Massachusetts divorce details
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Uncontested VS Contested Divorce in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, you may contest your divore regardless of whether it is fault or no-fault. There is even a special type of divorce referred to as a contested no-fault (1B).
A contested divorce occurs when the spouses are unable to reach an agreement regarding some important issues of their divorce case. Although it can be both fault and no-fault, oftentimes contested divorces imply the fault or misconduct of one of the spouses and the disability of both spouses to negotiate. A contested divorce can also be quite expensive since you need to hire an attorney for most cases.
If your case is a no-fault one, it is usually more rational to file for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested no-fault divore (1A) is the most convenient way to get divorced in Massachusetts if the spouses prepare beforehand. They should write and sign a mutually beneficial Separation Agreement and file the Petition jointly, as well as attend the final hearing together.
Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts
An uncontested divorce in Massachusetts doesn’t demand any waiting period after filing the joint petition. After filing the forms, you and your spouse can both represent yourself before the court in the shortest terms. The final hearing is also usually quite brief. The judge just needs to read your Separation Agreement and conclude that its terms are reasonable. The divorce judgement is entered automatically 30 days after the hearing.
Grounds for Divorce in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, there must be legal ground in order to determine the whole process of your divorce case. In the Bay State, there are both fault and no-fault grounds.
No-fault ground for divore in Massachusetts is referred to as a “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage”. This indicates that no one is to blame and both spouses want to terminate the marriage. You can file for divorce under this ground jointly with your spouse (1A), or as a sole petitioner (code 1B).
Fault grounds for divorce in MA include:
- Cruel and Abusive Treatment (physical or emotional).
- Desertion for at least a year.
- Drug/alcohol addiction.
- Cruel refusal or neglect to provide suitable support.
- Sentence of Confinement in a Penal Institution of 5 years.
All the fault grounds must be proven before the court.
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Massachusetts Residency Requirements to File for Divorce
You must meet certain residency requirements to file for divorce in Massachusetts. The requirements are quite simple for couples who can prove that the ground for their dissolution occurred in the states. In that case, one of the spouses must currently reside in Massachusetts.
If the ground for divorce occurred outside the states, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of Massachusetts for at least 1 year prior to filing the petition.
As the Petitioner, you must file for divorce in the county where you reside.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts?
Uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, also referred to as a No-Fault 1A Divorce, is quite a straightforward process. Nevertheless, it demands you to be well-organized and prepared. Here are the main steps of the process:
- Negotiate with your spouse regarding the most important terms of the divorce such as child-related issues, division of property, and alimony. You may request the aid of a mediator if you need to. You must also write a Separation Agreement and it must be signed by both parties and notarized.
- File the Joint Petition for divorce (and other documents depending on your case) at the Registry office at the Probate and Family Court. Pay the filing fee.
- As you are filing as co-petitioners, there is no need to serve your spouse. The final hearing may be appointed soon if all the paperwork is submitted correctly. Both spouses must attend the final hearing and answer any of the Judge’s questions. The divorce judgement is entered 30 days later.
Note that in Massachusetts, you may file the forms by mail. You can send the completed paperwork and filing fee to the relevant Probate and Family Court.
Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Massachusetts
DIY divorce refers to a process where you complete all the steps of the divorce process yourself including document preparation and representation in court. Nowadays, even attorneys agree that there are a lot of cases where people are capable of representing themselves in court without legal assistance.
If the divorce case is simple enough, a No-Fault 1A Divorce is the most convenient method in Massachusetts as it can be handled by the spouses themselves in most cases.
If you are fully prepared and aware of the process, DIY divorce can help you save a lot of time and money.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
In Massachusetts, the average cost of an uncontested no-fault divorce is $215 (equal to the initial filing fee). There may be additional expenses depending on your case and its peculiarities.
Some people prefer to hire an attorney even for an uncontested divorce. Many lawyers have “flat fees” where they charge a flat fee per case, not per hour. The cost of an uncontested divorce with the help of an attorney starts from $1,500 in Massachusetts.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in Massachusetts?
If your divorce is uncontested and the Petition is filed jointly, you can save a lot of time in serving the paperwork. However, Massachusetts is not known for its rapid process because of the “Nisi period” that is automatically entered after the divorce order.
The Nisi judgement is a 90-day period after the is finalized and the former spouses are allowed to remarry. It is automatically entered after 30 days the divorce order is signed.
How to Serve Your Spouse in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, an uncontested no-fault divorce begins with a Joint Petition, so the serving process is not included.
