• Mediation

    • If you hire our office as your divorce meditation, do you need an independent lawyer?
      Both you and the other party are entitled at any time to be represented by an independent lawyer. For instance, a divorce lawyer can be hired to review documents, and  provide you with independent legal advice that a neutral third party such as a mediator cannot given their role as a neutral in the process.
    • If mediating, do we still need to go into court?
      After reaching an agreement, both parties will sign the separation agreement setting forth the detailed of their agreement and prepare the additional court required documentation  The final packet will be filed with the Probate and Family Court and there will be a hearing date assigned for an “uncontested divorce hearing”. The agreement and accompanying documents will be presented to the court by the parties at the court hearing for acceptance. Once the Court accepts the terms of the Separation agreement by finding that the agreement is fair and reasonable given the facts of the marriage it will enter a judgment of divorce.
    • What are Cohabitation Agreements?
      Cohabitation agreements are legal contracts for partners who are not married but live together. Reasons for cohabiting include financial circumstances, shared property, concerns of childcare, and earning capacities of both parties. Cohabitation may also occur if two parties wish to live together but are not married. Ryder and Phelps is committed to informing you of the legal risks and benefits of cohabitation.
    • What happens if we can't reach and agreement in mediation?
      Ryder and Phelps will work tirelessly with you to reach a mutually agreed upon agreement.  However, we understand that there will be times where an agreement cannot be reached. In such cases, the parties can negotiate outside the formal mediation process or can file for divorce. In both cases we will be ready to help you resolve intermediate issues in your divorce procedure.
    • How long does meditation take? (and cost?)
      The length of a mediation depends on the complexity of the divorce and both parties’ inclination to reach an agreement. Mediation sessions will usually last two (2)  hours across several sessions. However, you can expect the mediation to be completed within one year should there be no unforeseen complications. Our firm has completed the process sooner depending on the case and the court. The average cost of a mediation with our firm ranges from $5,000 to $7,500.
    • What are the benefits of mediation?
      The benefits of mediation include a faster resolution that is less expensive and more confidential. Working with an experienced mediator such as Attorney Ryder can help preserve relationships and provide a foundation for future negotiations regarding child custody and the splitting of assets. Both parties have greater autonomy in discussion and the process is more informal than a court hearing. If both parties determine mediation is the best route of action, Attorney Ryder or Attorney Phelps will act only as a mediator and will therefore not represent any one party’s individual interests.
    • Is Mediation the right choice for my divorce?
      Attorney Ryder and Attorney Phelps are MCLE rule 8 certified mediators. As opposed to the traditional divorce involving two parties represented by their respective attorneys, mediation is about resolving disputes via negotiation and collaboration. Attorney Ryder’s alternate dispute resolution skills are well respected by the Probate and Family Courts and she is often appointed by judges and attorneys alike to mediate complex matters. Mediation may be right for you if you and the other party are able to communicate effectively and appropriately with the assistance of an experienced attorney and you both seek to avoid contested litigation as a joint objective.
  • Divorce

    • What is a Parent Coordinator?
      A parent coordinator is an attorney who assists the separated parents in the resolution of their parenting disputes. A parent coordinator plays the role of a facilitator of conversation and helps both parties move towards an agreement. The parenting coordinator may enter directives which bind the parties in the event they are unable to resolve their agreements by agreement.
    • Do I have to take a parenting course?
      In Massachusetts if you have children under the age of 18 then you must take a mandatory parenting education course. These courses are available online during Covid-19. You must register for an approved program within 30 days of a complaint being filed. You certificate showing completion of the parent education program must be filed with the Court in order to be divorced.
    • What is an uncontested divorce?
      An uncontested Divorce (1A) occurs when you and your spouse reach a full agreement on your divorce prior to the filing of the divorce. The no-fault (1A) divorce does not require a trial or for both parties to be represented by counsel. The process is generally simpler, faster, and less expensive than a contested divorce. We offer mediation services to assist the parties interested in pursuing an uncontested divorce.
    • Am I entitled to Alimony or Child Support?
      Alimony and child support are two separate forms of payment by a spouse or ex-partner. The purpose of alimony is for one spouse to economically support a dependent spouse who is unable to sustain their prior station in life. In Massachusetts alimony is  governed in large part by the Alimony Reform Act’s criteria such as the length of the marriage, the health of the spouses, and the employment of both parties. You are entitled to child support if you have primary custody of your children. You are entitled to child support if you have shared custody of your children and your ex-spouse/partner’s income is greater than yours. Visit out Blog page to read more on these topics, with articles written by our attorneys.
    • Should I file for a divorce on fault grounds or as no-fault?
      A no-fault divorce is often less time consuming and less expensive than a fault-based divorce because one need not prove marital fault/misconduct for the court to grant the divorce. You may file a divorce on fault grounds if the divorce is due to adultery, inability to engage sexually if this was not disclosed prior to the marriage, cruelty, insanity..etc. However, even if you could theoretically file for fault grounds many clients seek to file for divorce on no-fault grounds anyhow as often times the result is the same. We are devoted to protecting your interests and practice a holistic approach to counseling you on your divorce matters.
    • What is the difference between annulment and divorce?
      The difference between an annulment and divorce is that a divorce is the legal ending of a marriage while an annulment recognizes and claims that a marriage was never legally a marriage. In Massachusetts there are very few reasons why an annulment can be processed including incest, marriage to someone who is already in a civil union, age limitations, fraud, and if one or both spouses did not have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage at that time. We have experience in obtaining our clients both divorces as well as annulments.
    • Does Massachusetts offer legal seperation?
      Massachusetts does not have a process of legal separation. However, there is a procedure to file for separate support. This process can be filed if you are married and your spouse has left you, fails to support you, if you and your spouse are living separately due to justifiable cause or if you and your spouse are living together but have justifiable cause to live apart. Justifiable cause is defined as actions such as abuse, adultery, and or desertion. It is important to note that a file for separate support is not a divorce or a legal separation, but we are prepared to aid you in both procedures.
    • How much will my divorce cost?
      Ryder & Phelps, P.C. are aware that hiring lawyers is a costly endeavor, and consequently many of our prospective clients have many questions about what a divorce or a modification action will cost. The true answer is it depends on many factors. Some of the common factors affecting cost are the complexity of the issues, the number of court hearings, and whether parties can negotiate in good faith with one another. According to a recent study conducted, the average cost for a simple divorce in Massachusetts is approximately $12,600. In divorces involving a dispute over alimony or property division that cost increases to $18,3000 and furthermore in cases involving custody disputes the average cost increases to $20,200.
    • How long will my divorce take?
      In Massachusetts, a contested divorce action is placed on a fourteen (14) month track assignment. Theoretically your divorce should be resolved either by agreement or by a trial within fourteen (14) months from the date the divorce was filed with the Court. However, many factors such as the contested issues, the amount of discovery needed, and your Judge’s docket all determine how long your individual divorce will take.
  • Child Support & Custody

