What are the laws in Massachusetts covering divorce?
There are two kinds of divorce, covered by three different statutes in Massachusetts, under which the Probate and Family Court may grant you a divorce.
My goal is to assist you in communicating and cooperating well enough to reach an agreement on the issues in the divorce and successfully file for a 1A - a no-fault, uncontested - divorce.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Section 1 authorizes the Courts in Massachusetts to grant divorces to residents of Massachusetts for a specific list of "fault" situations: adultery; impotence; desertion continued for one year; gross and confirmed habits of intoxication caused by voluntary and excessive use of intoxicating liquor, opium, or other drugs; cruel and abusive treatment; or, if a spouse being of sufficient ability, grossly or wantonly and cruelly refuses or neglects to provide suitable support and maintenance for the other spouse.
These are called “fault” divorces because obtaining a divorce for any of these reasons requires that you first prove that one spouse has caused the divorce by doing one of the things listed, i.e. it is “their fault” that the marriage has broken down. Proving the reason(s) for the divorce – the legal “grounds” – in these situations is rigorous, time-consuming and adversarial.
It is unusual under the current Massachusetts laws to file for “fault” divorces because they require this extra evidence of fault before a divorce can be granted.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208 Section 1A and 1B authorize the Courts in Massachusetts to grant divorces to residents of Massachusetts for “an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” In the case of a divorce under irretrievable breakdown, there is no need to prove to the Court “fault” – the reasons or grounds for the divorce. The irretrievable breakdown standard simply requires that the Court find that at least one of the parties in the marriage believes (subjectively) that their marriage is over and that there is no chance of reconciliation.
A 1B divorce is a “contested” divorce, begun when one (or sometimes both) parties file a complaint for divorce. A contested divorce means that the parties do not agree to all issues and therefore, they do not have a signed divorce agreement. Contested issues may include child custody and support, parenting time, alimony, division of assets, as well as other issues. A contested divorce is expected to be completed in approximately 14 months, although it can take more or less time.
If the parties choose to use mediation after filing for a 1B, and they reach a settlement in mediation, the parties can change the divorce to a 1A.
A 1A divorce is an “uncontested” divorce. Each of the spouses is referred to as a “party”. This type of divorce allows the parties to file jointly in court, (as joint petitioners) and neither person is required to be the defendant, nor will either party be served with a subpoena. The parties submit to the court a divorce agreement signed by both parties. An uncontested 1A divorce will enter 30 days from the date of the divorce hearing, and will become final 90 days thereafter.