In an uncontested divorce—also called a "no-fault 1A divorce" in Massachusetts—the spouses agree on all the issues required to end their marriage. There's no need for a trial, and the process is simpler, faster, and less expensive than a contested divorce. Many couples find that they can get through an uncontested divorce without hiring a lawyer
Here's an overview of the process, including how to qualify for a 1A divorce, file your paperwork, and get your final divorce.
In order to file for an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, you must agree with your spouse on the no-fault reason your marriage is ending, meet the state's residency requirement, and have an agreement with your spouse on the issues in your divorce.
When you file for divorce, you need to state the legal reason, or "ground," that you want to end your marriage. The grounds for divorce in Massachusetts include both fault-based reasons (claims about a spouse's misconduct) and one no-fault reason: "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." To get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree that your marriage is broken and can't be fixed. (Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 208, §§ 1, 1A (2021).)
There are two different ways to meet the residency requirement for divorce in Massachusetts:
The residency requirement is intended to prevent spouses from moving to Massachusetts for the express purpose of filing for divorce there. (Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 208, § 5 (2021).)
As a practical matter, of course, it's not always clear exactly when your marriage broke down beyond repair—the cause of an uncontested divorce. But if you were living together in Massachusetts when one of you moved out, or when you agreed to get divorced, you would meet the residency requirement as long as one of you still lived in the state when you filed for a no-fault 1A divorce together.
You may file for a no-fault 1A divorce in Massachusetts only if you and your spouse have a written separation agreement (often called a divorce settlement agreement) that covers the important issues in your divorce, including:
(Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 208, § 1A (2021).)
If you want to get an uncontested divorce but are having trouble agreeing about all the issues, divorce mediation may help you resolve your disputes. And many mediators will help prepare a written document that reflects the agreement you've reached during the process.
Be sure that you and your spouse sign the written separation agreement in front of a notary.
To start the divorce process, you'll need to find and complete a number of forms. You can download the official Massachusetts forms, along with instructions, from the state's web page for no-fault 1A divorce. If you use an online divorce service, the service will provide and complete the necessary forms for you, after you've filled out an online questionnaire.
The forms you need include:
If you have minor children, you'll need to complete an Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceeding (OCAJ-1) and a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (CJD-304).
You'll also need to attach a certified copy of your marriage certificate and your signed, notarized separation agreement. Massachusetts doesn't have an official form for the agreement, but many online divorce services will provide you with this document, based on the information you supplied.
The petition will ask whether you want your separation agreement to be merged with the divorce judgment or to survive as an independent contract. If you aren't sure about which is best in your situation, you should speak with a lawyer.
Once you've gathered and completed all of the divorce forms, you can file the paperwork in person or by mail. If you or your spouse still resides in the county where you lived together, you should file with the Probate and Family Court in that county. Otherwise, you can file in the county where either of you currently lives.
You'll need to pay the filing fee for divorce ($215 as of late 2021), unless you qualify for a waiver. You must include the waiver application (Affidavit of Indigency) when you file your initial paperwork.
You and your spouse will need to attend a court hearing to finalize your uncontested divorce in Massachusetts. The judge will review your agreement to make sure that has included all of the proper provisions, and that it serves your children's best interests. If everything is proper and you've met all of the requirements for a no-fault 1A divorce in Massachusetts, the judge will approve your agreement within 30 days after the hearing.
Then, 30 days after approving your agreement, the judge will enter what's known as a "judgment of divorce nisi." This simply means that there's another 90-day waiting period before the divorce judgment is "absolute." (Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 208, §§ 1A, 21 (2021).)
So your divorce won't be final until a total of 120 days from when the judge approves your agreement—plus whatever time it takes to get the court hearing scheduled. Still, this is considerably less time than it typically takes to go through the process of a traditional, contested divorce.