By: Christina Pashou, Esq.
By law, there are two types of divorce in Massachusetts: contested and uncontested. These two types of divorce are handled very differently. You do not need to litigate an uncontested divorce in court, but you will still need to attend an uncontested divorce hearing. This is your final divorce hearing wherein a Probate and Family Court judge will review your agreement and enter your divorce judgment.
To obtain a divorce in Massachusetts, you and your spouse must first meet a residency requirement. This requirement serves to prevent a couple from moving to the Commonwealth for the sole purpose of obtaining a divorce. For the purpose of meeting the residency requirement, if the events leading to the breakdown of the marriage occurred within Massachusetts, residency is established so long as one spouse is currently living in the state. If the events occurred out of the Commonwealth, either you or your spouse must live in Massachusetts for at least a year before you may file for an uncontested divorce in the state.
For an uncontested divorce agreement to be possible, you and your spouse must come to a full agreement on EVERY possible issue, including but not limited issues regarding the division of assets, debt, and child custody and visitation issues, if any. If you have a full agreement, you and your spouse would be able to complete an uncontested divorce rather quicly, which includes the following three components:
- Separation Agreement
This document is essentially a contract between you and your spouse, which specifies every agreed upon term to effectuate your divorce. In uncontested divorces, separation agreements are completed before you file for divorce because the agreement is filed simultaneously with your petition for an uncontested divorce. By law, the separation agreement must be signed by both parties and notarized. The Separation Agreement is the foundation to your divorce.
- Joint Petition and Accompanying Documents:
- Joint Petition for Divorce;
- Joint Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown;
- R-408 Certification of Absolute Divorce or Annulment Statistical Form;
- Financial Statements of you and your spouse;
- Request for Trial Assignment for the final hearing;
- Certified copy of your marriage certificate; and
- Filing fee of $215.00
*Parents of minor children are also required to submit a custody affidavit and child support guidelines worksheet.
Once completed, the separation agreement, and the joint petition and accompanying documents listed above, should be filed with the probate and family court in the county where either you or your spouse lives. If either spouse currently lives in the county where you last lived together, it should be filed in that county.
Once all required documents have been filed, the court will review your petition and the separation agreement. A hearing will be scheduled on the next available date, unless the county, in which you have filed, allows you to “walk-in” the agreement and be heard before a judge on the same day. At the hearing, the judge will make sure that you and your spouse agree on everything, that the separation agreement is not unfair to either party, and that you are signing it freely and voluntarily.
*If you have children, the court will make sure that custody and the support amounts promote the best interests of the child.
If the court determines that any term of the agreement does not meet these requirements, the judge may request that both parties modify the objectionable terms. If you cannot agree and modify the specific terms, the matter will be dismissed. If the agreement is accepted, it becomes a binding contract and the judge will incorporate the terms into a judgment for divorce. The divorce will become final 120 days from the date of the divorce.
To speak with a lawyer about divorce or other family law matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston, Newton, or Quincy, MA. To schedule an initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at email@example.com