Massachusetts Divorce: Does It Make a Difference Who Files First?

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Massachusetts Divorce: Does It Make a Difference Who Files First?

In Massachusetts, filing first should not make a difference to the outcome of a divorce case.  A judge will consider all facts and circumstances in reaching her decision on various issues.  The mere fact that the “petitioner” (person who files first) gets to speak first during proceedings will probably not prejudice an experienced judge’s findings and rulings. 

Also, the fact that spouses live in different Massachusetts counties should not affect where the divorce case is heard (and thus will not advantage the petitioner).  In Massachusetts, the case is heard in the county where the spouses last resided.  If there is hardship or inconvenience to any party, the court may transfer venue to the fairest and most convenient county for both parties. 

However, if parties reside in different states with different laws, it may advantage a spouse to file first, where the case will be heard in the state of filing.  In order to file in Massachusetts, one party needs to have been a resident for at least one year (or if the grounds of divorce occurred in Massachusetts).  So, it may be difficult, because of the waiting period required, for one spouse to move to Massachusetts in order to file for divorce there.    

A spouse would want to file for divorce in Massachusetts if, for example, she wants an “equitable” or fair distribution of marital property.  If most of the property was acquired through her labor and effort, then in Massachusetts she will get most of the property.  On the other hand, in a “community property” state such as Texas, each party is entitled to roughly 50%. 

As another example of how differences in state law can favor the person who files first, Massachusetts requires a supporting spouse with health insurance to provide additional coverage to the supported spouse as a part of the alimony package.  This alimony requirement may vary from state to state. Consulting with an experienced Massachusetts family lawyer may be something you wish to undertake - LegalMatch can assist you in that regard - just click the "Find a Lawyer" button above.

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Last Modified: 04-28-2015 11:12 AM PDT

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