How to File for Divorce in Massachusetts

by Beverly Bird

    Filing for divorce is usually the easiest part of the process, but each state has different requirements for exactly what you must file to begin the proceedings. In Massachusetts, this includes four additional forms if you have children and two if you do not. You also must make a decision right at the outset as to whether you’re going to file on fault or no-fault grounds. Massachusetts has separate divorce complaints for each of these circumstances.

    Step 1

    Download the appropriate divorce complaint for the grounds you've chosen. Forms are available from Massachusetts county websites, as well as the Internet. Massachusetts requires that you print the complaint on acid-free, bonded paper; copy paper won’t do. Complete the complaint form and attach a certified copy of your marriage license.

    Step 2

    Collect and complete the other forms you will need. These include an R408 form, which will notify Massachusetts’ Registry of Vital Records when your divorce is final, and a financial statement. The financial statement details your income, assets and debts. Both forms are also available on the county websites. Print the financial statement on pink paper and double-sided, so the second page appears on the back of the first.

    Step 3

    Access and complete the two additional forms you'll need if you have children. The first is a mandatory disclosure statement telling the court which parent they live with. The second is a worksheet the court will eventually use to calculate child support. This is similar to the financial statement you’ve filled out, but focuses more on your income. Print it out the same way you did the financial statement, but on yellow paper.

    Step 4

    Include a copy of your marital settlement agreement with your paperwork, if you’re filing for a no-fault divorce and have already come to terms about how you’re going to deal with property distribution and issues regarding your children. Massachusetts law requires that your settlement agreement mention alimony, even if it’s not a factor in your case. If it's not, just state that both you and your spouse waive your right to receive it.

    Step 5

    Take all your paperwork to the Probate and Family Court in the county where you lived when you were married. If neither you or your spouse still live there, use the county where you live now. File your paperwork with the court clerk. There’s a filing fee, and Massachusetts requires that you pay it with either a money order or a bank check; you can’t use a personal check. If you can’t afford the fee, ask the clerk for an Affidavit of Indigency. The court will waive your fee if your income falls below 125 percent of the poverty level, or if you’re on public assistance.

    Tips & Warnings

    • Massachusetts offers seven fault grounds for divorce, including adultery, cruelty, desertion, impotency, imprisonment, chronic drug or alcohol use and a refusal by one spouse to financially support the other. You can also use the no-fault ground, stating that your marriage is irretrievably broken. If you’ve already accomplished a marital settlement agreement, you can use the no-fault ground and file a joint petition for divorce. This should move your divorce case through the court system relatively quickly. Consult an experienced attorney if you are uncomfortable or have any questions.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

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