You should file for a 1A divorce when both spouses agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and can’t continue and they have reached a written agreement about child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody & dividing shared property (marital assets). Follow the steps below to get a 1A divorce in Massachusetts.
Step 1: Find out if you can get divorced 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
Additional Resources for Step 1: Find out if you can get divorced in Massachusetts
Step 2: Write a separation agreement
You'll need to write a separation agreement, and both spouses must sign it and have it notarized (signed by a notary). A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse. It spells out how you’re going to divide your property, child custody, child support, alimony, visitation, and any other issues related to your divorce.
There are different ways to reach an agreement. You can negotiate on your own or hire lawyers to help you. You may also decide to use a divorce mediator to help settle the issues. A separation agreement can be a binding contract between you and your spouse (this is called a separation agreement that “survives” the divorce). Sometimes it's not a separate contract, but until the judge approves it, it becomes part of the divorce judgment (this is called a separation agreement that has “merged” with the divorce judgment.) It's important that you make the choice that's right for you. 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.
Step 3: Fill out your paperwork
Anyone filing for a 1A 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.
- Separation agreement (you already have this prepared).
- Joint Petition for Divorce form (CJD-101A) signed by both spouses or their lawyers.
- Affidavit of irretrievable breakdown signed by the spouses.
- Record of Absolute Divorce(R-408) from the Registry of Vital Records.
- A financial statement from each spouse.
If you have children under 18
Couples with children under 18 must also:
- Attend a parent education program unless it's waived by the court. You'll receive a certificate after attending.
- Fill out these forms:
- Affidavit disclosing care or custody proceeding (OCAJ-1 TRC IV)
- Child Support Guidelines worksheet (CJD-304)
File those forms with your Parent Education Certificate 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 to waive attendance at parent education program (CJD-444) if you can't attend a parent education program
- 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 what happened and when to the judge, and a Proposed Order form. Write exactly what you want the court to order on this form.
Step 4: File your paperwork and fees
You'll need to pay the following fees for a 1A divorce. You can pay your fees with a check (a bank check is preferred because some courts don't allow personal checks), money order, cash, or a credit card.
|Divorce filing fee||$200|
|Divorce filing surcharge||$15|
How to file
You can file for a 1A 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.
If both parties are indigent, you can file for indigency (waiver of court fees).
Step 5: Attend a hearing
The court will set a hearing date 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 for this. 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 (that your marriage has broken down and can’t continue), the judge will read the separation agreement to make sure it covers the necessary issues and is fair to both people. Then the judge will accept the separation agreement, and an order will be entered. A judgment nisi is entered automatically 30 days later. 90 days after the judgment date, the divorce is finalized.
A "judgment nisi" is the time between when a judge grants your divorce and when the divorce becomes final. It gives both people a chance to change their minds and make sure that the other person didn’t lie about their property before the divorce is final. You don’t need to do anything during this time, and your divorce will become final automatically. The judgment nisi becomes final 90 days from the date it was entered. You can't remarry until 120 days from the entry date of the order approving the divorce.