Massachusetts Divorce Laws and Requirements

For those looking to pursue divorce in the state of Massachusetts there are some requirements that must be taken into consideration. The legal process of divorce can be complicated. Therefore, it is in the best interest of each individual to consider hiring an attorney who focuses on divorce and family law, even if the divorce is considered “uncontested.”

Residency Requirements

In Massachusetts, the couple must have lived as spouses in the state in order to petition for divorce. If the cause of divorce happened within Massachusetts, one spouse must be considered a resident of the state. If the grounds for divorce occurred out of the state, the plaintiff must have lived in Massachusetts for a period of one year prior to filing for divorce.

What is Considered Fault Grounds for Divorce

Fault grounds for divorce within Massachusetts can include, but are not limited to:

  • Adultery
  • Spousal/child abuse
  • Alcohol or drug dependency
  • Financial and emotional neglect of a spouse
  • Marriage is considered “irreparable”
  • One spouse has deserted the marriage for at least one year prior to filing
  • One spouse has been incarcerated for 5 years or more

Marital Asset and Debt Division

Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. This means that judges have discretion to divide the marital estate unevenly among the spouses based on factors outlined in Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 208 Section 34 after a trial. The parties may avoid a trial altogether by reaching a Separation Agreement. The Agreement must be submitted to the court for review. If the judge feels the Separation Agreement is fair and equitable in dealing with child custody, child support, alimony, medical and dental insurance as well as the division of the marital estate, the agreement will be accepted.

It is best to avoid a trial because it is costly and generally both parties do not agree completely with the Judge’s decision.

If you are considering filing for divorce in Massachusetts, it is highly recommended you consult with an experienced Massachusetts divorce attorney to best understand your options.