You should file for a 1B divorce when one spouse believes the marriage has ended or both spouses believe the marriage has ended, but they aren't in agreement about custody, support, or marital property issues. This is called a contested no-fault divorce. Follow the steps below to get a 1B divorce in Massachusetts.
Guide Get a no-fault 1B divorce
Table of Contents
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: Fill out your paperwork
Anyone filing for a 1B 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 under section 1B (CJD-101B) signed by 1 party
- Record of Absolute Divorce (R-408) from the Registry of Vital Records
- 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:
- You and your spouse will need to attend a parent education program unless it's waived by the court. You'll receive a certificate after attending.
- Fill out these forms:
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 3: File your paperwork and fees
You'll need to pay the following fees for a 1B divorce. To find out what forms of payment are accepted, please contact the Probate & Family Court you're filing at.
|Divorce filing fee||$200|
|Divorce filing surcharge||$15|
|Divorce summons charge||$5|
How to file
You can file for a 1B 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.
Step 4: Serve the papers on your spouse
The court will give you a summons. 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.
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. Note: If you want to change the type of divorce you are filing from no-fault to fault, you must do so before your spouse files an answer. You can do this by either filing a motion to amend the complaint pursuant to Mass. R. Dom. Rel. P. 15(a) or by dismissing the 1B complaint pursuant to Mass. R. Dom. Rel. P. 41 and then filing for a fault divorce, paying a second filing fee, and serving your spouse a second time.
Once your spouse (the defendant) has filed an answer, you will need to exchange financial statements and write up a separation agreement.
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 if you and your spouse have issues you can’t agree on. To prepare for a pre-trial hearing, the parties or their lawyers will submit a pre-trial memorandum. This happens 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, financial statements, and parent education certificate (if applicable) 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.
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.