Massachusetts Divorce: What You Need to Know

Learn key information about divorce in Massachusetts.

What grounds can be used for divorce in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts is a mixed state, meaning that you can use either no-fault or fault grounds as the basis for seeking a divorce. Some reasons you might want to use fault grounds would be to gain an advantage in a contested child custody case, a dispute about the division of marital property, or the appropriateness or amount of alimony. To learn more about how Massachusetts uses fault as a determining factor in child custody, alimony, and property issues, see Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce, by Emily Doskow (Nolo).

What is the residency requirement for divorce in Massachusetts?

At least one spouse must be a resident of Massachusetts for one year before filing for divorce. However, if the cause of the divorce occurred in the state, then the requirement is waived.

How is property divided at divorce in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts is an equitable division state. In an equitable division state, each spouse owns the income he or she earns during the marriage, and also has the right to manage any property that's in his or her name alone. Upon divorce, however, whose name is on what property is not the only deciding factor -- instead, the judge will divide marital property in a way that the judge considers fair, but it may not necessarily be exactly equal.

What are the rules about child custody and child support in Massachusetts?

Like all states, Massachusetts courts begin with a presumption that it's best for a child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. If possible, judges want to support joint custody arrangements. However, the exact nature of the time-share will be determined by the children's best interests. For more information, see Nolo's Child Custody FAQ.

Like all states, Massachusetts requires both parents to support their children, even after a divorce. The amount of child support depends primarily on each parent's income and other resources, and how much time each parent spends with the children. In addition, sometimes the courts will "impute" income to a parent who has the capacity to earn more than he or she actually is earning. To learn more about child support, see Nolo's Child Support area.

Does Massachusetts have resources for do-it-yourself divorce?

Yes. You can usually get fill-in-the-blank forms at your local courthouse or the local law library. And you can go to this online resource for Massachusetts, where you'll find extensive information about do-it-yourself divorce, along with court forms (in some states).

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