Filing for Separation Vs. Divorce in Massachusetts

By Mark Vansetti

In Massachusetts, courts do not recognize or grant couples legal separations. If spouses choose to divorce, the court enters a judgment of divorce that legally ends the marriage. Some couples decide not to divorce, but to live apart instead for religious reasons, personal preference or in an attempt to work out the marriage. In such cases, Massachusetts law allows the court to enter a separate support judgment that includes spousal support and certain other terms, while not actually giving legal status to the separation.

No Legal Separations in Massachusetts

In many states, courts grant divorces and legal separations, but Massachusetts law does not recognize legal separations. If a couple chooses to separate yet not go forward with a divorce, Massachusetts law allows one of the spouses to file for an order for separate support. This allows the court to enter a separate support judgment that addresses some terms of the separation, including spousal support.

Separate Support Judgment

The separate support judgment does not end the marriage in Massachusetts, but it does grant spousal support along with other important factors. For example, a separate support judgment can address custody issues, visitation or child support. To obtain a separation support judgment, one spouse must file the standard form, Complaint for Separate Support. The marriage itself does not end when the court enters the support judgment. Only a divorce proceeding can permanently and legally end a marriage in Massachusetts.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Grounds for Divorce

Under Massachusetts law, the spouse filing for divorce must define a reason, or legal grounds, for the divorce. The law provides seven grounds alleging that one spouse was at fault and one no-fault ground. The no-fault ground for divorce simply means that the marriage is beyond repair and the spouses wish to divorce, but neither spouse is particularly at fault. The fault grounds include reasons such as cruel and abusive treatment, desertion, adultery, impotency, drug or alcohol abuse, neglect or imprisonment.

Divorce Judgment

If the spouses choose to file for divorce instead of simply separating, the marriage ends when the court enters a final divorce judgment. If there are children of the marriage, the divorce judgment can also address custody, child support and visitation. The judge may also include spousal support, instructions regarding division of assets or debts and the disposition of the family home. The parties may agree to certain terms regarding these issues or, if they cannot agree, the court will order terms.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Is a Divorce Decree Supposed to Be Signed by the Petitioner & the Respondent?

References

Related articles

Idaho Divorce & Spousal Support

Spousal support serves an important role in helping a divorcing spouse with insufficient income make the transition to single life. Courts in Idaho may award support if one spouse is not able to support himself; couples also have the option to negotiate and enter into a spousal support agreement on their own. Spousal support may automatically end after a period of time and either spouse may petition the court to modify support if circumstances change.

Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee

From attempted murder to refusal to move to the state, the law in Tennessee allows couples to claim some unique grounds for divorce. While a couple may seek a "no-fault" divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences, the state also allows divorce for fault, which places the blame on one spouse. The Tennessee law lays out the available grounds for divorce, such as adultery, bigamy or cruelty. Whether the divorce is filed on the grounds of desertion or habitual drunkenness, the court may consider marital misconduct in deciding the final divorce decree.

Do You Have to Wait 30 Days for a Decree of Divorce in Arkansas?

Even if divorcing spouses agree on all marital issues, such as custody and property division, Arkansas imposes a 30-day waiting period on all divorces. This means the court will not issue a divorce decree until at least 30 days have passed since the date the divorce petition was filed.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Divorce Process in Georgia

Georgia state laws govern the process of divorce. The state has adopted “no-fault” divorce, meaning you do not need ...

How to Separate & Not Get a Divorce

Some couples separate for a short trial period, while others separate on a permanent basis with no intention to ...

The Termination of Marriage & a Legal Separation in Oklahoma

Divorce is a significant step and sometimes spouses like to take it slowly. Not all states recognize legal separation, ...

Marital Status: Difference Between Separated & Divorced

Most states recognize three ways to legally alter a marital relationship -- separation, divorce and annulment. Among ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED