Things to know before contacting us
A divorce in Massachusetts refers to a judgment from the probate court that ends a marriage. Massachusetts does not have “legal separation,” so you can live apart from your spouse without going to court. If you or your spouse wish to end the marriage, there are various issues that may be decided:
• Change your name back to the name you had prior to marriage
• Child custody
• Child support
• Child visitation
• Division of assets and debts
• Division of real and personal property, including the marital home
You and your spouse may come to an agreement together to decide the above-mentioned issues. If you are able to agree to certain terms, then a “Separation Agreement” will be written. Both parties must agree to the terms of a Separation Agreement. If you are unable to come to an agreement, then the case will go before a judge to be decided.
When you or your spouse files for divorce without a Separation Agreement, you must list the “grounds.” The grounds for the divorce are the legal reasons for ending the marriage. The reasons may be “fault” or “no fault” based. “Fault” grounds means that one person is found at fault for leading to the breakdown the marriage, and this includes the following: cruel and abusive treatment, desertion continued for one year, adultery, etc. “No fault” grounds means that the marriage has broken down, but one spouse is not specifically at fault. The “no fault” ground is “irretrievable breakdown,” meaning that the marriage has broken down. Most divorces are "no-fault."
The filing fee for a divorce is $215. If you receive welfare benefits or if your income is 125% or less of the poverty threshold, then you may be eligible to waive the court and filing fees associated with the divorce process. To get a waiver, you should fill out an “Affidavit of Indigency.”
The steps to follow and your options will vary depending on your particular circumstances.
• If there is no agreement, the first step in the divorce process is to file the “Complaint for Divorce” with the Probate and Family Court. If there is an agreement, it can be filed with a joint petition for no fault divorce. The documents are filed at the Probate and Family Court in the county where you and your spouse last lived together if either of you still reside in that county. If neither of you lives in that county, then you may file in the county where you or your spouse lives now.
• If you believe you are eligible for a fee waiver, then file an Affidavit of Indigency with your complaint.
• After you file the divorce complaint, you will receive a summons and a tracking notice from the court. You must then “serve” a copy of the divorce complaint, summons, and tracking notice to your spouse. Generally, a sheriff may be retained to serve your spouse and to ensure that the documents are legally delivered. You must pay the sheriff for service; this will cost $50 to $100 depending on a variety of circumstances.
• There is also the option of temporary orders from the court. You must file a Motion for Temporary Orders and then have a hearing before a judge for those orders. Temporary orders are decided upon before a final trial takes place. These orders generally concern child custody, support, visitation, restraining orders, and vacate orders.
• The case will go on to a pre-trial conference and ultimately to a final hearing.
Divorce cases require financial disclosure from both parties. Each spouse must fill out a financial statement for the court. This will include income, expenses, cars, pensions, savings, property, stocks and bonds, income tax returns, and any other records that may exist.
• Complaint for divorce: Fault, No fault.
• Separation agreement.
• Any written agreements between the spouses.
• Affidavit of indigency to determine if eligible for a waiver of the $215 filing fee and the supplement.
• Domestic relations summons.
• Temporary orders.
• Financial statements
o Income tax returns.
o Bank account statements: checking and savings.
o Real estate documents: deeds, leases, etc.
o Payroll statements and/or pay stubs.
o Pension or retirement plan (including 401K plan).
o Individual retirement account (IRA) document.
o Insurance policy documents: life, health, automobile, homeowners, etc.
o Documents showing debt: loans, credit card statements, mortgages, etc.
For any further questions or legal help in the divorce process, please contact our Boston or New Bedford office by phone or through this website, and we will work to match you with an attorney.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.