Forms and fees can be filed in person or sent by mail to the court.
If only one of you is filing, then you must let the other spouse know that you have filed for divorce. To do this, you have to arrange for them to be served with a copy of the complaint that you filed, “notice” and a “domestic relations summons”. These are papers that tell your spouse what has happened and what will happen next. The court will give you the notice and summons when you file your papers, but you need to arrange to have the papers “served.” See Service of Process for more information.
Once the case has been filed and, in a contested case, the other spouse has been “served,” you cannot sell, give, hide or get rid of any of your property, including bank accounts, possessions, cars, real estate, or anything else you own, without permission of the court.
No Fault Uncontested (1A)
For a “1A” no-fault case, you have to file the separation agreement with the joint petition for divorce, joint affidavit of irretrievable breakdown, Form R- 408, and a certified copy of the marriage certificate. Then you may need to attend a parent education class. Before you can get a hearing date, you need to have filed your financial statements and the parent education certificate (if applicable). The hearing date is set by the court after all paperwork has been filed. Both spouses must attend the hearing unless the court has accepted an attendance waiver for one spouse. A spouse would have to file a motion requesting a waiver of attendance before the hearing. The judge may ask questions about the affidavit or separation agreement. Once the judge has determined that there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and accepts the separation agreement, an order is entered. A judgment nisi is entered automatically 30 days later.
You are not required to do anything further, because the entry of judgment is done automatically by the court. The judgment nisi does not become final until 90 days from the date of its entry. Therefore, you are not free to remarry until 120 days from the date of entry of the order approving the separation agreement. Following the approval of the agreement but prior to the entry of the judgment nisi, the separation agreement can be modified by agreement of the parties or will approval from the court if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
No Fault Contested (1B) and Fault (1)
For a “1B” no-fault case, the complaint for divorce and summons is served upon the other spouse (defendant). The defendant must file an answer and any counterclaims. The parties will need to exchange financial statements and write up a separation agreement. There may be a pre-trial hearing if the parties have contested issues. In preparation for a pre-trial hearing, the parties or their attorneys will submit a pre-trial memorandum. This would follow discovery which is the process of finding out information from the other party. Discovery is accomplished by submitting questions called interrogatories to the other party or by requesting certain documents. You must also decide if you are going to call any witnesses for the trial. To proceed without a trial (meaning all of the issues have been agreed upon and are uncontested), you need to have the notarized, signed separation agreement, financial statements, and parent education certificate (if applicable) filed with the court. A hearing cannot be scheduled before 6 months from the date of filing unless the court has granted a waiver. The judge either accepts, rejects or amends the separation agreement at the hearing. If the parties have not reached an agreement on all of the issues, there will be a trial and the judge will make the final decision. When a judgment is entered, it becomes final 90 days later.
For a fault case, the process would be similar to a contested “1B” case as described above.
How Soon Will My Case Be Heard?
It will depend upon the backlog of cases in the Probate and Family Court where your case has been filed. However, for contested divorce cases, see Standing Order 1-06 for time standards.