There are two types of divorce actions in Massachusetts which can be filed on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. An uncontested divorce action can be filed under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, Section 1A or a contested divorce action can be filed under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 208, Section 1B. If the action is commenced as an uncontested action, a joint petition for divorce is filed by the parties along with a marital separation agreement. The agreement determines the division of marital assets and liabilities, child support and custody, alimony, and health insurance, among other matters. If the parties cannot agree on all matters pertaining to the divorce, a complaint for divorce must be filed by one party. The complaint will then need to be served on the other spouse.
When filing a complaint for divorce, the grounds for divorce is usually alleged as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Although there are other grounds for divorce, such as cruel and abusive treatment, irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is most common ground for divorce alleged in the complaint. The only disadvantage to filing on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown is that there is a six month waiting period until the action can be set down for a pre-trial conference. However, the action can be converted to an uncontested action if an agreement is reached by the parties and the divorce hearing could occur sooner.
A divorce filed under G.L. c. 208, 1(A) is final 120 days after the hearing on the divorce. An action under 1(B) is final 90 days after the divorce hearing.
When filing a divorce action, one of the spouses must be a resident in Massachusetts if the grounds for the divorce occurred in Massachusetts. If the grounds for the divorce happened outside of Massachusetts, one spouse must have resided in Massachusetts for at least 1 year.
Actions for divorce are commenced in the probate and family court and usually in the county where one of the spouses resides. However, if either party continues to reside in the county where the parties last lived together, the action must be filed in that county.
If minor children are a consideration in a divorce action, both spouses must attend parenting classes in order to obtain the divorce. The spouses should attend the classes separately. Also, on-line attendance is not available. The classes are usually two sessions which are two and half hours long. A certificate is received once a spouse has attended the classes. The certificate must be filed with the court.