In a fault divorce, the person asking for the divorce must prove a specific reason for the divorce. Follow the steps below to get a fault divorce in Massachusetts.
- This page, Get a fault divorce, is offered by
- Probate and Family Court
- Massachusetts Court System
Get a fault divorce
Table of Contents
Step 1: Find out if you can get a fault divorce in Massachusetts
You can file for divorce in Massachusetts if:
- You've lived in the state for 1 year or;
- The reason the marriage ended happened in Massachusetts and you've lived in the state as a couple
To get a fault divorce, you must prove a specific ground(s) or reason for the divorce. These grounds are listed in M.G.L. c. 208, s.1:
- Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- A prison sentence of 5 or more years
The fault divorce process can take longer and be more expensive than a no-fault divorce.
Key Actions for Step 1: Find out if you can get a fault divorce in Massachusetts
Step 2: Fill out your paperwork
Anyone filing for a fault divorce needs to file:
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate, which you can get from the Registry of Vital Records or your city or town
- Complaint for Divorce Form CJD-101
- Record of Absolute Divorce for the Registry of Vital Records (Form R-408)
- Military Affidavit
- A financial statement from each spouse. In a contested divorce, either party can request that the other submits a signed, current financial statement to the court with a copy to the requesting party within 10 days by making a separate request titled "Request for a Financial Statement." You can't make a further request for the financial statement within 90 days of the original request except by order of the court.
If you have children under 18
Couples with children under 18 must also:
- Fill out these forms:
File these forms at the clerk's office.
Some people may also need to file:
- An Affidavit of indigency if you can't afford the fees. See indigency for more information.
- Findings and Determinations for Child Support and Post-Secondary Education (CJD 305) if you don’t think the child support guidelines should apply to your case.
- Motion for temporary orders (CJD 400) (i.e. child custody, child support, spousal support, etc.) if you need a court order until your divorce hearing. Fill in what you want the court to order. With this, you also need an Affidavit, where you explain to the judge what happened and when, and a Proposed Order form. Write exactly what you want the court to order on this form.
Key Actions for Step 2: Fill out your paperwork
Step 3: File your paperwork and fees
You'll need to pay the following fees for a fault divorce. You can pay your fees with a bank check or money order made out to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, cash, or a credit card.
|Divorce filing fee||$200|
|Divorce filing surcharge||$15|
|Divorce summons charge||$5|
How to file
You can file for a fault divorce in person or by mail.
If you or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, file the required forms and fees with the Probate and Family Court in that county. Otherwise, file in the county where you or your spouse live now. Find your Probate and Family Court.
Key Actions for Step 3: File your paperwork and fees
Step 4: Serve the papers on your spouse
The court will mail you a summons after your paperwork has been filed. The complaint for divorce and summons are served on the other spouse. See service of process of domestic relations complaints for more information on how to do this.
Key Actions for Step 4: Serve the papers on your spouse
Step 5: Exchange financial statements & write up a separation agreement
After your spouse has been served, they will likely file an answer. See respond to a case filed against you in Probate and Family Court for more information on that process.
Once your spouse (the defendant) has filed an answer, you will need to exchange financial statements and write up a separation agreement. It’s helpful to speak to a lawyer about the choices you make. If you aren't able to talk with a lawyer, the law libraries and public libraries have examples of separation agreements.
Additional Resources for Step 5: Exchange financial statements & write up a separation agreement
Step 6: Attend a pre-trial hearing
There may be a pre-trial hearing scheduled by the court if you and your spouse have issues you can’t agree on. You will receive a notice in the mail about the hearing. To prepare for a pre-trial hearing, the parties or their lawyers will submit a pre-trial memorandum. This will happen after discovery, which is the process of finding out information from the other party by submitting questions (called interrogatories) to the other party, or by requesting certain documents. You must also decide if you’re going to call any witnesses for the trial.
To go forward without a trial (meaning all the issues have been agreed on), you need to have the notarized, signed separation agreement, and financial statements filed with the court.
Step 7: Attend a hearing
A hearing can't be scheduled any sooner than 6 months from the filing date unless the court has granted a waiver. You will receive a notice in the mail with information on your scheduled hearing.
The judge will either accept, reject, or amend the separation agreement at the hearing. If the parties haven't 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, the divorce is finalized 90 days later, after the nisi period has ended. Please see Finalizing a divorce for more information.