I just got my divorce judgment in the mail. We went to trial because my husband wanted to exclude his inheritance from our assets and refused to pay my legal fees. We settled everything else and had a limited trial. The judge put our vacation home, which came from his family, in the marital estate and gave me use of it every July — he got to keep the rest of his inheritance. The judge forgot to order him to pay my legal fees.
I don’t want to appeal just to create more legal fees. Can I somehow remind the judge that she forgot to order fees?
Just because the judge did not order something you requested does not mean she forgot. That might have been her way of denying the requested relief. Based on the limited information I have from your question, I do not know why your husband would be ordered to pay your legal fees. If you think his pushing this to trial was his fault and he should pay your fees, you should look at the judgment. Clearly if the judge gave him the rest of his inheritance with your limited ability to use a vacation home for a month each year, there was some merit to his argument, in which case it would be unlikely for you to be awarded fees.
Generally, each party is responsible for their own legal fees in a divorce. If he had access to assets to pay legal fees as the case progressed but you did not, that is a different story. In such cases, judges often provide for an advance against the marital estate to the person who does not have the means to pay fees as the case goes along.
If you want to remind the judge about the legal fee issue as you put it, first read Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 59(e). That provides for a mechanism to ask the judge to change a provision in the judgment. But you need to do this very quickly. You only have 10 days from the date the judgment of divorce was entered on the docket to file your motion.
You also need to look at Probate and Family Court Standing Order 2-99 because that order tells you the proper procedure for filing a Rule 59(e) motion. There are technical pieces that, if not complied with, can result in a denial of your motion. Importantly, you need to clearly identify that judgment you are seeking to alter in the title of your motion including the name of the judge. You also need to attach a copy of the judgment to your motion. The motion must be signed under the pains and penalties of perjury and cannot be more than five pages long.
This is an administrative process so if the judge agrees that she forgot to rule on the request, you will get an amended judgment, if not, you can decide whether to appeal.