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The Basics of Massachusetts Divorce
If you are going through or about to go through a Massachusetts divorce, you should know about the Massachusetts divorce process.
This article will explain the basics of Massachusetts divorce. It will also help you understand how to find divorce attorneys in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Divorce Requirements
Before you can get a divorce in Massachusetts, you have to make sure you or your spouse meet the preliminary divorce requirements.
One requirement is residency. A Massachusetts court can hear a divorce case if one or both parties meet the residency requirements. These residency requirements are, in part, dependent upon where the grounds for divorce took place. Grounds for divorce simply means the reason for the divorce.
You may get a Massachusetts divorce under the following circumstances:
- If you and your spouse lived together as husband and wife in Massachusetts and the grounds for divorce occurred in the state
- If you and your spouse lived together as husband and wife in Massachusetts and one of you lived there when the grounds for divorce occurred, regardless of where it occurred
- You live in the state when filing for divorce and the grounds for divorce occurred in the state
- If the grounds for the divorce occurred outside the state, one spouse must have lived in the state for a year
You also need to have legitimate grounds for divorce. In Massachusetts, there are two types of divorces: No-fault and fault. A no-fault divorce is when one party cites irretrievable breakdown of the marriage as the reason for divorce. With this type of divorce, neither party alleges fault or blames the other for the end of the marriage.
A fault-based divorce is when you cite a wrongdoing that your spouse engaged in as the reason for the divorce. In Massachusetts, fault grounds include:
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Nonsupport, which means cruelly neglecting to provide suitable support despite the means to do so
- Desertion for at least a year
- Drug use or habitual intoxication
- Prison sentence of five years or more
Filing for a Massachusetts Divorce
If you meet the Massachusetts divorce requirements, you may then proceed with filing for divorce.
The divorce filing process depends on the type of divorce you are requesting. If you are filing a no-fault divorce, and you and your spouse have no disagreement regarding issues of child custody, child support, debts and assets, then you can file a Joint Petition for Divorce. This petition must be filed with the Probate and Family Court in the county where you or your spouse is living or in the county where you and your spouse last lived together. The Joint Petition for Divorce states that neither party is alleging fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Once you file, the court will process your paperwork and assign a hearing date.
If one of the parties is alleging fault in the divorce, then the divorce process begins when one spouse files the Complaint for Divorce. When this complaint is filed with the proper Probate and Family Court, the other spouse will be served with a copy and given a chance to respond. The court will then set a hearing date.
No-fault divorces where parties agree on all the terms of the divorce usually take much less time than a divorce in which one party is alleging fault. Fault-based divorces can take months to resolve. Whether you live in Boston, Worcester, Springfield or another part of Massachusetts, if you are engaged in a fault-based divorce, you will want to hire a Massachusetts divorce lawyer.
Hiring a Massachusetts Divorce Attorney
Whether or not you are the spouse filing for divorce, you should consider hiring a Massachusetts divorce lawyer to help you throughout the divorce process.
The first step in hiring a divorce attorney is finding names of lawyers. To do this, ask friends and family members who have gone through a divorce if they have any recommendations. Ask them how their experiences were with their attorneys and if they can make a referral.
You can also use a site like Attorneys.com. To start the process, fill out the brief form on this site or call 1-877-913-7222. After answering a few questions, Attorneys.com will connect you to at least one Massachusetts divorce attorney in your area. That lawyer will call you within two business days or you can contact the lawyer at your own convenience.
Once you have at least one lawyer you are interested in speaking to, set up an initial consultation. A consultation is an initial meeting with the attorney that gives you the opportunity to ask questions about him and his practice, tell him about your case and decide whether you want to hire him.
You should come up with a list of questions before going to your consultation. Remember also to bring pen and paper to take notes with. Questions you should consider asking include:
- How long has the lawyer handled Massachusetts divorce cases?
- Has he ever handled a case like yours?
- Does he have experience with child custody, child support or spousal support issues?
- What type of fee arrangement does he use? How much does he cost?
- If you need to get in touch with him, what's the best way to reach him? How long does it take for him to respond?
Once you have finished going on your consultations, you should be able to make an informed hiring decision.