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File for a fault divorce

In a fault divorce, the person asking for the divorce must prove a specific reason for the divorce.

Probate and Family Court

The Details

What you need

You can file for divorce in Massachusetts if you've lived in the state for one year, or if the reason the marriage ended happened in Massachusetts and you've lived in Massachusetts as a couple.

In addition to the court forms listed below, you'll need a certified copy of the civil marriage certificate. This is available from the Registry of Vital Records or from the city or town hall where you applied for a marriage license.

To get a fault divorce, you 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
  • A prison sentence of 5 or more years  

This process can be more time-consuming and expensive than a no-fault divorce.

If you or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, you file for divorce at the Probate and Family Court in that county.  Otherwise, you can file in the county where you or your spouse live now.  

For a fault divorce, you must file the following forms with your civil marriage certificate and fees. Necessary forms are linked under Downloads below.

  • Certified copy of your marriage certificate, which you got from the Registry of Vital Records or your city or town 
  • Complaint for Divorce Form CJD101
  • Record of Absolute Divorce for the Registry of Vital Records (Form R-408)   

Bring these to the registry office at the Probate and Family Court along with your fees.

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. 

Special circumstances

Some people may also need to file:

  1. Affidavit of Indigency if you can't afford the fees. See indigency for more information.
  2. Findings and Determinations for Child Support (CJD-305) if you don’t think the child support guidelines should apply to your case.
  3. Motion to Waive Attendance at Parent Education Program (CJD-444) if you can't attend a parent education program.
  4. Motion for Temporary Orders (i.e. child custody, child support, spousal support, etc.) (CJD-400) 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.

Fees

Name Fee Unit
Divorce filing fee $200 each
Divorce filing surcharge $15 each
Divorce summons charge $5 each

How to file

If you or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, you file for divorce at the Probate and Family Court in that county.  Otherwise, you can file in the county where you or your spouse live now.  Find your Probate and Family Court.


 

To file by mail, complete the required forms listed in In Person and mail them along with the necessary fees to the appropriate court. If you or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, you file for divorce at the Probate and Family Court in that county.  Otherwise, you can file in the county where you or your spouse live now.  Find the address of your Probate and Family Court.

Next steps

After the defendant files an answer

After your spouse has been served, he or she 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 the other spouse (the defendant) has filed an answer, the 2 people will need to exchange financial statements and write up a separation agreement.

If you have children under 18: 

  1. You and your spouse will need to attend a parent education class unless it's waived by the court. You'll receive a certificate after attending a Parent Education Program.
  2. Prepare the following forms:
  • Affidavit of Care and Custody (OCAJ-1)
  • Child support guidelines worksheet (CJD-304)

File those forms along with your Parent Education Certificate at the clerk's office.

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 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 can'tt 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 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, it becomes final 90 days later.

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