What is an Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts?

Uncontested Divorce Definition

If you can agree with your spouse on your divorce issues, you could get an uncontested divorce meaning it will be quicker and save you money. An uncontested divorce in Massachusetts is called a 1A divorce. A Massachusetts 1A divorce begins with the filing of a Joint Petition for Divorce. That’s where both parties fill out the paperwork together and ask the court to approve the terms. 

Can You Get a Divorce in Massachusetts?

One of the first questions to ask is, do you qualify for a Massachusetts divorce. Not everyone does. You must have a connection with Massachusetts in order for the state to have jurisdiction. There is a residency requirement. You must have lived in the state for at least one year prior to filing for divorce.

Uncontested Divorce vs. Contested Divorce

The difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts is that in an uncontested divorce, every single issue of the divorce is settled between the parties. If there is even one issue that is not agreed to, it is contested. If that’s the case, you must litigate that one issue. Ultimately, it will be a judge who decides the outcome. 

What is the Fastest Way to Get Divorced in Massachusetts?

By far, an uncontested divorce is the fastest way to get a divorce in Massachusetts. It requires that you be able to work with your spouse. You’ll sit down together and come to an agreement on all the issues. You’ll then put that agreement in writing and ultimately present it to the court.

How Long Does a Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce Take?

An uncontested divorce saves you quite a bit of time as opposed to a contested divorce. Once the court receives all the necessary paperwork, they will set a hearing date within 30 days. 120 days from the hearing date, your divorce will be final. Therefore, in a best-case scenario, you can get divorced in 5 months. 

Child Custody in Massachusetts

How is child custody determined in Massachusetts? The most important factor is what is in the best interest of your child. This is the guiding light for any child custody decision. The judge is looking for your child to be placed in a safe, stable and loving environment where they can flourish. When writing your Separation Agreement, keep the best interest of your children in mind. 

Types of Child Custody in Massachusetts

  • Physical custody is where your child stays most of the time. At whose house do they sleep at night.
  • Legal custody is who makes important decisions about your child such as healthcare choices, religious upbringing and activities. Ideally, both parents should contribute to these decisions.
  • Sole custody is where one parent has exclusive care and control of your children. This is rare. Generally, the other parent must be unfit before a court will order sole custody.
  • Joint custody is where both parents share in raising your child.

Child Visitation/Parenting Time in Massachusetts

Both parents should help raise the children. Even if they stay with one parent primarily, the other parent is entitled to reasonable parenting time. In your Separation Agreement, you’ll outline when the non-custodial parent will have time with your children. You should think about a visitation schedule for every week as well as a schedule for holidays and vacations. 

Child Support in a Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce

Both parents are financially responsible for their child. When getting an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, child support must be agreed to by both parties. But how is child support calculated in Massachusetts? Massachusetts uses a child support guidelines worksheet to determine how much child support will be paid. Several factors are considered.

What is Alimony in Massachusetts?

Alimony, also called spousal support, is financial assistance paid from one ex-spouse to the other. Alimony is not available in all divorce cases. There are a number of factors that determine if alimony will be ordered and if so, in what amount. Clients often ask, “is alimony taxable.” Alimony payments received are not considered income according to IRS divorce rules. Further, alimony payments are not deductible for the paying spouse. 

Can I Change My Name Back?

In a Massachusetts uncontested divorce, you will be allowed to resume using your maiden name. You’ll make this request in your Joint Petition for Divorce. The judge will ask you about that during your hearing. When your divorce is final, 120 days from the hearing, your name is officially changed.

Can I Date While Separated Before Divorce?

Falling in love before divorce is final is not uncommon. But dating during divorce is complicated. There may be some legal consequences of starting a new relationship during divorce. If you’re going through an uncontested divorce, you need to be on good terms with your spouse. You must be able to work with them throughout this process. If you start dating during the divorce process, you may alienate your spouse causing them to react and fight you in the divorce.

Issues may crop up such as alimony. Your spouse may claim that this new relationship was the cause of your marriage ending, therefore they are entitled to be compensated through alimony. If you have children together, your spouse may argue that you should not get custody because you’re not a fit parent. Although you may have found someone new, waiting for divorce to be final is a much wiser idea.

