Massachusetts Divorce Laws – What You Need to Know!t
If a couple chooses to file for divorce in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, certain conditions of residency must first be met. The couple must have established their marital domicile there, or if the grounds for the divorce occurred in Massachusetts, at least one of the two must reside there. If the grounds for the divorce occurred elsewhere, the one filing must have lived in the commonwealth for at least a year before filing.
If the residency requirements are met, the Massachusetts divorce action should be filed in the county where one of the spouses lives. However, if one or both of the spouses still lives in the county where the marital home was located, that is the proper venue for the divorce to be filed. When there is genuine hardship or inconvenience to either spouse to have the divorce adjudicated in that county’s court system, the court with jurisdiction can transfer the suit to another county court where the either or both now are living.
Like other states, Massachusetts now allows “no-fault” divorces in which neither party is to blame specifically for the breakdown of the marriage. In general, no-fault divorces are simpler, less messy and cheaper than at-fault divorces. At-fault divorces can be notoriously hard to prove as well. However, there are still at-fault grounds available for those who choose and who qualify. Those grounds include:
- Imprisonment for no fewer than five years in a state or federal penal institution
- Willfully neglecting and refusing to provide support and maintenance for one’s spouse
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Abusive or cruel treatment
- Desertion by spouse for at least a year prior to filing for divorce
There can be many reasons why a Massachusetts couple may decide to split up but not file for divorce. Those reasons may include religious prohibitions against divorce, financial issues or one spouse wishing to remain eligible for the other’s health insurance benefits. Sometimes one or both spouses may still hope that reconciliation may be possible, but failing that, want to establish legal distance. In those cases, it may be preferable to file for a legal separation.
Filing for a legal separation is similar to filing for divorce in that the court can order child support and/or spousal support to be paid by one party to the other and also decide on custodial and other matters. These rulings are usually considered temporary in nature and are subject to revision and alteration as necessary throughout the duration of the proceedings in order to reflect and meet all parties’ needs.
Spousal Support in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, either party may be ordered to pay spousal support. The court takes into consideration the duration of the marriage, the manner in which both parties comported themselves during the marriage, the amount of income for both and its source, the spouses’ health, ages, stations in life, occupations, employability, vocational skills, size of the estate, any liabilities and needs of both of the spouses. The court also assesses the opportunities of both parties for acquiring future income and assets.
The court also considers the needs of any minor children, both now and in the future, when ruling on issues of spousal support. Other factors that the court may take into consideration include the contributions from both parties regarding the acquisition, preservation and appreciation in value of the spouses’ estates and the contribution of the parties as a homemaker to the family.
Before filing for either separation or divorce in Massachusetts, it is a good idea to seek the counsel of a legal professional.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Divorce Articles
- What Documents and Supporting Information are Required to be Submitted with a Divorce Petition in Massachusetts?
- What are the Residency and Filing Requirements for Divorce in Massachusetts?