Divorce in Massachusetts
It pays to be prepared before filing for divorce in Massachusetts. That includes familiarizing yourself with the basic divorce requirements and hiring a Massachusetts divorce attorney. This article provides a Massachusetts divorce overview and suggests some things to consider when hiring a lawyer.
Massachusetts Divorce Basics
Massachusetts divorce residency requirements: At least one spouse must be a Massachusetts resident to file for divorce in the state. If the reason for the divorce occurred outside the state, then at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least a year. If the reason for the divorce occurred within the state, then there is no minimum residency requirement.
Massachusetts divorce courts: Massachusetts divorce cases are typically filed with the Family & Probate court in the county in which either spouse resides. If one spouse lives in the same county where the couple last resided together, then you must file for divorce in that county.
Filing for divorce in Massachusetts: When filing for divorce, you or your Massachusetts divorce lawyer will submit either a "Complaint for Divorce" or a "Joint Petition for Divorce" with the court. The joint petition is used if the couple is jointly filing for divorce. If only one spouse is filing the request, then the other spouse must be served with a copy of the divorce paperwork before court hearings can begin.
Grounds for divorce in Massachusetts: When filing for divorce, you must list grounds, or a reason, for the end of your marriage. Massachusetts permits both no-fault divorce—meaning neither party is to blame—and fault-based divorce. When filing for a no-fault divorce, the grounds are "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." You have seven choices if filing for a fault-based divorce:
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Voluntary desertion for at least one year
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Neglect and refusal to support you
- Prison sentence of five years or more
Property division in Massachusetts divorce: If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your property and your debts, then the judge responsible for your case will make that decision for you. Marital property, or assets and debts acquired during the marriage, will be divided "equitably," but not necessarily equally.
Massachusetts alimony: Massachusetts law permits alimony, also known as spousal support, to be paid from one spouse to another after the end of the marriage. Alimony awards can vary in amount and duration depending on the length of the marriage, each person's earning potential, whether one person was at fault for the divorce and whether one person is primarily taking care of the couple's minor children. Alimony is typically awarded for a specific length of time before it ends.
Massachusetts Child Custody & Support Basics
Massachusetts child custody: If you and your spouse have minor children, you'll also have to reach a child custody agreement. Custody agreements typically address physical custody, or where the child resides, as well as legal custody, or which parent has responsibility for major child-rearing decisions. Both physical custody and legal custody can be sole, meaning just one parent has custody, or joint, meaning the custody is shared. If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is typically awarded visitation.
Massachusetts child support: The judge will also make a child support ruling. Massachusetts child support is calculated after examining several factors, including how physical custody is divided, how much each parent earns and how much is spent on major child-related expenses, such as health care and child care.
Things to Consider When Hiring a Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer
Before hiring a Massachusetts divorce attorney, schedule an initial consultation, or preliminary meeting, with the lawyer. Most Massachusetts divorce lawyers offer these meetings free of charge or at low cost. The purpose of the meeting is to get to know the lawyer, interview him or her, and decide if the attorney is the right person to handle your divorce case.
Come to the meeting with a list of questions you've prepared. When drafting your questions, focus on topics that will help you decide whether to hire the attorney. For example:
- Experience handling other divorces similar to yours: If you have a very simple divorce, you don't need a lawyer who primarily focuses on complicated divorce cases. Or if you have young children, you probably don't want to hire someone who mainly represents elderly divorcing couples with grown children.
- Price: It can be relatively inexpensive or very costly to get a divorce. The price is dependant on a number of factors, including the experience of the divorce lawyer and the complexity of your divorce.
Philosophy and approach to handling divorces: Different attorneys have different styles, and you need one whose philosophy and approach matches your own attitude toward your divorce. If you know your divorce will be contentious, you may not want to hire an attorney who prefers to handle amicable divorces. And if you and your spouse are in agreement on most major points of your divorce, then you probably don't need to hire a pitbull of a lawyer.
Find & Hire Massachusetts Divorce Attorneys
If you're considering divorce, you should speak to Massachusetts divorce lawyers as soon as possible—even before you've discussed divorce with your spouse. And if you need to hire a divorce lawyer, you've come to the right website. Attorneys.com offers a fast and free service that can connect you with Massachusetts divorce attorneys in your area—from Boston to Springfield, from Worchester to Cape Cod, and everywhere in between.
To use our service, phone us at 877-913-7222 or fill out the form on this page. We'll ask you a few simple questions, then quickly match you with a local lawyer.