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Massachusetts Divorce Process

The Massachusetts divorce process has some basic requirements and features, though there is some variation depending on whether the divorce and its terms are part of an agreement by both parties and whether one of the parties is blaming the other for the split.

To file for divorce in Massachusetts you must have lived in the state for a year prior to filing unless the reason for the divorce arose in Massachusetts and you have lived there as a couple. Divorce actions must be filed in the county where you and your spouse lived together, if one of you still lives there. Otherwise you may file for divorce in any county where you, or your spouse, currently live.

Judgment of Divorce Nisi

If you meet the residency requirements the divorce can be filed. Contested cases require that papers be served on the opposing party, who then has an opportunity to file a response. A final hearing is held, at which time the judge decides any contested issues and renders a "Judgment of Divorce Nisi." This means that the terms of the divorce have been adjudicated, but the divorce is not yet final. The judgment becomes a final divorce after a waiting period of 90 days, provided to allow the parties an opportunity to reconsider their decision. During this period the parties remain legally married. As such, they cannot remarry and, depending on the timing of the divorce, may remain responsible for filing joint taxes.


Massachusetts Code Chapter 208, Title III Domestic Relations, Sections 1-55

Grounds for Divorce

Grounds for a divorce include:

  • Adultery;
  • Impotency;
  • Utter desertion for a year;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Drug abuse;
  • Abusive treatment;
  • Failure to provide support;
  • Conviction of a crime with a sentence of 5 or more years;
  • Absence raising the presumption of death; or
  • Irretrievable breakdown.
Section 1A

Provides an action for the uncontested Massachusetts divorce procedure where both parties have agreed that the marriage is irretrievably broken and come to agreement regarding the division of property and other matters in advance of filing for divorce.

Section 1B

Provides an action for the contested Massachusetts divorce procedure where one party files a complaint against the other. After the complaint there is a six-month waiting period, though this can be waived by the court under appropriate circumstances.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources

The following links provide additional information regarding Massachusetts divorce procedure:

Getting Divorced in Massachusetts? A Local Attorney Can Help

Divorce can be incredibly stressful and confusing. The assistance of a qualified legal professional can help ensure that you complete your divorce process with as little drama and confusion as possible, while protecting your rights. Don't leave it up to chance; talk to a Massachusetts divorce attorney today.

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