Steps in the Divorce Process in Massachusetts

The most frequent questions we get as a divorce lawyer are these:

  • How long does it take to get a divorce?
  • What is the typically cost of divorce?
  • How do I start the divorce process? … and what happens next?

To a large extent, the answers to questions 1 and 2 depend upon you and your spouse. The answer to question 3 -- the process of divorce [link to divorce] – is much easier to answer. The process will vary somewhat, depending on whether you and your spouse have used divorce mediation to arrive at agreement on the issues of your divorce.

Divorce Process with Mediation

  • Petition the court for a divorce: If you and your spouse have reached an agreement on the issues of your divorce using a mediator, you can file a joint petition for divorce with the court, along with all the required paperwork:
    a. Financial disclosure forms
    b. Parenting plan
    c. Proof of legal marriage
    d. Separation agreement outlining the division of marital property , your agreement for spousal support or child support and any other financial agreements
  • At the Temporary Orders stage of the process: The parties prepare and submit a Stipulation, which is intended to become a Temporary Order, by an agreement of the parties, instead of by a decision made by the Judge. All the Judge does in this case is to make sure that the parties want the Judge to make their Stipulation, an Order.
  • The family law judge accepts your petition and issues a divorce decree: This makes the terms of your separation agreement final and effective.

Traditional Divorce Process in Massachusetts

1. Notify the court and the other party that you intend to seek a divorce: One party files a complaint for divorce with the court and has the complaint served on the other party. Once a Complaint for Divorce is served, the receiving party has 20 days to file his or her answer.
2. Response: The other party has 20 days to file a response to the complaint with the court.
3. Gather information: The parties will gather information required for the financial disclosure as well as information that may cast doubt on the disclosure of the other party if they believe the other party is lying. They will begin to build the case for who has custody of the children.
4. 1st court appearance: At your first court appearance the judge will issue temporary orders regarding occupancy of the home, who pays bills, child care and custody, and prohibiting the sale of assets. A second court date is set.
5. Information gathering continues
6. Pretrial conference: This typically occurs about 8 months after the initial filing. The two parties meet with their respective lawyers and see if an agreement can be reached before trial. If they cannot reach agreement, a trial date is set, typically 6 months later. More pre-trial conferences may occur in the meantime as the parties try to settle.
7. Divorce trial: A divorce trial is usually scheduled for 1 to 2 days of the Court's time.
8. Judge issues decision: This can occur weeks or months after the trial has ended.

Divorce Process if One Party is Overseas

The divorce process for members of the military may or may not differ from that shown above. The concern of the court is that the military spouse's interests are protected. This may mean freezing the process until his or her return, or it may mean that his or her interests are represented in court by a court-appointed lawyer, by a military attorney, or by a guardian ad litem.

It is not actually required that both parties appear in court in person. A lawyer can represent you in court and it is increasingly common for out-of-state parties to be present via Skype or teleconference. The important point is that the judge wants to know that the party agrees that the proposed settlement is fair and that the other party is being truthful.

Contact Hingham Divorce Lawyer Wilfred C. Driscoll, Jr.

If you have any other questions about the process of divorce in Massachusetts, contact us, Hingham divorce lawyers Wilfred C. Driscoll and Laurie A. Sanford. Call our Quincy or Hingham law office at 508-672-8718 or contact us by email to schedule a free consultation. Our phones are answered 24/7.

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