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How To File For Divorce

How To File For Divorce

When you finally decide to have a divorce, where do you begin? It’s important to know that as long as either spouse has resided in Massachusetts for at least one year prior to divorce, then then it can be conducted in this state.

The following are three ways to start a divorce in Massachusetts:

  • No-Fault Uncontested (1A)
    • Also known a joint petition, the couple agrees to a no-fault divorce, stating that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Both spouses must acknowledge that their marriage can’t be resolved and neither spouse is at fault for their issues. Both parties must reach an agreement on the issues in a divorce, such as child support, alimony, property division, etc.
  • No-Fault Contested (1B)
    • One spouse (plaintiff) files the complaint for divorce and summons is served to the other (defendant). The defendant must file an answer, as well as any counterclaims.
  • Fault divorce
    • Requiring the expertise of a family law attorney, one spouse cites a wrongdoing which the other spouse engaged in as the reason for divorce, including:
      • Adultery
      • Cruel and abusive treatment
      • Imprisonment for over 5 years
      • Alcoholism or drug addiction
      • Desertion without support of spouse for one year prior to divorce filing
      • Impotency
      • Nonsupport, whereby a spouse refuses or neglects to provide suitable maintenance for the complaining spouse

The Massachusetts court website has fill-in forms for the 1A and 1B divorce. Both forms require the date when the marriage became “irretrievably broken,” which can be the date either spouse moved out or the date you realized your marriage ended. If one or both parties own real estate, the books and pages for all deeds are necessary. Also include a completed certification of vital statistics and an official copy of your marriage certificate.


While there is no need for service on a 1A divorce, when a plaintiff files for a 1B divorce, the court clerk will return a copy of the complaint with a summons. Upon mailing or bringing your complaint to the court, please include summons and filing fees.

The plaintiff spouse may serve the complaint copy and summons on the defendant spouse by the one of the following:

  • Using the county sheriff
  • Using a private constable
  • Ask the defendant or the defendant’s attorney to accept service

The plaintiff must mail the summons which details how the defendant was served to the court. It’s important to ensure that you keep copies of everything mailed to the court, just in case your papers aren’t included in the court’s file.

Financial Disclosures

Both parties should arrange a financial statement and exchange with one another. If you earn less than $75,000, use the short form. If you earn more than $75,000, use the long form. Whenever you have a hearing, have an up-to-date financial statement.

Parent Education

If there are any children under 18 in the family upon filing for divorce, both parents are required to attend an approved parent education class within 60 days after the defendant has been served.

What if I’m served with divorce papers?

Upon receiving a complaint for divorce, file an appearance to show that you would like a voice in the divorce. The appearance form can be found on the court website as well. However, you can also file a response (answer) if the complaint includes false statements or you wish to ask for a final result that’s different than your spouse requested. If you want to list different reasons for divorce, you can file a counterclaim.

For more information or legal assistance for your case, our Framingham divorce attorney has over 20 years of experience in family law and is capable of obtaining the outcome you desire. Contact the Barach Law Group today to schedule your free case consultation.


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