The Massachusetts Divorce Process

No one enters a marriage with the idea that it is going to end in divorce. However, for many couples a divorce is the only solution for an unhappy situation.

If you’re considering filing for divorce in Massachusetts, make sure you understand the two types of dissolutions available to you.

Uncontested Massachusetts Divorce:
In an uncontested divorce (sometimes referred to as 1A) you and your spouse file a joint petition for divorce along with a separation agreement.

The separation agreement, usually drafted with the assistance of an attorney, reviews the equitable division of property, assets, debt, businesses, and inheritances, and clarifies issues surrounding child custody and support. Additionally, where there are minor children involved, the parents must attend a parenting class.

The court may request other documents as well. These may include a financial statement, the marriage certificate, and written statements about the reason for dissolution.

Once the paperwork is complete, both parties appear before a judge for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions concerning information contained in the documents. As long as the documents are complete and the judge finds the separation agreement to be fair and reasonable, the judge will grant the divorce.

If you are considering an uncontested divorce, you may want to consider the use of certified divorce mediator. A divorce mediator is usually specially trained attorney who focuses on neutrality and conflict management in order to identify and satisfy the priorities of all parties involved. It is particularly helpful during difficult discussions.

Contested Massachusetts Divorce :
A contested divorce (sometimes called 1B) is more complex. It begins when one spouse (the plaintiff) files a Complaint for Divorce. The second spouse (the defendant) must answer the complaint. At this point, the parties try and reach an out of court agreement on issues such as custody, visitation, support, health insurance, use and occupancy of the marital residence and the allocation of debt. If the parties cannot agree, then either party may file a motion for a temporary order and have a hearing before a judge on any of the unresolved issues. The judge will then put a temporary order in place that the parties must abide by until their divorce in finalized.

The case will then be placed on a tracking order to give each side enough time to complete discovery. During the discovery period, both sides exchange information and may schedule depositions. A deposition is a discovery tool where a lawyer may ask a witness questions before a court stenographer while the witness is under oath. The testimony can be used to gain information and be used later at the trial if the matter is not settled. The case will then go back to court for a pre-trial conference.
At the actual pre-trial conference, the judge hears from both sides and attempts to resolve any issues the parties and their lawyers have been unable to resolve up to this point. If it is determined the matter cannot be resolved without a formal trial then the matter is scheduled for trial. The trial is the formal hearing where documents and photographs are introduced and testimony is given by witnesses. After the trial, the judge will issue a written judgment of divorce based on all of the relevant and credible evidence introduced at trial.

Whatever road your divorce takes, it’s important to have the proper support system. That includes a good lawyer who is experienced and understands divorce laws in Massachusetts.

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