Filing for Divorce with the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court

For those looking to pursue a divorce action in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, several factors must be considered prior to the filing of an action with the Probate and Family Court. 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 Commonwealth in order to file a Joint Petition or Complaint for divorce in a Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. Or, if the cause of divorce occurred within Massachusetts and one spouse resides within the Commonwealth, that resident may be able to file here. If the grounds for divorce occurred in a state other than Massachusetts, the plaintiff must have lived in Massachusetts for a period of one year or more 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
  • Impotency
  • Gross and confirmed alcohol or drug dependency
  • A gross or wanton and cruel refusal to provide suitable support despite having sufficient ability to do so
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • One spouse has deserted the marriage for at least one year prior to filing

Marital Asset and Debt Division
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. This means that assets and debts must be divided in a way that is fair and reasonable among the spouses. This asset/debt division can be outlined in a Separation (Divorce) Agreement written by the spouses’ attorney(s). Whether the divorce starts off as uncontested or contested, if there is ultimately a Separation Agreement that is executed by the parties, the agreement must be submitted to the court for review. If the judge feels the Separation Agreement makes proper provisions for the equitable division of the marital assets and debts, the agreement will be accepted by the Court as fair and reasonable.

In the case of a faulted or contested divorce and that does not ultimately settle, the assets and liabilities will be divided by the Court after a trial. Marital property may include a home, family business, retirement benefits of each spouse, bank accounts, inheritance, etc. The division of assets in the case of contested divorce or in a divorce where the parties have extensive property can be complicated.

If you are considering filing for divorce in Massachusetts, it is highly recommended you consult with an experienced Massachusetts attorney whose expertise is in divorce and family law for so that you can best understand your options.

Categories: Articles and Divorce Articles.