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Divorce in Massachusetts

Divorce can be stressful, emotionally trying and expensive. But just how difficult your divorce will be depends on a number of different circumstances. If you are fortunate enough to be able to seek an uncontested divorce, one where you and your spouse can come to an agreement about things like dividing your property and child custody (if you have children), then your divorce can be straightforward and relatively easy. You may even be able to complete your divorce without a lawyer. In this case, you simply need to find the required divorce papers for Massachusetts, fill them out correctly and present them to your local county clerk.

If you are a situation where you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse one option is to seek divorce mediation and for more complicated situations it may be advisable to seek a legal professional.

The following information will help you understand the basic divorce process in Massachusetts, and how you can move forward with your own divorce.

Massachusetts Divorce Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the divorce rate in Massachusetts in 2011 was 2.7 out of every 1,000 residents. The divorce rate in Massachusetts is lower than many other states in the country, and has been relatively low over the past 20 years.

Massachusetts requires that either your or your spouse have lived in the state for one year before you can begin the divorce process. The state allows both fault-based and no-fault divorces. In a fault-based divorce, you must present grounds for divorce, some of which include adultery and abandonment. In a no-fault divorce, you only need to state that the marriage is broken beyond repair. Many residents choose to seek a no-fault divorce as it is typically a shorter and less-costly process.

Massachusetts Divorce Papers and Forms

Massachusetts has several different divorce options, each requires specific divorce papers and documentation. The first option is a “1A” divorce, where you and your spouse file a joint petition to seek a no-fault divorce. The second is a “1B” divorce, where you file a complain on your own, still seeking a no-fault divorce. The third option is an individual complaint where you seek a fault-based divorce.

The Massachusetts Court System’s website explains divorce in the state. If you are going to divorce it is advisable that you review all of the information available. The more you understand about how the state handles divorce, the better off you will be. The resource also has a section where you can download and print Massachusetts’ divorce papers. However, there are many of options here, so it is worthwhile to take your time and read carefully before you start completing your divorce papers.

Many people find that it is easiest to get their Massachusetts divorce papers online from CompleteCase.com. Our divorce form preparation service helps to identify the correct documents for your individual needs, and guides you through the process of filing them out accurately. When you want to avoid delays or complications in your divorce, this kind of assistance can prove invaluable.

How to File Divorce Papers in Massachusetts

Once you have completed your Massachusetts divorce papers, you will want to print and file them with the county clerk where you or your spouse resides. The Massachusetts Court System website has a Court Locator, where you can find the appropriate court to file.

Before you go to the county court, we recommend that you to call ahead to verify that you are bringing everything the clerk will need in order to file your divorce. You will need to bring a payment for the state fee in a form that the court accepts – usually cash or certified check. In addition to the original forms you file with the court, you should make several copies of your divorce papers, including one to keep for your records and one to serve to your spouse.

You will also need to submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate when you file. Certified copies of marriage certificates are available from the Massachusetts secretary of state and from the city clerk where you were married.

How to Serve Divorce Papers in Massachusetts

The final filing requirement in Massachusetts is to serve the divorce papers to your spouse. If you and your spouse filed jointly (a 1A divorce), there is no need to serve the divorce papers. But with the other types of divorces, you will need to make sure your spouse gets copies of the divorce forms.

There are several options to serve your spouse in Massachusetts, including hiring a sheriff in the county where your spouse lives, or using a private constable. Note that these services come with a fee. Once served, you will need to submit proof to the court that your spouse was served in order to complete the filing process.

If you filed a 1A divorce, there is a 30 day waiting period before the court will make a judgment. It becomes final 90 days after entry. With a 1B divorce or a fault-based divorce, you will have to wait at least 6 months for the court to review the divorce. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement, the case will go to trial, which can take a year or more, depending on the situation.

Do you qualify for an online divorce?

Do you know the location of your spouse?
Is your spouse in agreement regarding this divorce and willing to sign the divorce papers with you?
Do you and your spouse have any children under the age of 18 from this marriage?