However, if you file for a so-called No-fault 1b divore (no-fault, but contested divorce), you must serve your spouse with copies of the Petition, Summons, and Tracking notice by hiring a sheriff or constable. A completed “Return of Service” form will serve as evidence that the delivery was successful. Note that you must pay a fee for this service.
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Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in Massachusetts
The necessary forms for your particular divorce case depends on the divorce types and its peculiarities. Below is the basic list of documents you need to file for a No-fault uncontested divorce (referred to as a 1A divorce in Massachusetts):
- Separation Agreement. The agreement must be already prepared at the moment of filing the Petition and other forms.
- Joint petition for divorce (Joint Petition for Divorce under G.L. c.208, Section 1A - CJD-101A).
- Joint affidavit of irretrievable breakdown (must be signed by both spouses).
- Record of Absolute Divorce(R-408).
If the couple has minor children, the following documents should also be completed:
- Certificate of Parent Education Program (all the divorcing couples should attend this program if this requirement wasn’t waived by the court).
- Affidavit of Care and Custody (OCAJ-1).
- Child support guidelines worksheet (CJD-304).
Online Divorce in Massachusetts
Online divorce refers to the process of getting the necessary documents prepared through an online service.
The step of preparing the necessary paperwork for an uncontested divorce is very important. Thus, you can save a lot of time and feel confident if you use an online service like ours to help prepare your paperwork.
With a short online questionnaire, we prepare all the required forms for your particular case. For just $149, you can rest assured that your divorce paperwork will be approved by the Massachusetts court.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in Massachusetts
Under the Massachusetts family law, both parents are responsible for their children’s welfare and upbringing.
Nevertheless, child custody, visitation, and support arrangements are usually customized depending on the particular terms of the case. Thus, no one can force you to share parental responsibilities with someone whose influence may be harmful or even dangerous for the child. Both the parents’ and children’s wishes are taken into account along with several other factors when the court determines what is in the best interest of the child.
Generally, there are two types of child custody - physical and legal.
- Physical custody refers to the residence of a child. It determines who supervises the child in everyday life and spends a significant amount of time with the child.
- Legal custody refers to the decision-making power in regards to major aspects of the child’s life.
Both physical and legal custody can be joint or sole. If physical custody is joint, the child takes turns living with both parents.. If physical custody is sole, the child lives with the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent has visitation rights.
In terms of child support, both parents should contribute equally. Usually, the custodial parent spends money directly on the child and the non-custodial parents makes periodic payments.
The state of Massachusetts provides the Child Support Guidelines, which helps to determine the acceptable amount of child support by taking into account both parents’ income and other applicable factors. The parents may separately agree on the amounts and the court will approve the decision if it meets the child’s best interests.
Rules for Spousal Support in Massachusetts
Either spouse may request spousal support (alimony). The court decides whether the request is fair by determining whether the requesting party really can’t support themselves and whether the other party is able to afford it. In Massachusetts, there are three types of alimony:
- Rehabilitative. This type of alimony is ordered for a certain time in order to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient.
- Reimbursement. One-time or periodical payment with a certain purpose - to compensate for an earlier cost incurred by the receiving spouse or to help them complete education.
- Transitional. One-time or periodic payment to help the spouse to start a new life (i.e. moving or finding a new job) after the divorce.
- General term alimony. Long-term payment to a spouse who is unable to financially support themselves for some reason. The length of this alimony terms is directly proportional to the length of the marriage. For example, for marriages that lasted between 5 - 10 years, alimony can’t be ordered for longer than 60% of the marriage term, and for 15 - 20 years, no more than 80%.
Division of Property in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is a state of equitable distribution, so property is divided equitably (not equally) between the spouses. Factors that affect the decision of the court regarding this include: length of marriage, each spouse’s income and employability, their age, health conditions and special needs.
Unlike other states, there is no distinction between separate and marital property in Massachusetts. Regardless of when the property was acquired, all property is divided between the spouses based on the equitable distribution principals.
Division of Debt in Massachusetts
Debts are considered to be part of property, so it is divided under the same equitable distribution rules as the assets and estate are.
The court takes into consideration different aspects such as each spouse’s contribution to the debt and the circumstances under which the debt was accumulated. The debt is then assigned a monetary value before being assigned to each spouse. The liability for paying the debt may be either be split or assigned to one spouse.
Divorce Mediation in Massachusetts
Divorce mediation is a way to collaboratively reach an agreement on the most important terms of the divorce. The main purpose of mediation is to avoid litigation and sign a mutually beneficial separation agreement for an uncontested divorce.
