Massachusetts Divorce Law
As emotionally stressful as divorces tend to be, they can be even more stressful if you’re unfamiliar with Massachusetts’s divorce laws. The more prepared you are for the divorce process—from filing or answering a petition to negotiating visitation and property division—the more you can get out of a divorce before you get out of your marriage.
LawInfo’s Massachusetts Divorce Law articles can help relieve some of the stress of the process. You’ll learn about the state’s divorce prerequisites, how property is divided and many other divorce topics. Whether you need assistance in Boston, Lowell or Worcester, LawInfo can help connect you with a Massachusetts divorce attorney.
Massachusetts Divorce Grounds
In Massachusetts, a petitioning party may choose to file for divorce based on marital misconduct or for a simple breakdown of the marriage. The latter option assigns no fault to either spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. The no-fault divorce option is often used when both parties agree that their marriage cannot be recovered and they come to an agreement over the divorce details like property division, child custody, etc.
The fault-based divorce option is often used when one party has wronged another, causing a rift in their marriage. Petitioners of fault-based divorces are typically victims of abuse or neglect who need to end their marriage for their own safety. There are six fault grounds that may be used to legally justify a divorce in Massachusetts in which the defendant spouse:
- Committed adultery,
- Was impotent at the time of the marriage without their spouse’s knowledge,
- Continually deserted their spouse for one or more years prior to the filing of the divorce petition,
- Was habitually and excessively intoxicated from drugs, alcohol or opium,
- Cruelly abused their spouse, or
- Cruelly neglected or refused to suitably support their spouse.
Massachusetts Divorce Residency Requirements
To legally qualify for a divorce decree, you or your spouse must have been a resident of Massachusetts for one year or longer prior to filing a divorce petition with the court.
Equitable Division in Massachusetts
When you get a divorce, a decision must be made about how your marital property—assets and debts acquired during the marriage except for personal gifts, inheritances, insurance money or other personally bequeathed property—will be divided between you and your spouse. If your divorce is uncontested, you and your spouse can make an agreement on how to divide the property, which the court can review for fairness.
If the court finds the division unfair or if your divorce is contested (meaning you or your spouse can’t agree on the terms), the court may make a judgment of equitable division. The court will weigh a number of factors into its decision of how to fairly divide marital property. Oftentimes, an equitable distribution won’t be an equal (50/50) one. Those factors include:
- The needs of the custodial parent, especially for the marital home.
- The age and health of each party.
- Each party’s sources of income, including alimony and the value of seperate (non-marital) property.
- Marital misconduct.
- Any training, education or support a party would require to find employment.