In Massachusetts, there are two types of divorces: contested and uncontested.
When filing for a contested divorce, a person my file either a contested “no-fault” divorce or a contested “fault” divorce.
Contested no-fault divorces occur when one party files a document called a Complaint for Divorce claiming “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” This type of no fault divorce is used where you do not have an agreement on one or more issues (i.e. custody, visitation, child support, etc.). If a judge finds that the facts support an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and approves the final divorce agreement, an order will be entered accordingly. Thirty days after the order is entered (usually the date of a final hearing), a “Judgment Divorce Nisi” is issued. The Judgment Divorce Nisi does not terminate the marriage since the parties remain married during the nisi period. The Judgment Divorce Nisi becomes an absolute Judgment of Divorce after 90 days, assuming there are no objections.
Contested fault divorces, on the other hand, are extremely rare in Massachusetts today. However, one can be filed if one of the parties does not agree that there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Contested fault divorces in Massachusetts may be filed for any of the following reasons: cruel and/or abusive treatment; utter desertion (continuous for more than one-year); a sentence of confinement in a penal institution of more than five years to life; intoxication (drugs and/or alcohol); refusal to provide support and/or maintenance to the other spouse; adultery; and impotency. Otherwise, the process is the same as a contested no-fault divorce.
In contrast, uncontested divorces occur when both parties participate in the filing of a document called a Joint Petition for Divorce. In order to file for this type of divorce, the parties must have reached an agreement as to all issues (i.e. custody, visitation, child support, etc.).
Some issues to consider if pondering a divorce include: custody of minor children; child support; visitation with the children; alimony; what happens to “assets” (like pensions, bank accounts, or stocks); what happens with taxes (like who gets to claim the child as a dependent); alimony (support for the spouse); what happens to personal property (like a car or furniture); what happens to real estate, like your house; who gets to live in the home; who has to pay the debts (like credit cards, electric bills, mortgages); changing your name to the one you had before you were married; and possibly, an order for protection from abuse.
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