304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
As a general rule of thumb, it takes approximately 28 days from the date that you file your documents with the Family Court until court Orders are issued by the Court.
The 28-day estimate is really only a guide, and sometimes Orders can be made much quicker than this, and sometimes they can take much longer to process. The time of year can make a difference, as some times are busier than others, and the State in which you file can also make a difference in terms of your documents being processed. In some circumstances, you can apply to the Family Court and ask for your documentation to be addressed urgently, but the circumstances in which the Family Court will deal with matters urgently are very limited.
Typically it is the reaching of the agreement and the negotiation of its terms that takes the most time when it comes to getting your Consent Orders. Once you have reached your agreement, the difficult part is done, and it should not take much longer for your documents to be properly drafted and for your matter to be finalised.
In some instances, if there are any problems associated with the documents that you have filed, then the matter will be requisitioned, and you will be asked to address the Court’s concerns. Once you have addressed those concerns and filed any amended documentation as required, the Family Court will usually reconsider the matter after a further 28-day period.
What is a ‘fair’ Consent Order?
In property settlement proceedings, the Court can only make Consent Orders once it is satisfied that the Orders proposed to be made are “just and equitable”. What is just and equitable will vary and can vary quite considerably, depending on the circumstances of the individual case. For example, in a very long relationship where one party worked full-time throughout and the other party largely stayed home to raise the children and otherwise worked part-time, it is often a starting point for the Court to consider that each party’s contributions to the relationship or equal. If both parties are then of a similar age and have a similar working capacity ahead of them, then it will often be the case that the Court would consider a fair and equitable outcome to be one which sees them share equally in the assets available for distribution. If, in such a case, one party was seeking Consent Orders which saw them take, say, 70% of the pool and the other just 30%, then the Court might not consider that to be a just and equitable outcome, and the Court may well refuse to make the Consent Orders sought.
When proposed Consent Orders are submitted to the Family Court, if the Court is concerned that the outcome proposed by the parties is not, on the face of it, just and equitable, it is likely to issue what is called a requisition notice requiring both parties to file affidavits which address on one hand what each party contributed during the relationship and on the other hand each party’s respective future needs. Each party will then be asked to comment on why they consider that the outcome proposed is just and equitable. The coat will then consider this new evidence in making a decision about whether or not to make the Orders as sought.
It is important to note in this regard that the Court does not simply rubber stamp whatever Application is put before it but is legislatively required to make a determination that the Orders are just and equitable. The Family Court will never, however, simply change what has been submitted to something it considers more ‘fair’, and the parties will always have the opportunity to put on more evidence before the matter is finally determined by the Family Court.