A divorce in Massachusetts refers to a judgment from court that ends a marriage. Massachusetts does not have “legal separation,” so you can live apart from your spouse without going to court. If you or your spouse wishes to end the marriage, there are various issues that may be decided:
- Change your name back to the name you had prior to marriage
- Child custody
- Child support
- Child visitation
- Division of assets and debts
- Division of real and personal property, including the marital home
You and your spouse may come to an agreement together to decide the above-mentioned issues. If you are able to agree to certain terms, then a “Separation Agreement” will be written. Both parties must agree to the terms of a Separation Agreement. If you are unable to come to an agreement, then the case will go before a judge to be decided.
When you or your spouse files for divorce without a Separation Agreement, you must list the “grounds.” The grounds for the divorce is the legal reason for ending the marriage. The reasons may be “fault” or “no fault” based. “Fault” grounds means that one person is found at fault for leading to the breakdown the marriage, and this includes the following: cruel and abusive treatment, utter desertion continued for one year, adultery, etc. “No fault” grounds means that the marriage has broken down but one spouse is not specifically at fault. The “no fault” grounds include “irretrievable breakdown,” meaning that the marriage has broken down.
If you receive welfare benefits or if your income is 125% or less of the poverty threshold, then you may be eligible to waive the court and filing fees associated with the divorce process. To get a waiver, you should fill out an “Affidavit of Indigency.”
STEP 1 - Figure out what type of divorce you need. You'll either need to have a no-fault divorce where you and your spouse agree on all material terms, a no-fault divorce where you do not agree on the material terms, or a fault divorce.
STEP 2 - Acquire all of the necessary paperwork. The paperwork is included in this guide below. Be sure to keep 3 copies: (1) for your records (2) to file with the court (3) an extra copy.
STEP 3 - Get a Statistical Report form from the Register of Probate Office and retrieve an original copy of your Marriage Certificate. This is available from the Registry of Vital Records or from the city or town hall where you applied for a marriage license
STEP 4 - Meet with your spouse to fill out the following forms:
- Joint Petition for Divorce
- Sworn Affidavit
- Separation Agreement (if applicable - only for no-fault, agreed upon divorces) (*Attach to the Petition)
- Financial Statement Short Form (*if income under $75,000)
- Financial Statement Long Form (*if income greater than $75,000)
- Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceedings (*if minor children)
- Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (*if minor children)
- Request for Trial
STEP 5 - Fill out individual forms
STEP 6 - File all forms with the Circuit County Court Clerk's office where you reside, and file the $220 filing fee.
STEP 7 - you will be granted a court hearing date at this time. File these forms to the Circuit County Court Clerk's office where you reside and pay the $220 filing fee. You will be granted a court hearing date at this time.
STEP 8 - Be sure to record the date and location of the court hearing and be sure to show up with a copy of all of your paperwork.
*HAVE MINOR CHILDREN? - If so, you and your spouse will both need to attend a court approved Parental Education Class. The county clerk's office will direct you to the appropriate class.
How to file a "fault" divorce.
You must file the following documents:
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- Complaint for Divorce. Form CJD101.
- Certified copy of the civil marriage certificate. This is available from the Registry of Vital Records or from the city or town hall where you applied for a marriage license
- Certificate of Absolute Divorce for the Registry of Vital Records. Form R-408.
- Request for Trial.
- Financial Statements and applicable schedules:
- Finance Statement:
- If you annual income is less than $75,000, you will need to file a short form.
- If your income is more than $75,000 a year, file a long form.
- If you are self-employed or own your own business, you need to file Schedule A.
- If you have rental property income, you need to file Schedule B.
If you have children under 18, you will also need to file:
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- Affidavit of Care and Custody. Form OCAJ-1.
- Child support guidelines worksheet . Form CJD304.
- Parent Education Certificate. If you have children under 18, both of you are required to attend a parent education program unless it is waived by the court. You will receive this certificate after attending a Parent Education Program.
In addition, you may also need to file:
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- Affidavit of indigency (if you cannot afford the court fees). See Paying Your Fees on the Massachusetts Government website for more information.
- Child Support Guidelines Deviation (Form CJD 305) if you believe that the standard child support guidelines should not apply in your case.
- Motion to Waive Attendance at Parent Education Program (Form CJD 444) if you are not able to attend a parent education program.
- Motion for Temporary Orders (CJD 400) (i.e. child custody, child support, spousal support, etc.) if you need a court order until the time of your divorce hearing. You will need to fill in what you would like the court to order on your behalf. With this, you will also need to file an Affidavit (where you explain to the judge what happened) and a Proposed Order (exactly what you would like the court to order).