Massachusetts Divorce Law and Resources
U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the divorce courts in Massachusetts have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.
Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage. You can also visit the GotTrouble Divorce Resource for a more in-depth understanding of related divorce and family law topics.
As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.
To file for a divorce in, a couple must live together in the sate as husband and wife. One of the spouses must be a resident of the state if the cause for divorce occurred within the state. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside the commonwealth, the plaintiff must have lived in this commonwealth for at least one year prior to filing for divorce.
WHERE TO FILE:
As of 2008, all actions for divorce shall be filed in the county where one of the parties lives, unless one of the parties still resides in the county where the parties last lived together, the action shall be heard and determined in a court for that county. In the event of hardship or inconvenience to either party, the court having jurisdiction may transfer such action for hearing to a county in which such party resides.
LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE:
A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be granted on the following grounds:
- Desertion for one year prior to the filing of the complaint
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Willful neglect and refusing to provide suitable support and maintenance for the other spouse
- Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
- Confinement in a federal penal institution or in a penal or reformatory institution in this or any other state.
Massachusetts recognizes legal separation, and may make orders relative to the support of the married person and the care, custody and maintenance of minor children. The court may revise and alter such judgment or make a new order or judgment as the circumstances of the parents or the benefit of the children may require.
Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state.
In determining how property will be divided, the court shall consider the following factors:
- The length of the marriage
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage
- The age, health, station, and occupation of the spouses
- The sources of income, vocational skills, employability of spouse
- The estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties
- The contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit
- The contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates
In determining the property distribution, the court shall also consider the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage. After a divorce, a husband or wife shall not be entitled to curtsey or dower in the land of the other spouse. Any real and personal property owned prior to the marriage will be considered the separate property of that spouse.
The court may order either party to pay alimony. In determining the amount of alimony to be paid, the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income. In fixing the nature and value of the property to be so assigned, the court shall also consider the present and future needs of the dependent children of the marriage.
The court may also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates and the contribution of each of the parties as a homemaker to the family unit.
SPOUSE’S LEGAL NAME:
The court may allow a woman to resume her maiden name or that of a former husband as part of the divorce proceedings. [
CHILD CUSTODY-BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD:
Custody may be awarded to either parent, and there shall be no presumption either in favor of or against shared legal or physical custody. When considering the happiness and welfare of the child, the court shall consider whether or not the child’s present or past living conditions adversely affect his physical, mental, moral or emotional health. If the parents mutually reach an agreement providing for the custody of the children, the court may enter an order in accordance with such agreement, unless specific findings are made by the court indicating that such an order would not be in the best interests of the children.
In determining the amount of the child support obligation, the court shall apply the child support guidelines, with the rebuttable presumption that the amount of the order, which would result from the application of the guidelines, is the appropriate amount of child support to be ordered. The court may deviate from the guidelines if the amount ordered would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances. Such a deviation must include the specific facts of the case which justify departure from the guidelines; and that such departure is consistent with the best interests of the child.
MAINTENCE, SUPPORT AND EDUCATION OF CHILD
Support may continue for a child who has attained age eighteen but who has not attained age twenty-one and who is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance. The court may make appropriate orders of maintenance, support and education for any child who has attained age twenty-one but who has not attained age twenty-three, if such child is domiciled in the home of a parent, and is principally dependent upon said parent for maintenance due to the enrollment of such child in an educational program, excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree.
At any time before marriage, the parties may make a written contract providing that, after the marriage is solemnized, the whole or any designated part of the real or personal property or any right of action, of which either party may be seized or possessed at the time of the marriage, shall remain or become the property of the husband or wife, according to the terms of the contract.
ENFORCING CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS – FEDERAL OPTION:
FIND LOCAL FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT AGENCY NEAR YOU
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