    • What is parenting time?
      The children are our number one priority here at Ryder and Phelps. We are committed to fighting for your rights. Parenting time is synonymous with physical custody. In its purest form parenting time is the time each parent has with their child(ren). We have vast experience in assisting clients formulate creative parenting plans that meet the child and parents needs.
    • How is the amount of child support calculated?
      In Massachusetts child support is calculated in most cases by using the Massachusetts child support guideline worksheet. Albeit there are several grounds for deviation from the guidelines support order there is a rebuttable presumption that this figure is correct. Child support is based upon the number of the children, the age of the children, the parenting plan, and the costs of medical/dental/vision insurance, child care cost, and other child support obligations.
    • Why do you need a child support order?
      Without a formal court order you have zero enforcement protections such as the filing of a complaint for contempt. An out of court agreement even if signed by the parties and notarized may not be held up in Court. As such, it benefits the child support payee to receive a court ordered child support order.
    • Am I entitled to past due child support?

      If you are owed past due child support payments, then you should consider filing a complaint for contempt in order to recoup those past due amounts. At the contempt hearing, the Court will review the prior Court order or judgment and determine whether the order was clear and unequivocal. In contempt actions regarding child support that is almost always the case. The Court will then determine whether or not there is a willful violation of the order, which will include a review of the parties respective financial statements. The Court can then order the child support payor to pay an additional amount each week towards the child support arrearages, a date certain when the arrearages must be paid in full, or even incarceration. Ryder and Phelps is committed to guiding you in the preparation of the complaint for contempt and Rule 401 financial statements.

      We understand that as finances change for both parties, changes may need to be made to best support the child(ren) and yourself. In most cases, for so long as there is an inconsistency between the current child support order and the current child support guideline worksheets calculation you are entitled to a modification of your support order. We are committed to guiding you through the best method of modifying your existing child support order. You may file a complaint for modification on your own or have the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement file a complaint on your behalf if you have previously requested their services. If you

    • How do I obtain an initial child support order?

      To receive an initial child support order, we can aid you in filing the correct court action  depending upon the specific facts of your case. There are two separate procedures for if you are or are not married to the other parent.

      If you are not married and the other parent has not signed a voluntary form of paternal acknowledgement, then you must first file a complaint to establish paternity in the county where the child resides.  After paternity is adjudicated you can then file a complaint for support. If you signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity such as a birth certificate you can file for child support under M.G.L. c. 209C. Our team is committed to helping you navigate documents, court procedures, and the legal minutia involving a child support order.

      If you are married and seeking a divorce, you can file a complaint for divorce and then seek an immediate order of temporary child support via the filing a motion for temporary orders.

    • What is the Massachusetts Child Support Guideline?
      The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are the legal guidelines published by the Probate and Family Court Massachusetts Court System every four years which defines income standards, outlines factors considered in setting the amount of child support, and various grounds for a deviation/modification. Our lawyers are highly knowledgeable of the guidelines and the impacts it has on support orders.
  • Consultations

    • What should I bring to my consult?
      It depends on the case as well as where your case is It depends on the case as well as where your case is procedurally. You should certainly bring with you any and all documents filed with the Court in the current case. If you’re involved in a complaint for modification or a contempt action, then please bring the applicable prior Judgments or Orders with you. Additionally, if there are financial issues in dispute then prior year tax returns, recent paystubs, and prior financial statements are helpful and allow our office to provide more accurate advice. Nonetheless, we can access many of the court documents from an online database maintained by the Court. If you are in the beginning stages of a divorce, please bring with you a marriage certificate.
    • What are the meeting options for my consultation?
      Our office can accommodate virtual or in-person requests. We offer in-office (Westford or Boston), telephone and zoom consultations. If you need further accommodation, please feel free to make a request prior to the consultation.
    • How can I schedule a consult and is there a consult fee?

      The best way to schedule an initial, one-hour consultation is to contact our front desk associate.  Please contact Matthew at (978)-957-7000 and he can explain the process and assist in scheduling a consultation with our team of attorneys

      Yes, there is a consult fee of $350.00.