MASSACHUSETTS DIVORCE LAW
When deciding whether a divorce is right for you, you should review Massachusetts’ laws and divorce process. A divorce in Massachusetts will legally end your marriage. The divorced parties will become single and able to re-marry. It is important to contact a Massachusetts divorce attorney when contemplating a divorce.
Legal separation is not a divorce, but a legal agreement to separate from your spouse. You will still be considered married if you obtain a legal separation in Massachusetts. To obtain a legal separation in Massachusetts, one party must be a resident of Massachusetts and both parties must agree to the separation. The court can and does make orders with regard to any issues relating to property distribution or the care and custody of minor children that may be involved. Any judgments made in a legal separation are open for revision at the court’s discretion. For instance, when the children’s needs change as a result of a parental change in circumstances, such as a job relocation.
Grounds For Divorce
“Grounds for divorce” is the reason why you are seeking a divorce and must be stated in your divorce documents. Massachusetts has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce:
No-Fault Divorce: a spouse filing for a no-fault divorce is stating that neither spouse is at fault for the divorce. The ground in no-fault divorces is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” The paperwork necessary to file for a no-fault divorce includes 1) a signed petition (by both spouses); 2) a notarized separation agreement or marital settlement agreement; and, 3) an affidavit swearing irretrievability of the marriage. The no-fault divorce case is heard by a judge with no summons requirement and with a statutory eye toward a speedy resolution.
Fault Based Divorce: when a spouse files for a fault-based divorce he or she is stating that the divorce is the other spouse’s fault. Fault-based reasons for divorce in Massachusetts are based on much more specific grounds than those grounds for no-fault divorce, such as adultery, a party’s “intolerable behavior,” abandonment for more than six months, confinement for a crime for more than five years during the marriage, both parties agreeing to the dissolution of the marriage and living separate and apart for more than one year, or both parties having lived separately and apart for more than two years. You should contact a licensed Massachusetts divorce attorney to discuss your options.
Divorce Residency Requirements
To file for divorce in Massachusetts, the plaintiff must have been a resident of the state for at least one year before filing (when the grounds for divorce occurred outside the state), and the petition must be filed in the circuit court with jurisdiction over the county in which either party resides. When grounds occurred inside Massachusetts, either spouse may be a resident. To qualify to file for divorce, the couple must have lived together in the state as husband and wife.
An annulment is not a divorce, but is a court declaration that, because of certain circumstances, the marriage is void (never valid to begin with) or voidable. You will not need to obtain a divorce if you are granted an annulment. A Massachusetts court may grant an annulment for several reasons, including fraud, duress, a party’s minor status, or consanguinity. You should consult a Massachusetts divorce attorney as annulments are uncommon.
Equitable Division of Marital Property
Massachusetts is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning that marital property will be distributed equitably (not necessarily 50/50) upon divorce by the court, but separate property will remain separate. The real and personal property of any person shall, upon marriage, remain the separate property of such person, and a married person may receive, hold, manage and dispose of property (real and personal) in the same manner as if such person were single / not married. A husband and wife shall be equally entitled to the rents, products, income or profits and to the control, management and possession of property held by them as tenants by the entirety.
In the equitable distribution calculation, the Massachusetts court may assign to either husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other, including but not limited to: all vested and non-vested benefits, and rights and funds accrued during the marriage-including, but not limited to- retirement benefits, military retirement benefits if qualified under and to the extent provided by federal law, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation and insurance. When determining the amount of distribution each spouse will receive after the divorce the Massachusetts court will consider, among other things, the contributions of each spouse to the marital estate, the total value of the property of the parties, the economic circumstances of each party, any misconduct that may have occurred and the amount of spousal support awarded. Property distribution can be a confusing and lengthy process; consultation with a Massachusetts divorce attorney is recommended.
Links to Divorce Statutes