Can You Change from Uncontested to Contested?

It’s common for a Massachusetts uncontested divorce case to change to a contested divorce. You may think you have everything worked out with your spouse, so you file for a 1A uncontested divorce. As things progress, however, you and your spouse disagree about some issue, child custody for example. If you can’t agree, you must get bumped over to the contested track. 

Conversely, you file for a 1B contested divorce. During your negotiations, you come to an agreement on everything. In that case, you don’t need to argue before a judge and await their ruling. You can file a Motion to Convert to 1A Divorce. You’ll also need to file a Separation Agreement and an Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown. 

What is the Uncontested Divorce Process in Massachusetts?

To get the process started, you must file uncontested divorce paperwork. There are six documents that all 1A divorces require. If you have children together, there are two more forms that must be filed. All these forms, together with the filing fee, get filed at the appropriate Probate and Family Court. You can file for divorce in the county where you live or in the county where your spouse lives. However, if your spouse still lives in the county where you last lived together, you have to file for divorce in that county.

After your paperwork is filed, the court will assign you a hearing date. Both parties must be present unless excused by the court. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions of both of you regarding your Separation Agreement and anything else they think is relevant. 

If all goes well at the hearing, a Judgment Nisi will enter 30 days later. Your divorce will be final 90 days after that. You don’t need to do anything during this 120-day period. It’s just a waiting period.

What to Expect at Your Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce Hearing

The judge in your case must make two findings before allowing your divorce to proceed. First they must find legal grounds for the divorce. In most cases, the grounds will be irreconcilable differences. Secondly, they must find that the Separation Agreement is fair and reasonable. The judge is allowed to ask a wide range of questions. The most common are:

  • Your name and date of birth;
  • The date and location of your marriage;
  • Has there been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage;
  • If you feel the Separation Agreement is fair and reasonable;
  • Are you willing to abide by the agreement;
  • Is your Financial Statement accurate.

Do I Have to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts?

Even though an uncontested divorce is a streamlined process, there is still one court hearing that is required. At the hearing, the judge will make sure that your Separation Agreement is fair to both parties; that you signed it voluntarily; and, that you will abide by it. Generally, both parties must attend.

There is an exception, however. If you can’t be there in person, you can ask the court to waive your presence. These situations typically come up when one person is living out of state or has a significant medical condition that would prevent them from attending in person. 

In such a case, you need to file a Motion to Waive Your Appearance along with an Affidavit. Those must be filed before the hearing date. They will be reviewed by the judge and either granted or denied. If it’s granted you don’t have to attend the hearing. If it’s denied, you must appear in person.

What is a Divorce Nisi?

A divorce nisi is a waiting period. A judgment nisi will enter after your uncontested divorce hearing. 120 days from the date of your hearing your divorce is final, unless any issues are raised. It’s a holdover from the days when the government tried to discourage divorce. It gives you a chance to reconcile with your spouse and call off the divorce if you change your mind. It’s also there if you find out that your spouse was hiding assets. If so, you can bring that to the judge’s attention before your divorce is final.

Uncontested Massachusetts Divorce Paperwork

There are several uncontested divorce forms that must be filed with the court. There are some basic divorce papers that only have fill-in-the-blanks for your name, address, date of birth etc. Some forms are more complicated. The most important document, the Separation Agreement, isn’t a form at all. You have to write it on your own. This is the heart of the divorce. It spells out all your rights and obligations and those of your spouse. 

How to File for Divorce in Massachusetts Without a Lawyer

You can get an uncontested divorce online without hiring an attorney. We offer online support and guidance for you to represent yourself. With our help, you can keep control of your future without paying a fortune. We will carefully help you prepare and file your paperwork. Further, we will prepare you for your hearing before the judge. Divorce can be affordable, and this is how you do it.

How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost in Massachusetts?

Getting divorced is not cheap. The average cost for an uncontested Massachusetts divorce is between $3,500 – $5,000. Plus a filing fee of $215. That’s what other lawyers charge. We are much less expensive.  Our fees are based on your income, the less you make the less you pay. Here’s what we charge:

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