Can I file for divorce in Massachusetts?

You can file for divorce in Massachusetts as long as you meet the following criteria:

  • You have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year
  • You have lived in Massachusetts for less than one year, however, the cause of action, or breakdown of the marriage occurred within Massachusetts.

What are some common steps in a divorce case?

In divorce cases, the common order of events is as follows:

  1. Filing of the divorce complaint
  2. Service (delivery) of the divorce documents on the other party
  3. Receiving party (defendant) files a response
  4. One or both parties file a Motion for Temporary Orders asking the court to enter an order on issues like who will stay in the house, child support, custody, visitation, etc.
  5. The court schedules and holds a hearing on the Motion for Temporary Orders. For most cases, this is the first time the parties will be in court
  6. Both parties now have an opportunity to gather documents and information from the other side through discovery requests, subpoenas, etc.
  7. Pre-trial Conference. In this hearing, both parties get to explain their side of the story in a brief manner, and talk about whether the case is ready for trial
  8. Status Conference. This is usually a final “check-in” with the judge about any outstanding issues before the trial
  9. A divorce trial typically lasts between one and five days, depending on the number of witnesses, complexity of issues, etc.

What is an “uncontested divorce”?

An uncontested divorce can be granted when the following terms are met:

  • Both parties agree to the terms of the divorce in their entirety
  • Both parties are able to file an executed Separation Agreement encompassing all the terms of the divorce

When all of the above criteria is met, the court, pursuant to MGL c. 208 §1A, will grant an uncontested divorce.  In the event of an uncontested divorce, neither party is served with divorce papers as all paperwork is jointly filed.  When both parties fulfill the above terms, an uncontested divorce takes place fairly quickly.

What is a “contested divorce”?

Any divorce case that does not fall into the uncontested divorce category is a contested divorce.  In these cases, one or more aspects of the divorce cannot be agreed upon at the time of filing and a judge is needed to reach an agreed upon settlement.

Does a contested divorce cases always go to trial?

Not all contested divorce cases go to trial.  A majority of divorce cases are settled before trial commences.  Once a case is filed, there are many opportunities to work on a settlement before the trial begins.  Filing a contested divorce signifies that one or more terms remain unresolved.

What issues need to be settled in a divorce?

In every divorce, a variety of issues must be resolved.  Examples include division of property, division of debts, health insurance coverage and alimony.  When children are involved, child custody, child support, health insurance, and visitation schedules may need resolution.  Due to the emotional nature and complexity of these issues, it is recommended you seek counsel for guidance.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Mediation is helpful to persons considering divorce only when both parties know and understand their legal rights.  Unlike obtaining a legal representative who works solely for your best interest, a mediator does not take sides.  The goal of a mediator is to help both parties reach a compromise.  If you have an interest in mediation, it is recommended to work with a lawyer in order to understand the full benefits and consequences pertaining to any final agreement.

When is a trial necessary?

Divorce issues are often complex, more so when a spouse feels the need to punish the other throughout the divorce process or when multifaceted issues need to be addressed.  In situations when both parties can’t come to an agreed upon solution or when the opposing attorney lacks reason and competency, going to trial with a competent divorce attorney is the best option.

Do I need an attorney to get divorced?

No, you do not need an attorney.  However, it is important to recognize that a divorce can impact your life long-term.  A separation agreement can affect every aspect of your life and an attorney can help you navigate how decisions made now will impact your future.