Divorce is the legal process for ending a marriage.  In Massachusetts a divorce is categorized as “no-fault” or “fault,” and either of these can be contested or uncontested.

“Contested” means that one person disagrees with the divorce or the terms of the divorce. “Uncontested” means that both people agree about everything they file.

There are seven "fault" grounds or reasons and also a "no fault" grounds. The "fault" grounds, as the name implies, mean that one person was considered at fault in causing the marriage to end.  Most people file “no fault” divorce.   A "no fault" divorce is a divorce in which the marriage is broken beyond repair but where neither spouse blames the other. In Massachusetts, the no fault divorce grounds is called "Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage." There are two kinds of "irretrievable breakdown" divorces. They are often referred to as "1A' and "1B", referring to the section of the law under which they are found, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, sections 1A and1B.

The most common approach is no-fault based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  There are two options for a no-fault divorce.  A “1A” divorce would be filed when both spouses agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they have reached a written agreement with respect to child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody and the division of marital assets. This is an uncontested no-fault divorce.

A “1B” divorce would be filed when one spouse believes there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or both spouses believe the marriage has ended but they are not in agreement with regard to custody, support or marital property issues. This is a contested no-fault divorce. If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement, you can file a request to change the divorce complaint from a “1B” to a “1A”divorce.    

In a fault divorce, the person asking for the divorce must prove specific ground(s) or reason for the divorce.  The following grounds are listed in Mass. General Laws chapter 208, section 1:  adultery, desertion, gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, cruel and abusive treatment, non- support, impotency, or a prison sentence of 5 or more years.  This process can be more time-consuming and expensive than a no-fault divorce.

The Family Court Answer Center

Free Center for Mothers and for Fathers to Get Answers to their Questions

The Family Court Answer Center is offered once a month at the Court Service Center located on the 2nd Floor of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston MA. The purpose of the Answer Center is:

  • to provide mothers and fathers with general information on certain family law matters;
  • to provide a one-on-one opportunity to meet individually with an attorney, Department of Revenue, Department of Children and Families, Probation Department, Registry/Judicial staff and a Domestic Violence advocate;
  • to supply and help complete necessary forms for court proceedings;
  • to refer those seeking to hire a lawyer to legal referral services;
  • to make available written information on community programs and services.

For schedule and more information see: Family Court Answer Center pdf format of Family Court Answer Center Brochure