Under Massachusetts’ law, divorce is the end of a marriage relationship. Massachusetts does not legally recognize a separation status; however, a married couple can choose to live separately for any number of reasons (such as religion, or the best interest of a child).

Massachusetts does recognize two broad categories of divorces: “at-fault” vs “no-fault.” A no-fault divorce is generally an amicable separation that requires little state intervention. During a no-fault divorce the former spouses are usually able to dive property and responsibilities (such as child support) without court intervention. At-fault divorces occur when one party is being targeted as the cause of the divorce. Massachusetts recognizes the following as grounds for at-fault divorces:

  • adultery,
  • desertion, 
  • gross and confirmed habits of intoxication,
  • cruel and abusive treatment,
  • non-support,
  • impotency, or
  • a prison sentence of 5 or more years. 

The categorization of your divorce can have significant legal consequences and you should discuss your filing with an experienced divorce lawyer.

What Paperwork Do You Need to File for Divorce?

The paperwork requirements for Massachusetts depends on who is filing for divorce and whether the divorce is contested. Where the divorce is classified as “no-fault” and both people agree on the terms of the divorce then the following must be filed:

  • Joint petition for divorce.
  • Joint affidavit of irretrievable breakdown.
  • Certified copy of the civil marriage certificate.
  • Notarized separation agreement signed by both parties.
  • Certificate of Absolute Divorce for the Registry of Vital Records.

Where the divorce is classified as “no-fault” but both people do not agree on the terms of the divorce, or where the divorce is classified as “at-fault” divorce, then the following must be filed:

  • Complaint for divorce.
  • Certified copy of the civil marriage certificate.
  • Certificate of Absolute Divorce for the Registry of Vital Records.
  • Financial Statements and applicable schedules.

Even more paperwork may be required on a case-by-case basis and it is advised that you speak with an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that all required paperwork is filed accurately and in a timely manner.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

Massachusetts is considered an “equitable distribution” state. This means that a court will try to determine what a fair – but not necessarily equal – distribution of marital property is. A Massachusetts court will consider assets brought into the marriage, the efforts of each spouse during the marriage, the length of the marriage and many other factors when making this determination.

What Should You Do If There are Children Involved?

If children are involved, there may be further paperwork requirements, such as:

  • Affidavit of Care and Custody.
  • Child support guidelines worksheet.
  • Parent Education Certificate.

While it is best if parents can agree on issues like child custody or child support, the court often issues decisions and will order the parents to pay and care for the child as best possible despite being separated. 

Do You Need to Pay Alimony?

Massachusetts courts may require a former spouse to continue contributing to the financial wellbeing of the divorced partner – these payments are referred to as alimony payments. Alimony payments are designed to protect former spouses and allow for a smooth transition out of the marriage. Alimony payments are often the most contentious part of a divorce and you should have an alimony lawyer work with you to protect your rights.   

Where Can You Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?

If you think you are facing a divorce, then contact a Massachusetts divorce lawyer today to assist you through every step of your divorce. An experienced divorce lawyer can work with you to ensure that your side of the divorce is completely and accurately represented.