Massachusetts divorce laws

Knowledge of laws matters if you decided to change your name or citizenship, or simply wish to move to another nation. The same applies when you make up your mind to end your relationship and get a divorce. If this applies to you, this short but thorough overview of Massachusetts divorce information will give you an understanding of essential rules you need to know to dissolve your marriage without additional legal advice.

What you should know about MA divorce laws

According to divorce laws in Massachusetts, there are two basic tracks to dissolve the marital relationship. Their difference lies in the ability of spouses to work together to speed up the process. The first track, which is defined as contested dissolution in the divorce law of Massachusetts, is carried out when the couple cannot agree on issues like child support, spousal maintenance or division of property and therefore asks the court to make an appropriate decision. Contested dissolution is often stressful and time-consuming, since spouses often hire lawyers who try to get the most out of the litigation for their clients. As you can see, this track is also expensive and not everyone can afford it.

The other divorce method is called uncontested dissolution and it has many meaningful benefits compared to contested cases. If you choose to get divorced in such way, you can expect to finalize the case on your own without paying a lawyer. The other advantage is the shorter time spent getting the decree of dissolution. To start the process, you should sit down with your spouse and discuss how you will live and fulfill your responsibilities after the divorce. When you reach a mutual understanding, the separation agreement should be created, so that the judge will see that the partners are not in conflict and there is no need to organize additional hearings. As uncontested dissolution is more convenient, quick and easy, we advise you to make an effort to carry it out in accordance with the divorce law in MA.

Grounds for divorce in MA

Massachusetts recognizes both no-fault and fault-based grounds for marriage dissolution. The first type means that you do not have to explain and prove your wish to divorce in court. In this situation you only need to state the irreversible failure of the marriage as the grounds in the petition. Fault-based divorce requires you to provide proof of the ground you have chosen to build your claim on. Such grounds include:

  • Unfaithfulness
  • Cruelty
  • Abandonment without the wish to come back
  • Imprisonment for more than 5 years
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Inability to maintain the sexual relationship in the marriage.
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Massachusetts divorce laws on adultery and its influence on the dissolution process

In most states, act of adultery does not affect the child custody or the distribution of assets during divorce . However, there are still a few states that remain strict in relation to this act. Let’s take a look at the legal perception of adultery in Massachusetts.

As we have mentioned earlier, unfaithfulness is a reason that must be proved in accordance with Massachusetts divorce law. But once it is proved, it can become the catalyst of another investigation, since such action is prohibited in MA. Moreover, if there is data proving the matter, the guilty party can go to jail for up to 3 years in state prison, or they can be fined less than $500.

Also, the circumstance of unfaithfulness can factor into making a decision regarding the child custody. If the initiator of the divorce procedure in Massachusetts is able to prove harm caused by the other partner’s unfaithful behavior, it can influence the divorce outcomes in terms of child custody and parent’s visitations. Also, Massachusetts divorce law on alimony takes unfaithfulness into account when deciding on spousal maintenance. It is not considered automatically but you can be sure that the judge will not omit it when the question of alimony arises.

One more detail you should remember in regards to adultery is that the issue of forgiveness may put an end to such reasoning in court. This happens in a situation when one partner has had an affair, the other partner learned about it but continued to live with the partner in the shared house and did not end the marital relationship right away. But if there were other acts of adultery that were not forgiven, the initiating party can start the process based on unfaithfulness.

Divorce process in Massachusetts

New divorce law in MA allows conducting an uncontested divorce by two means: through filing a joint petition or petition from one partner. The first means is quicker than the second one since you don’t have to deliver the paperwork to the responding party. If you choose to submit the petition without engaging your partner, you will have to deliver copies of the papers to them for their review.

So, let’s take a closer look at the divorce process in Massachusetts. As we already discussed the benefits of uncontested marriage dissolution, here we will pay attention to the uncontested MA divorce process.

First of all, before any proceeding starts, the initiating party must make sure that the residency requirements are satisfied. If the couple fails to meet the demands of local laws, they cannot divorce in the state. So, to be eligible for the Massachusetts divorce process, one of the following statements must be true:

  • The partners lived in marital status in the state and one party lived in the state when the grounds for dissolution took place;
  • The initiating party spent a year living in the state and the grounds also took place in state; or
  • The initiating party lived in Massachusetts at the time when filing started and the grounds occurred in the state.

However, the judge still may decline the last two residency situations if it becomes known that the initiating party moved to Massachusetts wittingly to carry out the divorce process in MA.

The package of divorce documents should be brought to the appropriate court for submission. Courts considered as such are either:

  • Where either of the partners is currently living; or
  • Where either of partners is currently living and where the couple also lived.

If the partners decided to file together, along with their joint petition they also must provide:

  1. A sworn affidavit that there is an irreversible failure of marriage (done separately by the partners or together).
  2. An agreement of separation (here all of the issues that arise out of divorce should be outlined in accordance with the Massachusetts divorce laws and alimony Both partners should sign it and have it notarized).

As you can see, no further documents like an answer from the non-filing party is needed. Next, a short hearing will take place and within a month, the judge will ensure whether the irreversible failure has taken and place and whether all the important issues are properly discussed and agreed upon in the agreement of separation.  If everything is done properly, the decree of divorce will come into force within a month. If the judge discovers any inaccuracies (e.g. MA divorce laws or alimony laws were not followed precisely, etc.) or changes to the agreement, it will be deemed invalid and divorce will not be granted.

Also, if the couple does not prepare and submit the documents together, they can file alone. It is possible even without the separation agreement. In this situation, the initiating party should prepare and submit the claim to the court and then the hearing will be held in no less than six months. If the judge finds that the failure of marriage still exists, the marriage will be dissolved.

States divorce law