There are two ways to file for divorce in Massachusetts. One way is through a Joint Petition for Divorce, or, as it is commonly referred to an “Uncontested Divorce.” In order to file a Joint Petition for Divorce, parties must agree that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown (i.e. you are unable to reconcile) and agree on the terms of a Separation Agreement. If you and your spouse agree to file jointly, you will need the following:
If you have children, you will also need:
The second way to file for divorce in Massachusetts is through a Complaint for Divorce. If you and your spouse are unable to agree to the terms of a divorce at the outset, you may file a Complaint for Divorce. This may be converted to a Joint Petition for Divorce if along the way you are able to agree to the terms of a divorce.
The file a Complaint for Divorce you will need:
The filing fee for a Joint Petition for Divorce is $215.00 and must be paid at the time of filing the Petition. This is paid directly to the Court where you are filing the divorce. This cost is not inclusive of any attorney’s fees if you decide to hire an attorney to review your paperwork before filing.
The filing fee for a Complaint for Divorce is $220.00 and must be paid at the time of filing the Complaint for Divorce. This fee includes the $215.00 fee to file a Complaint for Divorce as well as $5.00 fee for a Summons. This is paid directly to the Court where you are filing the divorce. This cost is not inclusive of any attorney’s fees if you decide to hire an attorney to represent you. The $5.00 additional fee for the Complaint for Divorce is for the Summons. The Summons is required to be served upon your spouse in-hand once you have filed for divorce to notify them of the filing.
Where you got married does not affect where you file for divorce. You do not need to file for divorce in the same state you were married. In Massachusetts, the party filing for divorce must have lived here for 1 year or the marriage-ending event must have occurred in Massachusetts while you were living in the state with your spouse.
There is no single timeframe that fits every couple. In a Joint Petition for Divorce, once you have filed all of the necessary paperwork and appeared before a judge to approve your divorce, your divorce becomes final after 120 days from the date of approval. You do not need to appear again in Court after the Agreement is approved, but you will receive a final Judgment of Divorce Nisi in the mail after 120 days.
If your divorce case proceeds to trial or becomes contested, it can take a significant amount of time. Each case is unique based upon the individual facts and circumstances. After hearing about the details of your specific situation, an attorney may be better able to answer this question. Please write down this question and bring it with you to your initial consultation.
No, your spouse does not have to agree. In Massachusetts you have the right to file a Complaint for Divorce and serve it upon your spouse. Once your spouse has been served, your Complaint for Divorce will move throughout the court system.
You do not need an attorney to file for divorce in Massachusetts, however it is recommended that you speak to an attorney to protect your rights. Even if you plan to file a Joint Petition for Divorce, you should still consult an attorney to review your Separation Agreement before you file and present it in court.
We recommended you consult an attorney early to understand your options. It is common to have many questions during your initial search for the right attorney. It is important to find the best support and educate yourself on the divorce process. We recommend you begin writing down your questions and thoughts, begin thinking about accessing your legal and financial documents, and start saving money to hire a reliable and knowledgeable attorney.
Whether you’re filing for a contested or an uncontested divorce, all divorce matters require a court hearing. In some courts throughout the Commonwealth you may appear via Zoom if the matter is uncontested. You will still need to attend a court hearing even if you and your spouse agree to all of the terms of the divorce.
Even if you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, our office cannot represent both parties at the same time. It is an attorney’s job to provide you with the best advice available and an attorney cannot adequately provide advice to both you and your spouse or it would result in a conflict. If you and your partner are seeking a more collaborative divorce process, you may want to consider mediation.
In most cases, each party pays for their own attorney and legal fees. There are few exceptions to this general practice, however, if you feel there are extenuating circumstances in your case, please bring this up in your initial consultation to receive individual guidance.
Yes, divorce records are public, however, your personal financial information will be impounded. If you have a concern about your case being public, please bring that information with you to your consultation and an attorney can advise you on steps to take to protect your privacy.
In a divorce, both parties must disclose all sources of income, assets, expenses, and liabilities. Massachusetts requires an equitable division of marital property in a divorce. An equitable division of assets does not always mean equal. How an equitable division is determined depends on several factors including the length of the marriage, conduct of the parties during the marriage, needs of the children and spouse, income of the parties, ability to earn income in the future or acquire assets in the future, contributions to the marriage and other factors the court may consider relevant.
No, however, you do have the option to resume your former name or change your name upon the court granting your divorce. Changing your name is not required by the Court, but rather an option for you to decide what is best for you and your family.
If you have just received a Summons for Complaint for Divorce, it is important to review the document closely. The Summons will provide instructions on how to answer the Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint must be answered within twenty (20) days to the person listed on the paperwork and to the Court. The person listed may be your spouse or your spouses’ attorney. There is also important information on the Summons about an “Automatic Restraining Order.” Please read this information closely. This restraining order is only related to your finances and insurance coverage. Upon receiving a Summons for Complaint for Divorce, please read closely to see if the Court assigned a date for you to appear and be sure to mark it on your calendar.
In general, prenuptial agreements are enforceable in Massachusetts. In order for the agreement to be enforceable, there must have been full financial disclosure at the time and no evidence of fraud or coercion. A prenuptial agreement may address issues related to property division and alimony, however, it cannot provide for anything related to the children. Please be sure to bring with you a copy of your prenuptial agreement to your initial consultation.