In Massachusetts, there are four different types of divorce to consider: fault, no-fault, contested, and uncontested. But what does all of this mean, and which is the right type of divorce for your unique situation? The answer will depend on the state of your marriage, your relationship with your spouse, whether you have children and/or a considerable amount of assets, and your post-divorce goals. No two divorces are identical, so it’s important to make sure you approach yours the right way.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce in Massachusetts
First, let’s take a look at fault versus no-fault divorce. A fault-based divorce alleges some sort of grounds or reason for the divorce. A no-fault divorce means that the marriage has broken down, but neither spouse is alleging wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse.
In Massachusetts, there are seven allowable reasons for a fault-based divorce:
- Prison sentence of 5+ years
- Cruel and abusive treatment
- Confirmed drug or alcohol abuse
The person requesting a fault divorce in Massachusetts must prove the specific grounds or reason they wish to end their marriage.
Most Massachusetts divorces are no-fault divorces, which is called an “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage.” Neither spouse wishes to allege that the other spouse has done wrong, but they still wish to end the marriage. At this point, there are two options: contested no-fault divorce, or uncontested no-fault divorce.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested no-fault divorce, or “1A” divorce in Massachusetts, is possible when both spouses agree that the marriage has broken down and they have reached an agreement, in writing, about all the terms of their divorce. This may include property division, alimony, child custody, parenting time, and child support. However, not all spouses can agree on these issues.
When spouses cannot reach their own written agreement about their divorce terms, they will need to pursue a “1B” divorce, or a contested no-fault divorce. In this scenario, the spouses may agree that they want to end the marriage, but they cannot agree on issues like property division, custody, and/or support. A disagreement on just one of these issues can result in the need for a contested divorce.
Sometimes spouses may start a contested no-fault divorce and then come to an understanding about the issues they disagreed on. When this happens, they can actually file a request to change from a contested to an uncontested divorce.
A contested divorce is also required when only one spouse wants a divorce. This may apply in a fault or no-fault divorce, depending on the circumstances.
Which Divorce Is Right for Me?
There are a few different divorce options in Massachusetts. You could file a no-fault contested divorce, no-fault uncontested divorce, fault contested divorce, or fault uncontested divorce. Massachusetts has a helpful online tool you can use to see what may apply to your situation: Which type of divorce should I file? However, this tool is meant for informational purposes only. The best way to learn more about your rights and options is by reviewing them with your attorney.
Is One Type of Divorce Better?
One could argue that an uncontested divorce is “better” than a contested divorce (whether fault or no-fault), primarily because it is typically a faster, less expensive, and less stressful undertaking. While this may be true, it is the outcome of a divorce that will matter in the end. Some spouses, even those on amicable terms, may find that they simply cannot reach an agreement on something as emotionally involved as child custody or as complex as property division. In these cases, they may even be unable to reach a compromise and agreement after mediation or arbitration. When the collaborative divorce process cannot deliver results, a contested divorce may be the right answer.
In the end, the type of divorce that’s “better” for you will depend on what you’re dealing with, what you want to achieve, and what you’re willing to do to secure the future you deserve.
Ask a Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer
At Miller Law Group, P.C., we have extensive experience with all types of Massachusetts divorce proceedings. From the most straightforward no-fault uncontested divorce to a complex fault contested divorce, we know how to help our clients’ identify their needs and goals and then seek to achieve these. Divorce can be messy and it can be difficult. However, it also represents new beginnings and can present a wonderful opportunity to reclaim your life and face a brighter future.
Contact our Massachusetts divorce attorneys today to learn more about what type of divorce may be right for you and how we can help you through the entire process.