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Back to the Basics: Ways to Divorce in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there are several potential ways to get a divorce. The way you choose largely depends on whether you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce and your personal preference. If you are confused about your options, call the Law Offices of Lisa A Ruggieri for assistance.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, or 1A divorce, is a divorce where both parties agree on the material terms of their divorce. For an uncontested divorce, there must be a complete agreement by the parties of all material terms including:

  • Property division
  • Division of debt
  • Health-related insurance
  • Life and disability insurance
  • Child custody
  • Parenting schedule
  • Child support
  • Alimony

To have an uncontested divorce, the spouses must put this information in writing, in the form of a separation agreement, together with other required forms. They must also include language about how their agreement should be interpreted by the court and how it can be enforced.

Negotiation

The spouses may be able to discuss the divorce on their own and reach an agreement. They may each hire an attorney to draft this agreement, or one party may choose to represent themselves. Alternatively, they may communicate through their respective attorneys who are able to negotiate a settlement.

Mediation

Another option to resolve a divorce in an amicable manner is mediation. Mediation utilizes a neutral third party (the mediator) who helps guide the parties to settlement along with the attorneys. The mediator does not impose any decisions on the spouses, and cannot give either party legal advice. The mediator does not represent either party. Instead, his or her role is to facilitate communication and help the parties align their interests so that they can reach a settlement on their own terms.

Spouses may hire a mediator of their choice to assist them and often split the cost between them. During mediation, you and your spouse can make decisions regarding arrangements for your children, the distribution of your property, and financial support. One of the major benefits of mediation is that the parties can reach a customized solution that fits their particular needs instead of allowing a court to make decisions on their behalf that may not be the best solution for their family. In mediation, spouses are able to retain control over the outcome of their divorce and avoid surprises. Mediation is a voluntary process and the parties do not have to agree on any terms that they are not comfortable with.

Many couples are able to reach a satisfactory agreement through the process of mediation, saving them time and money and avoiding the acrimony that often follows litigation. If the spouses are able to reach an agreement, this agreement is written up as a separation agreement, and can be filed with the other necessary Massachusetts divorce documents. The spouses can also consult with their own attorney to learn about their legal rights and how particular decisions will affect them, prior to signing. In fact, obtaining attorney advice and using attorneys throughout the course of the mediation is always recommended.

Process of Getting an Uncontested No-Fault 1A Divorce

Your Attorney will need to prepare all of the necessary documents, including:

  • A joint petition for divorce
  • The separation agreement
  • Affidavits of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage sworn by each spouse
  • Long for and/or Short Form Financial statements (you and your spouse each need to complete one)
  • Certified copy of your marriage certificate which you obtain from the Registry of Vital Records or your city or town where you got married
  • Record of Absolute Divorce (form R-408)
  • Certificate from completion of a court approved parenting course
  • Affidavit disclosing Care or Custody
  • Child Support Guidelines Worksheet

1B Contested Divorce

In a Massachusetts contested divorce, you and your spouse do not agree on one or more material terms of your divorce like property division, child custody or support. You may have tried other methods to resolve your case, such as negotiation or mediation, but ultimately, you have reached an impasse. The next step is a contested divorce, or litigation.

Litigation

Litigation begins by filing a Complaint for Divorce in court. Your complaint must be filed in the probate and family court in the county where you and your spouse last lived together during your marriage. If neither of you live there, you file the complaint in the probate and family court in the county where either of you live.

Once you have filed the complaint with the court, the court clerk will issue a summons. The summons and complaint must be served on your spouse.

Within 45 days of the date of service, the spouses are supposed to exchange necessary financial disclosures, including your Massachusetts financial statement (Rule 401). A financial statement is important because it is an overview of your current financial situation, and can help determine division of assets and division of any debt, as well as child support and spousal support,

A financial statement reflects all of your income, expenses, assets and debt, and will be updated accordingly as your divorce proceeds. This “snapshot” of your financial situation can be helpful to a judge in assessing the lifestyle you and your spouse enjoyed during your marriage, as well as the lifestyle you and your spouse provided for your children during your marriage. The financial statement provides insight into whether you or your spouse need financial support from the other spouse, as well as showing the judge your assets and liabilities, so that they can determine an equitable division accordingly.

For quality answers to these questions, or any others you might have on Divorce, contact Attorney Lisa Ruggieri today.

 

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