What is a Contested Divorce in Massachusetts?


Your marriage is coming to an end. You gave it your best shot, but it’s not meant to be. You can’t agree with your spouse about all the issues involved so you’ll have to file for a contested divorce. You need an experienced divorce lawyer to help you, but don’t think you can afford one. At Afford Law, we can protect your rights without costing you a fortune. Our fees are based on your income. The less you make, the less you pay. With our help, you can protect all that is yours and move on. You’ll be free to pursue all your goals and live the life you deserve. 

What is a contested divorce in Massachusetts?

A contested divorce is also called a 1B divorce. It happens when the parties can’t come to an agreement on all the issues involved. For example, if there is a disagreement over: 

the divorce must be placed on the contested divorce track. A contested divorce generally takes longer, is more involved, and more expensive than an uncontested divorce.

Who can file for divorce in Massachusetts?

In order to file for divorce in Massachusetts, one of the parties must have lived in Massachusetts for one year preceding the filing or that the cause of the marriage ending happened in Massachusetts and the parties lived here as a couple. 

How do you file for divorce in Massachusetts?

Several documents must be filed with the court in order to start a divorce proceeding. Among other things the filing needs to include:

  • A certified copy of your Marriage Certificate; 
  • A Financial Statement; 
  • A Record of Absolute Divorce
  • A Complaint for Divorce; and,
  • The filing fee. 

If there are minor children involved, you’ll also have to file:

  • An Affidavit of Care and Custody; and,
  • A Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

Both parents must attend a parent education program and submit a Certificate of Completion. 

What are automatic restraining orders in a Massachusetts divorce?

An automatic restraining order is put in place when a divorce complaint is filed and served. These orders prohibit either party from doing certain things. Specifically, neither party may:

  • Sell or otherwise dispose of property;
  • Incur further debt that would burden the other party;
  • Change the beneficiary on any insurance or investment policy; or,
  • Change any existing health insurance policies.

What is the divorce process in Massachusetts?

Once you file the paperwork, the court will issue a Summons. The Complaint for Divorce and the Summons must be served on the other party. Service of process is when a sheriff hands the papers to the other party, your spouse. The other party, now the defendant, will file an Answer to your Complaint along with a Financial Statement of their own. 

What are temporary orders in a Massachusetts divorce?

Getting divorced takes a time. During that time, you have to live your life. Issues have to be addressed in the meantime such as: 

  • Child custody;
  • Child support; and,
  • Spousal support;

These issues are addressed in Temporary Orders. Very often, one side or the other files a Motion for Temporary Orders to get things in place during the divorce. Those orders have the full force and effect of a final order, but on a short-term basis. 

What is discovery in a Massachusetts divorce?

Discovery is the next phase of this process. Discovery is basically an exchange of information between the parties. Discovery can take the form of:

  • Interrogatories – written questions,
  • Requests for Production of Documents,
  • Requests for Admissions, and 
  • Depositions.

What is a pre-trial hearing in a Massachusetts divorce?

At some point a Pre-Trial Hearing is scheduled. That hearing cannot take place any sooner than six months after the filing date, unless approved by the Court. A Pretrial Notice and Order will be sent to the parties. Among other things, the parties are require to meet and discuss the issues of your case. You’ll also need to file a pretrial memo highlighting:

  • Issues to be resolved;
  • Witness lists; and,
  • Evidence that will be presented at trial.

If all the issues have been agreed to, the Judge may issue an Order. If there are any contested issues, a trial will be scheduled. 

Massachusetts divorce trial

If your divorce issues can’t be settled by agreement, your case will have to go to trial. Only a small percentage of cases actually go to trial. Most are settled during the pretrial phase. In many cases, you’ll be able to settle some of your issues by agreement. For those remaining issues, a judge will have to decide. There are no jury trials for divorce. Divorce trials are very expensive. They require a great deal of preparation. You may have to testify as a witness. Your spouse may have to testify. Friends and family members may be called as witnesses. Expert witnesses may also have to be called. Oftentimes, experts are used to establish value to marital assets such as your home or retirement accounts.

Divorce nisi

After trial, a Judgment will enter. Your divorce is final ninety (90) days after the Order or Judgment. This is called the nisi period. This waiting period is something of a relic from the past. The government viewed divorce as bad and attempted to slow down or discourage it. This final waiting period allows you a chance to reconcile with your spouse and call off the divorce. It also enables you to bring newly discovered issues back in front of the judge. This can be helpful if you find out that your spouse misrepresented the value of their assets, for example.


Divorce is never easy. If you can’t agree with your spouse on all the issues, you will have to go down the contested divorce route. That takes longer and is more expensive than an uncontested divorce. You will have to engage in discovery in its many forms. Any unresolved issues will have to be tried before a judge. Once a judge enters a judgment, you must wait ninety (90) days for your divorce to be final. 

At Afford Law, our fees are based on your income. The less you make, the less you pay. Please feel free to book a free, virtual consultation with us. At Afford Law, we’re making justice affordable.

What Are Temporary Orders?

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