During the mediation session, the spouses meet and negotiate on issues such as child custody, support, parental responsibilities, division of property, and alimony. The third party mediator may provide advice from a judge’s point of view to help the couple to settle their differences.
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How to Divorce a Missing Spouse in Massachusetts
If you cannot locate your spouse, you can file for a Divorce by Publication. It is a formal method of serving your spouse with the Petition in the case that they are missing.
- In order to be eligible for Divorce by Publication, you must prove to the court that you tried your best to locate your missing spouse. You must list all your efforts in an Affidavit of Diligent Search and submit it to the court.
- If the court approves, you will be ordered to publish the notice of your case in the local newspaper. After that, it will be assumed that your spouse has been officially served.
- If after some time there is still no response from your spouse, the divorce will be granted by default, even without your spouse’s participation.
Divorce by Publication typically takes around three months and the cost can vary depending on the area. In large cities, the cost of a newspaper publication can be quite high.
Default Divorce in Massachusetts
Divorce by Publication is not the only example of a default judgement in action. A default judgement is entered in any case when the Defendant fails to respond to the Petition on time.
In Massachusetts, you don’t need to serve your spouse if the divorce is uncontested as you can file as co-petitioners. However, if the case is contested, your spouse has either 30 days (if they reside in MA) or 60 days (if they reside outside of MA) to respond to the Petition. A Default Divorce cannot be requested unless this term passes.
Annulment of the Marriage in Massachusetts
Annulment declares the marriage as invalid and the court states that the marriage never existed in the eyes of the law.
In Massachusetts, all marriages eligible for annulment can be categorized as either void or voidable.. A void marriage means that the marriage is illegal and was never recognized by the state law from the beginning.
- Incest, Consanguinity, and Affinity.
Voidable marriage indicates a valid marriage until the judgement of annulment is made.
- Mental incapacitation to give consent at the time of marriage registration.
- Underage marriage (under the age of 18).
- Fraud marriage (deception was involved in the marriage process).
Legal Separation in Massachusetts
Massachusetts family law does not have the concept of Legal Separation. However, spouses who live apart but decide not to divorce for some reason may file Separate Support.
It may be requested if one of the spouses refuse to provide support without a court order or if the spouses live apart for some justifiable reason.
All issues regarding child custody, alimony, and property division are settled in the process.
Same-Sex Divorce in Massachusetts
Same-sex marriage and divorce have been recognize in the State of Massachusetts since 2004. This made the Bay State the first US state and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to recognize LGBT right to marry.
Same-sex couples must take the same steps of the divorce process as heterosexual couples.
The one issue that still arises is the legal definition of “length of marriage” may be controversial and incorrect for those couples who have lived as spouses long before they could finally marry. For those couples, a collaborative divorce and mediation are good options, as they initially take into account all the unique details of the case.
Military Divorce in Massachusetts
As in many other states, military members in Massachusetts are protected from a default divorce by the federal law (the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act). Under this law, the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time they are on active duty and up to 60 days after they finish.
Furthermore, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act states that the military pension is not allowed to be divided unless the spouses were married for more than 10 years during which the military spouse was on active duty.
How to Divorce a Spouse in Jail in Massachusetts
There are no special rules on how to divorce a spouse in jail aside from the fact that you are not allowed to file as co-petitioners. You should file the necessary forms with the court and ask the Sheriff to deliver the paperwork to your spouse. If your spouse wishes to contest the case, you will need to hire an attorney. If she agrees with the terms outlined in the Petition, you may agree on a default divorce.
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Massachusetts Divorce Filing Fee
Court filing fees are in addition to the cost of using DivorceFiller.com. This cost may vary by county. Please check with your local courthouse to determine the exact amount.
Can a Filing Fee Be Waived?
The filing fee may be waived for indigent petitioners. They must be able to prove to the court of their financial difficulties.
People who receive assistance under the state programs are automatically exempted from payment as well as those whose income doesn’t exceed 125% of the Federal Poverty Line.
In order to waive the fee, you must complete and file an Affidavit of Indigency form with the court.
How We Can Help
We want you to be confident and we are eager to prove that the divorce process in Massachusetts can be quite simple. If you are handling an uncontested case, we can prepare all the necessary forms that you need to file for just $149. With a short online survey regarding some basic information of your case, we prepare completed forms accurately and on time that will be approved by the court. Reach out to us if you have any questions as we are always here to help.
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