Choose which type of divorce to file

In Massachusetts, a divorce may be filed as “no-fault” or “fault,” and either of these can be contested or uncontested. Before you file, you must choose which type is right for you.

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

There are seven "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 “no fault” divorce. A "no fault" divorce is a divorce in which the marriage is broken beyond repair but where 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 two kinds of "irretrievable breakdown" divorces. They are often referred to as "1A" and "1B", referring to the section of the law under which they are found, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 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.

A “1A” divorce would be 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. This is an uncontested no-fault divorce.

A “1B” divorce would be filed 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 with regard to 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 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.


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