Massachusetts Divorce Process

If you are considering divorce, understanding the divorce process is important. In Massachusetts divorce is initiated either by the filing of a Joint Petition for Divorce (where the parties have reached a settlement in advance of filing) or by filing a Complaint for Divorce either claiming fault or no fault grounds. It is not necessary to show that your spouse has caused the divorce. Most divorces are filed on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown, commonly called no fault. While some divorces are contested, (no agreement) on issues of property, support, etc., few are actually contested on the grounds for the divorce itself. The grounds for the divorce do not necessarily determine how the property will be divided or how much support will be awarded, although under certain circumstances, fault and wrongful conduct can have an impact on the final outcome.

How Long Will It Take To Get Divorced:

The time it takes to complete a divorce, depends on how quickly both husband and wife can agree on how to handle parenting the children, child support, the division of all of your property, and resolution of all financial issues. If you can not agree and need to go to court to have a Judge decide the issues your divorce will take considerably longer then if, with the assistance of counsel, through mediation, or through the collaborative law process reach an agreement prior to filing for divorce or in advance of any trial date.

Once a divorce has been filed, an answer must be filed by the other party within twenty days from the service of the original papers. An answer is basically a statement either denying or admitting the facts and possibly asking for the relief one wants the Court to Order. It is very important to consult an attorney as soon as you are served a complaint for divorce, so that you can properly prepare and file your answer or possible counterclaim in time. A Counterclaim is merely the responding side’s own request for final Orders of the Court.

File For Divorce:

To file for divorce in Massachusetts, one of the following must have occurred: The parties live together as husband and wife in Massachusetts at the time of filing; The reason for the divorce occurred in Massachusetts; or The parties lived together as husband and wife in Massachusetts and the cause of action occurred while at least one of the spouses was living in Massachusetts. If none of the above applies, you can file for divorce in Massachusetts if you have lived in Massachusetts for one year preceding the commencement of the divorce.

If you cannot wait one year to file for divorce for financial or other urgent reasons, there are no residence requirements for the filing of a Separate Support Complaint provided you are living in Massachusetts at the time the complaint is filed.

A complaint for divorce is filed in the county in which the filing party currently resides unless one party still resides in the county where the couple last resided together. In that situation it must be filed in the country where the couple last lived together.  You do not have to be living apart to file for divorce.

Temporary Orders:

At the time the divorce is filed, it is often important to seek a temporary court order, which will be in effect while the divorce is pending. These temporary orders include custody and parenting time allocations, and child and spousal support. The initial orders by a judge have a significant impact in your case and your life because they can often serve as a guide for final orders and govern important matters such as parenting time, financial support and who stays in the marital home during the pendency of the divorce.  It is vital that you consult with an attorney prior to any hearing for temporary orders. Our office will work closely with you to navigate this, often difficult, step in your divorce.

Discovery:

Very shortly after the divorce commences, the attorneys will engage in a process called “discovery”.  Domestic relations supplemental rule 410 requires that both parties exchange mandatory discovery within forty-five days of service of the Divorce Complaint.  Discovery is simply the legal term for exchanging information. During this process, all assets, liabilities and income will be identified and valued. Massachusetts has mandatory discovery requirements that must be met by both parties. This process can be undertaken informally by the attorneys or through what is known as “formal discovery”, utilizing document production requests, interrogatories, depositions and subpoenas. The formal discovery process can be very time consuming and complex.

The documents that both parties must provide are as follows:

  1. Federal and State tax returns for the last three years;
  2. Supporting and supplemental documentation for said tax returns (i.e. W-2’s, 1099’s, schedules, etc.);
  3. Statements for all bank accounts for the past three years held in the name of either party individually or jointly, or in the name of another person for the benefits of either party, or held by either party for the benefit of the parties; minor children;
  4. Documentation regarding the cost and nature of available health insurance coverage;
  5. Statements for the past three years of any securities, stocks, bonds, notes or obligations, certificates of deposit owned or held by either party, 401K statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements if applicable;
  6. Copies of any loan or mortgage applications made, prepared or submitted by either party within the last three (3) years; and
  7. Copies of any financial statements and/or statements of assets and liabilities prepared by either party within the last three years.

Contact Us For a Confidential Consultation:

If you are considering divorce and have questions about the divorce process in Massachusetts, contact our law office to schedule a consultation and learn your options and legal rights.