other documents, never hand them to the probation officer or judge directly. The opposing party will not have been given the opportunity to see what is being given to the court and put into the file, and that is not viewed as proper gamesmanship.
Massachusetts Alimony Modification Lawyers - Based in Essex County
Alimony isn't meant to last forever, and our lawyers are often called upon to handle alimony modification matters in X County. Has your former spouse begun living with a significant other? You should know that cohabitation can end alimony. Specifically, the new alimony reform law statute states how alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient has maintained a common household with another person for a continuous period of at least three months.
A Local Essex County Divorce Lawyer
Can Make THE Difference in Your Case
All Massachusetts divorce and paternity 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 Essex County Probate & Family Court.
With our North Shore regional office in Woburn, 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.
Call Our Boston-North Shore Attorneys With Your Questions
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.