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File for a no-fault 1A divorce

A 1A divorce is filed when both spouses agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they have reached a written agreement with respect to child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody, and the division of marital assets.

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 required court forms, you need a certified copy of your 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.

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 Probate and Family Court for your county.

Forms and fees can be filed in person or sent by mail to the court.

The forms you need are listed under "Downloads" below.

First steps

You will need to write a separation agreement, and both spouses must sign it and have it notarized. 

A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse. It spells out how you are going to divide your property, child custody, child support, spousal support, visitation, and any other issues relevant to your divorce. There are different ways to reach an agreement. You can negotiate on your own or hire attorneys 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.) These are technical terms, but it's important that you make the choice that's right for you. It will be helpful to speak to an attorney about the choices you make. If you aren't able to consult an attorney, the law libraries and public libraries have books with examples of separation agreements.

File your papers

To begin, you need to file:

  1. Certified copy of your marriage certificate, which you got from the Registry of Vital Records or your city or town. 
  2. Separation agreement. You should have already prepared this. 
  3. Joint petition for divorce under section 1A (CJD-101A) signed by both parties or their attorneys.
  4. Joint affidavit of irretrievable breakdown signed by the parties. 
  5. Record of Absolute Divorce(R-408) from the Registry of Vital Records. 

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

If you don't have children under 18, the only remaining paperwork to file is your financial statements. Both spouses must complete and file financial statements with the court. 

If you have children under 18

Couples with young children have additional required steps.

  1.  Both of you are required to attend a parent education program 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)
  • Financial statements (CJD-301)

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

Special circumstances

Some people may also need to file

  1. Affidavit of Indigency if you cannot 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 what happened and when to the judge, 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 the Probate and Family Court for your county.

 

 

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 for the Probate and Family Court for your county.

More info

Dividing your property

If you file an uncontested divorce, then you and your spouse decide how to split things up when you write your separation agreement, and the court will review the separation agreement and make sure it is fair. If you can’t decide together how to divide your things, then the court will use a standard called “equitable division.” This does not mean that your things have to be divided exactly in half, but it does mean that the decision has to be fair.

After filing

The hearing date is set by the court 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. 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 and accepts the separation agreement, an order is entered. A judgment nisi is entered automatically 30 days later. 

A "divorce judgment nisi" is a 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. There is nothing you need to do during this time, and your divorce will become final automatically.

The judgment nisi doesn't become final until 90 days from the date of its entry.

Therefore, you can't remarry until 120 days from the date of entry of the order approving the separation agreement.

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