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Massachusetts Divorce Laws

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Massachusetts Divorce Laws:

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS:

To file for a divorce in Massachusetts, 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:

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. [Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-6]

LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE:

A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be granted on the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Impotency
  • 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 for five years or more in a federal penal institution or in a penal or reformatory institution in this or any other state.

[Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-1 and 208-2]

LEGAL SEPARATION:

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. [Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 209-32]

PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION:

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 amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability of each spouse
  • The estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.
  • 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 and 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 courtesy or dower in the land of the other spouse.

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[Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-27, 208-34, and 209-1]

ALIMONY/MAINTENANCE/SPOUSAL SUPPORT:

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. [Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-34]

SPOUSE'S NAME:

The court may allow a woman to resume her maiden name or that of a former husband as part of the divorce proceedings. [Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-23]

CHILD CUSTODY:

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. [Based on the General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-31]

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