Frequently Asked Questions: Family & Probate Court
Why Do You Need an Attorney in Probate and Family Court Cases?
- Lawyers are trained to know the many complex laws that apply to your case.
Here are some examples:
- The laws applied to cases in the Probate and Family Court come from more than 40 different chapters of the Massachusetts General Laws, known as statues.
- The judges of the Probate and Family Court also have to consider the law made by the Supreme Judicial Court of the Massachusetts Appeals Court which have interpreted Massachusetts statutes over the past 300 years.
- Sometimes it is even necessary for the judge of the Probate and Family court to consider federal laws – that is, the laws enacted by the United States Congress which apply to every state.
- A judge may also need to consider various “administrative regulations.” These are rules which have been created by governmental agencies. These agencies include the Department of Revenue, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Retardation.
- There are also specific rules which apply to the Probate and Family Court. These rules differ depending on the type of case. There are five sets of rules and a number of rules called “Standing Orders” which control how a case is filed, what happens in a case and how a case is concluded.
- There are specific rules called the “rules of evidence” which control how information (“evidence”) is presented to a judge.
- Every year the lawmakers pass statutes which change existing laws and create new ones.
- It is very hard to stand up before strangers in a formal courtroom and talk about painful family matters – especially when you don’t know the laws which apply to your situation, and you don’t know which parts of your story are going to be important to the judge.
- It is impossible to be objective about a case which affects you personally. A lawyer can help you understand the objective information the judge needs in order to make decisions under the law.
- When you are in the Probate and Family Court, decisions are being made which affect you, your financial situation, and your children for many years to come – often permanently.
- A lawyer can review with you the laws and rules that affect your particular case and can help you assess your situation so that you will know what you can and cannot expect from the Court.
- A lawyer can work with you and with the other side to negotiate a settlement of all or most of the questions that have to be resolved. If you are able to reach a settlement, you will not have to depend on the Court to find a solution to your personal issues.
- Your lawyer and you can work together to understand the complexities of your case with much more depth and attention to detail than you are likely to achieve on your own. Detailed knowledge of the particular facts of your situation and careful understanding of the law can lead to a settlement that is tailored to your unique needs or – if a trial is necessary – can lead to a thorough presentation to the judge.