What’s the First Step for Filing for Divorce in Massachusetts?
Filing for divorce is one of the most difficult decisions two people can make together. Going through the process is often confusing, and a lot of questions you might not be prepared to answer tend to be asked throughout. In Massachusetts, the first step in the divorce process involves deciding whether you’re filing a contested or uncontested divorce. You’ll also determine if the divorce is categorized as fault or no-fault based on the details surrounding your decision to file. This obviously varies from couple to couple, but let’s look at the specifics for each type of divorce.
Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a divorce is considered uncontested when both parties agree on the issues and terms of their divorce. These terms can include child support, alimony, and division of property.
This type of divorce is covered under Section 1A or Section 1B of Chapter 208 of the General Laws. The divorcing couple agrees that the marriage is irrecoverably broken, and that there are irreconcilable differences between the two spouses. Although this does imply there are disagreements that cannot be resolved by the divorcing couple, neither party is considered at fault.
When a couple agrees to the terms of the divorce before officially filing their case, the issue will be filed as a Section 1A divorce. This involves both a joint petition and separation agreement. In some cases, a couple may file for divorce and then agree to the full terms. This is considered an uncontested divorce. However, if it has been six months or longer since filing and all necessary documentation hasn’t been filed, it will need to be filed as a Section 1B divorce.
Contested Divorce in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a contested divorce is a case in which the spouses have not come to full agreement on the terms of the divorce. Nearly every contested divorce case is filed under Section 1B, which also includes irreconcilable differences, or no-fault. Worth noting, contested divorces can also be filed based on fault.
Many people believe that filing on grounds of fault provides them with an advantage, because it does not reflect on their own behavior. While these cases can be settled prior to trial, the case will go to trial if no agreement can be reached.
Grounds for Divorce
In Massachusetts, there are six grounds for divorce based on fault:
- Adultery is one of the most common grounds for divorce in Massachusetts, and can impact the terms of the divorce agreement, such as child support and alimony. Adultery is having sexual relations with a person other than one’s spouse. In the state of Massachusetts, it is considered a criminal act, and therefore some details surrounding the case are not as public as they would be otherwise.
- Impotency is a medical condition in which a person is unable to copulate, and it too can be used as grounds for divorce in Massachusetts. Long-term impotency is rare and as such, is rarely used as grounds for divorce in the state.
- When one spouse leaves the other spouse and does not live with them for more than one year, this is considered utter desertion. The spouse that left did so with the intention of never resuming marital relations with the other spouse. To qualify as utter desertion, one spouse must voluntarily leave the residence with the other spouse being unable to have given consent.
- Intoxication can also be used as grounds for divorce when it is excessive and voluntary and shows that the spouse has a substance abuse problem. However, if the problem is resolved before the couple files for divorce, intoxication cannot be cited as grounds for divorce.
- Cruel and abusive treatment, such as threatening each other with firearms, verbally belittling one spouse, or demanding sexual intercourse, is considered grounds for divorce. In addition, the abused spouse may be able to file a civil suit against the spouse who behaved cruelly and abusively.
- Failure to provide support states one spouse was able to provide support but “grossly, wantonly, and cruelly refused or neglected to” provide that support for their spouse. For failure to provide support to constitute as reason for divorce, the victimized spouse must be able to show that the offending spouse had complete disregard for the other’s living materials, food, and other necessities.
- Confinement for a crime can be used as grounds for divorce. In cases when one spouse has been sentenced to five years or more in prison, the other spouse may file for divorce. If the spouse imprisoned is later released, even prior to the five-year date, it will have no effect on the divorce proceedings.
How a Boston Family Law Attorney Can Help
The divorce process is complicated, and it can often be a challenge to understand the best approach to take when filing. Hiring a Boston divorce lawyer will not only help you sort through your various options, but it will also ensure that your paperwork is accurate and filed correctly.
If you’re considering divorce, please don’t hesitate to contact DiBella Law Offices, P.C., today at (617) 870-0907. We’ll talk about your case with you, figure out the best plan for filing, and try to make the whole process as easy to deal with as we possible can.