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The Divorce Waiting Period in Massachusetts: What It Is & Why It's Beneficial

Divorce is an emotional and challenging process for everyone involved. In Massachusetts, like in many other states, there are specific rules and waiting periods in place to ensure that both parties have ample time to consider their decision before it becomes final. Here, we'll explore the divorce waiting period in Massachusetts, the different types of divorce in the state, and the meaning of "decree nisi" or "rule nisi."

The 90 or 120-Day Divorce Waiting Period in Massachusetts:

The divorce waiting period in Massachusetts is a legally mandated time frame between when a divorce is granted and when it becomes final. This period is intended to provide both parties with time to consider their decision, make any necessary arrangements, and reconcile if possible. The length of the waiting period varies depending on the type of divorce.

  • Contested Divorce: A contested divorce occurs when both parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, such as property division, child custody, or alimony. In Massachusetts, the waiting period for a contested divorce is 90 days from the date the divorce is granted by a judge. This allows the parties additional time to negotiate and potentially come to an agreement before the divorce becomes final.
  • Uncontested Divorce: In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all terms of the divorce, and there is no need for a trial. The waiting period for an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts is longer, lasting 120 days from the date of judgment.

Divorce Nisi in Massachusetts

When a divorce is initially granted by a judge in Massachusetts, it is referred to as a "decree nisi" or "rule nisi." The Latin term "nisi" means "unless" or "if not," signifying that the divorce is not yet final and may be set aside if specific conditions are not met. Essentially, a divorce nisi serves as a provisional decree that will become absolute after the waiting period, unless the parties reconcile, or the court determines that the divorce should not be finalized.

During the nisi period, both parties are still legally married and must abide by any temporary orders issued by the court, such as child support, alimony, or restraining orders. Once the waiting period has passed and no reconciliation or objection has been made, the divorce will automatically become final, and the parties will be considered legally divorced.

Let’s take a look at the divorce waiting period and how it may impact two fictional couples:

A Chance at Reconciliation

In a small Massachusetts town, Emma and Jack decided to divorce after ten years of marriage. They agreed on an uncontested divorce for the sake of their daughter, Lily. They agreed on all matters related to property, custody, and support, and, once the judgment was entered, the 120-day waiting period began.

Jack found an apartment nearby, and they created a co-parenting schedule to ensure Lily's life would remain as stable as possible. About a month later, Emma and Jack attended their daughter’s talent show at school. They sat separately during the performance but ended up talking in the school courtyard after the show. Small talk turned into meaningful conversation, sparking a glimmer of hope for their relationship.

In the final days of their divorce waiting period, Emma and Jack decided to give their marriage another chance. They reached out to a marriage counselor and began attending weekly sessions to work on their communication and rebuild trust. The nisi period allowed them the opportunity to pause, reflect, and ultimately realize they could resolve their differences after all.

Uncovering Hidden Assets

In a bustling Massachusetts city, Ava and Daniel, a married couple of entrepreneurs, decided to divorce after 15 years due to strains on their relationship. They opted for a contested divorce since they couldn't agree on asset distribution. When the dust settled and the judgment was entered, the 90-day waiting period began.

After just a few weeks, Ava came across a suspicious document while packing up Daniel’s home office. She unwittingly uncovered a series of suspicious transactions and offshore accounts that Daniel had secretly set up over the years. These assets were never disclosed to her or her attorney during the divorce.

Ava's attorney immediately informed the court about the concealed assets and requested a thorough investigation. The divorce waiting period provided the necessary time for the court to examine the new evidence, ultimately leading to a more equitable division of assets.

Get Experienced Counsel from Our Massachusetts Divorce Lawyers

Understanding the divorce waiting period and the concept of divorce nisi is crucial for anyone going through a divorce in Massachusetts. At Miller Law Group, we are dedicated to helping our clients navigate the complex and emotional process of divorce. If you have any questions or need legal assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced family law attorneys.