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Massachusetts Divorce Law

Massachusetts divorce law covers many aspect of divorce, including alimony, property distribution, child support and child custody. Massachusetts divorce law is complex, so if you have questions or need legal advice about divorce, speak to a local Massachusetts divorce lawyer.

For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of Massachusetts's divorce laws:

Massachusetts State Laws

  • Fault/No-Fault: Both
  • Property Distribution: Equitable
  • ADR Available: Yes
  • Parenting Plan Required: No

Massachusetts Grounds for Divorce

Massachusetts divorce courts accept both no fault and fault grounds for divorce. A couple filing for no fault divorce in Massachusetts will cite an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.

Fault divorce grounds accepted in Massachusetts include:

  • Adultery
  • Impotency
  • Desertion for one year
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Drug addiction
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Refusing or neglecting to provide suitable support

Before a couple can file for no fault or fault divorce, one of the spouses must meet the Massachusetts residency requirements.

Massachusetts Residency Requirements

Massachusetts has a state residency requirements for divorce that couples must meet before filing for divorce. One of the spouses must be a resident of the state if the Massachusetts grounds for divorce happened in the state.

If the grounds for divorce happened outside Massachusetts, then one spouse must be a resident of the state for at least one year. The divorce petition is usually filed in the county where the petitioner lives.

Massachusetts Divorce Waiting Period

During divorce, states may have divorce waiting periods before and after a couple files for divorce to determine whether reconciliation is possible. In Massachusetts, there isn't a waiting period before filing for divorce. As long as the couple meets the Massachusetts residency requirement, it's possible to file for divorce at any time. The Massachusetts waiting period after filing for divorce is 90 days after the divorce order is entered in the divorce court before the divorce becomes final.

Some states require either or both spouses recognize a remarriage waiting period after the divorce is finalized. In Massachusetts, neither spouse is required to wait before remarrying, as long as the divorce is final.

Massachusetts Annulment

Divorce is not the only way for couples to end a marriage. Some alternatives to divorce court include legal separation and annulment. Most states have divorce laws governing how divorce alternatives are handled by the divorce court.

Massachusetts divorce law allows couples to get an annulment, which treats the marriage as though it never existed because it was never legal under state law. The Massachusetts divorce court grants annulment and the marriage is automatically void when:

  • The marriage is between relatives
  • The marriage results in a polygamous marriage

The Massachusetts divorce court may also rule that the marriage is void for reasons of insanity or one spouse is under the legal age limit. If the Massachusetts divorce court determines the marriage to be invalid, the marriage will annulled by the divorce court.

Massachusetts Property Division

Massachusetts is an equitable property state. Property distribution will happen by what the Massachusetts divorce court considers to be fair. When dividing property during divorce, the Massachusetts divorce court will consider the following factors:

  • Length of marriage
  • Conduct during the marriage
  • Age
  • Health
  • Station
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Vocational skills
  • Employability
  • Estate
  • Liabilities and needs
  • Opportunities for future acquisition of assets and income

Massachusetts Alimony

In divorce, the Massachusetts divorce court can order either party to pay alimony. Alimony, also referred to as maintenance or spousal support, is determined by the divorce court considering the following factors:

  • Length of marriage
  • Conduct during the marriage
  • Age
  • Health
  • Station
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Vocation skills
  • Employability
  • Estate
  • Liabilities and needs
  • Opportunity of future acquisition of assets and income

The Massachusetts divorce court may assign alimony in addition to or in lieu of parts of a spouse's estate to the other spouse. It's possible for the divorce court to order to extend health coverage of one spouse to cover the other.

When the Massachusetts divorce court is determining the nature and value of the property that will be assigned, the court will consider:

  • Present and future needs of the child
  • Contribution in the acquisition, preservation
  • Any contribution as a homemaker

Alimony awards can be modified or reversed by the Massachusetts divorce court.

Massachusetts Child Custody

Massachusetts divorce courts determine child custody by the key legal standard of what's in the best interest of the child. Typically, divorce courts like to assign joint child custody, if possible, so the child can continue a relationship with both parents after divorce.

When determining child custody, the Massachusetts divorce court will consider:

  • Happiness and welfare of the child
  • If the child's past or present living conditions affect physical, mental, moral or emotional health
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Desertion of the child
  • Parent's ability to cooperate in matters concerning the child

In Massachusetts, it's possible to modify child custody if there is a material and substantial change in circumstances.

Massachusetts Grandparent Visitation

Visitation rights for grandparents aren't automatically granted by Massachusetts divorce courts; however, in Massachusetts divorce, grandparents have the right to petition the court for child visitation.

Massachusetts divorce courts may grant child visitation if the parents of the minor child:

  • Divorced
  • Are married but live apart
  • Have a temporary order of separate support
  • Died
  • Had the baby out of wedlock

Grandparents will be granted reasonable visitation if the Massachusetts divorce court finds the visitation would be in the best interest of the child. Visitation rights for grandparents will not be granted if the child is adopted by someone other than a stepparent.

Massachusetts Child Support

When determining child support, Massachusetts uses the percentage of income formula that makes child support obligations a percentage of the paying parent's income. Massachusetts divorce courts follow official child support guidelines. These guidelines will be followed during a divorce, unless the divorce court decides the process unfair. If the Massachusetts divorce court determines the child support guidelines to be unfair, the court will consider the following:

  • Insufficient financial resources of the paying parent
  • Other child support obligations from previous marriages
  • Extraordinary expenses, such as travel for visitation or uninsured medical expenses
  • Unusual circumstances

The Massachusetts divorce court may order a parent to provide maintenance, support, health insurance and education for a minor child. Find out how the circumstances in your divorce may affect the amount you are ordered to pay or receive.

Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement

To make sure Massachusetts child support is paid, the state has several tactics and penalties for child support enforcement. After divorce, some parents miss child support payments or don't make payments at all. To help protect childrens' financial futures the state has a child support enforcement agency to enforce the collection of unpaid child support.

Parents who don't pay child support may face:

  • Being held in contempt of court
  • Withholding income
  • Increase in child support obligation
  • Liens on property
  • Interception of federal and state tax refunds
  • Credit reporting
  • Suspension of driver's, professional, trade or business licenses

Please understand that this information is provided for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. If you would like more information about Massachusetts divorce law and the divorce process, speak to a local Massachusetts divorce lawyer today by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out the divorce case review form below.

Case Evaluation

The above synopsis of Massachusetts divorce laws is by no means all-inclusive and has been adapted from applicable state laws. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these divorce laws, please contact a local Massachusetts divorce lawyer in your area.

This "Massachusetts Divorce Laws" page was last updated May 2009.

Note: Keep in mind that all divorce laws are complex. If you need legal divorce advice or want to fully understand how these laws affect you, please speak with a local divorce attorney.