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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 locations

The Details of File for a fault divorce

What you need for File for a fault divorce

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 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.  These grounds are listed in M.G.L. c. 208, s.1:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Non-support
  • Impotency
  • A prison sentence of 5 or more years  

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

You must file the following forms with your civil marriage certificate and fees.

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

Special circumstances

Some people may also need to file:

Fees for File for a fault divorce

Fees listed are per filing, not per person. 

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

How to file File for a 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.  Find your Probate and Family Court.

To file by mail, complete the required forms listed above 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 should send the forms and fees to 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 for File for a fault divorce

  1. Serve the papers

    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.

  2. After the defendant files an answer

    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 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.
    2. Fill out these forms:

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

    There may be a pre-trial hearing if you and your spouse have contested issues. In preparation for a pre-trial hearing, the parties or their attorneys 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 proceed without a trial (meaning all 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't be scheduled before 6 months from the date of filing 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, it becomes final 90 days later.

Downloads for File for a fault divorce

Contact for File for a fault divorce

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