Many married couples live separately, even across state lines, for reasons which have nothing to do with the health of their marriage. However, when living across state lines from each other, couples may find their marriage at a crossroads and begin considering divorce.
Perhaps distance has created serious problem in the relationship or laid bare preexisting problems. Perhaps one partner has moved away, even across state lines, as part of a trial separation. Or perhaps a history of domestic violence and a need for safety has compelled one spouse to put considerable distance between his or her person and the other spouse.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt life, some people may find themselves stymied by closed courts, recommendations against travel, and derailed moving plans. Many are wondering how to file for divorce in Massachusetts.
Whatever the circumstances that have led to divorce, if one member of a couple lives in Massachusetts and the other does not, there are certain requirements that need to be met before filing for divorce.
Divorce in Massachusetts: An Overview
First, it is helpful to review the types of divorce available in Massachusetts, as these rules can have an impact on whether a spouse is able to file for divorce in Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts, divorce may be either uncontested or contested:
- In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree to a divorce and work out the terms before filing for divorce. This type of divorce is always no-fault (See below for the discussion of fault)
- In a contested divorce, spouses do not agree on such matters as alimony, child support, or child custody. These divorce cases must be resolved either in mediation or family court. Contested divorces may be either no-fault or at-fault.
Massachusetts divorces may be no-fault or at-fault:
- A no-fault divorce cites a fundamental incompatibility, or “irreconcilable differences” between spouses as the reason for the divorce. There is no assignment of blame for the dissolution of the marriage on or by either partner.
- An at-fault divorce cites the “bad behavior” of one spouse, a breaking of the marriage contract, as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. There are six grounds for divorce in Massachusetts: adultery, prolonged confinement for a crime, cruel and abusive treatment, failure to provide support, impotency, intoxication, or utter desertion (living separately for a year with no intention to resume married life)
Even with an at-fault divorce, “irreconcilable differences” can be the basis filing a complaint for divorce.
Residency Requirements for Divorce in Massachusetts
To file for divorce in Massachusetts, the filing spouse must have lived in Massachusetts for one year. Another case in which divorce is permitted, even if one spouse no longer lives in Massachusetts, is if the couple has lived together as a married pair in Massachusetts and if the grounds for divorce (such as adultery) occurred in the Commonwealth.
Given the complexities involved with an out-of-state divorce in Massachusetts, it is best to consult experienced family lawyers about the specifics of your case. Our office offers a no-obligation case evaluation; our experienced divorce attorneys are committed to finding the best solution for your family’s situation.