For Massachusetts to have jurisdiction over a divorce proceeding, one of the spouses must be a resident of the state if the grounds for the divorce occurred in Massachusetts. If the grounds for the divorce occurred outside of the Commonwealth, then one spouse must be a resident of the state for at least one year.
A spouse may seek a divorce based on misconduct of the other spouse (an at-fault divorce), but this is not required. In Massachusetts, a spouse seeking a divorce may file for a no-fault divorce, regardless of the grounds. There are two kinds of no-fault divorce filings governed by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 208;
- Section 1A applies to non-contested divorce filings. It allows both parties to file a joint petition for divorce. An affidavit for each spouse and a separate agreement (re: property division, custody, and alimony) must be notarized and filed within 90 (ninety) days of filing the joint petition. The separate agreement must be fair and reasonable and both parties must sign knowingly, freely, and voluntarily. The court will enter a final judgment within 30 (thirty) days of a scheduled hearing.
- Section 1B applies to contested divorce filings. The plaintiff spouse files for a divorce alleging an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. No affidavit is required. The plaintiff spouse is granted a hearing within 6 (six) months after filing. A judgment issues and becomes final and absolute after 90 (ninety) days. If the parties come to an agreement and file a notarized marital/divorce agreement, this proceeding may convert to a 1A filing.
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