In Massachusetts, couples can either file for an uncontested or a contested divorce. The facts of each case will depend on which filing is appropriate:
Whenever the parties can agree on all issues prior to either party filing a Complaint for Divorce, the parties may request (called a “petition”) that the Court accept their agreement as fair and reasonable and grant them a Judgment of Divorce. This process is what is referred to as an uncontested divorce. Massachusetts law provides that a divorce granted upon the parties filing a joint petition is final 120 days after the court accepts the parties’ agreement as fair and reasonable.
Whenever the parties cannot agree on all issues, one party will typically file a Complaint for Divorce asking the Court grant him/her a divorce. This begins the contested divorce process. Once a party files the Complaint for Divorce, the Court will issue a summons on the Complaint for Divorce which must be served on the other party. The Court will not schedule a pre-trial conference on the Complaint for Divorce until 6 months after the date the other party was served with the Summons and Complaint for Divorce.
At any time during the first 6 months of the case, if the parties reach an agreement, they may request (called a “petition”) the court convert the Complaint for Divorce into a Joint Petition for Divorce – or an “uncontested divorce” and get divorced on the Joint Petitoin. In the event that the parties reach an agreement after the first 6 months of the case, they may present the agreement to the court and after the Court finds that the agreement is fair and reasonable, the Court will issue a Judgment of Divorce which becomes final 90 days from the date of the Judgment of Divorce.
It is not uncommon for people to want to resolve the divorce amicably. However, for many people going through a divorce, how to accomplish a resolution of a divorce is foreign to them. In these cases, it may be appropriate, prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce, to schedule a settlement meeting for the parties to discuss an overall settlement. In order to have a meaningful settlement meeting, the parties need to exchange certain financial documentation . At the settlement meeting each party will have an opportunity to have their attorney present. At the conclusion of the settlement meeting if the parties are able to reach a full agreement, then they may jointly petition the court for an uncontested divorce.
In the event that the parties are unable to reach a full agreement, then the divorce is contested and one (or both) parties may file a Complaint for Divorce. We recommend that you contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Karpenski & Schmelkin, Divorce and Family Law Attorneys to discuss your options if you’re contemplating divorce.