Learn about the types of divorce

In Massachusetts, a divorce can be filed as “no-fault” or “fault,” and either of these can be contested or uncontested. Before you file, you’ll need to choose the type that’s right for you.

Table of Contents

Contested or uncontested

“Contested” means that one person disagrees with the divorce or the terms of the divorce. “Uncontested” means that both people agree about everything they file.

Fault or no-fault

7 reasons you can be considered at fault for causing a marriage to end

There are 7 "fault" grounds or reasons, and also a "no fault" grounds. The "fault" grounds mean that one person was considered at fault in causing the marriage to end. Most people file a “no fault” divorce. A "no fault" divorce is a divorce where the marriage is broken beyond repair but neither spouse blames the other. In Massachusetts, the no fault divorce grounds is called "Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage."

1A or 1B : No fault divorce

There are 2 kinds of "irretrievable breakdown" divorces. They're often called "1A" and "1B," which refers to the section of the law where they’re found, M.G.L. c. 208.

The most common approach is no-fault based on an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There are 2 options for a no-fault divorce.

  • File a “1A” divorce when both spouses agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they have reached a written agreement about child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody, and dividing marital assets. This is an uncontested no-fault divorce.
  • File a “1B” divorce when one spouse believes there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or both spouses believe the marriage has ended but they aren't in agreement about custody, support, or marital property issues. This is a contested no-fault divorce. If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement, you can file a request to change the divorce complaint from a 1B to a 1A divorce.

Fault divorce

In a fault divorce, the person asking for the divorce must prove specific ground(s) or reason(s) 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.


Last updated: July 1, 2020

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