Massachusetts has taken some of the bitterness and frustration out of divorce through two laws: no-fault divorce and uncontested divorce.
No-fault divorce is an important tool for helping divorcing spouses move on with their lives and start planning for the future instead of focusing on the past. Unlike with some States, a family court judge in Massachusetts does not have to place blame or fault on one spouse in order to grant a divorce and allow both spouses to start their new lives. The only requirement in Massachusetts is for one spouse to state that the marriage is broken down and cannot be fixed. This frees up resources the spouses would have otherwise used on proving who was right or wrong to instead be used on designing a mutually beneficial financial division or developing a comprehensive parenting plan for the children.
For those spouses who are willing and able to work together amicably on moving forward with their lives, uncontested divorce is the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective option.
Types of Uncontested Divorce
Generally there are two types of uncontested divorces: mutual and negotiated. Mutual uncontested divorces usually stem from a short-term marriage with no children and few joint financial assets. These divorces are straightforward and the primary concerns are the procedural matters with actually obtaining a divorce. Negotiated uncontested divorces can be more complicated or involve disagreements. The goal of a negotiated uncontested divorce is for the parties to work together with their attorneys and advisors towards a comprehensive agreement.
Mutual Uncontested Divorces
Mutual uncontested divorces are primarily procedural. When the spouses initially meet with their attorneys, they usually already agree on how to divide the marital estate, how each spouse will meet their financial needs going forward, and if there are children, how they will be supported, cared for, and raised. The job of the attorneys in such a case is to draft the divorce filings and help their client understand the legal ramifications and effects of the divorce. Your attorneys will also advise you of your legal rights and whether a Judge would find the agreement to be fair and reasonable.
Once the divorce filing packet is complete, your attorneys will provide you with detailed instructions on how to file the packet with the Court and schedule the uncontested hearing. The hearing is usually scheduled within 30 to 60 days of the filing and takes approximately five minutes long. During the hearing, the Judge will review the agreement to ensure it is fair and ask several basic questions to verify that the parties have entered into the agreement freely and still want to proceed with the divorce. After the hearing, the Judge will issue a Judgment of Divorce Nisi within 30 days which will be final in 90 days.
Since mutual uncontested divorces are usually straightforward, most attorneys provide this service on a flat-fee basis and can complete the filing packet in a relatively quick turnaround time.
Negotiated Uncontested Divorces
As with mutual uncontested divorces, spouses in negotiated uncontested divorces are willing to work together towards a comprehensive agreement. The difference is that they have not yet been able to agree on all the important issues and can use the help of attorneys and trained professionals. Negotiated uncontested divorces encompass all types of divorces from short-term marriages with no children or assets to long-term marriages with complicated financial and parenting issues. The one thing all negotiated uncontested divorces have in common is that both spouses are committed to working together throughout the process and are focused on their futures instead of placing blame for the past.
Once you begin the process, your attorneys will meet with you individually to understand your goals and advise you of your rights. Going forward, the process is generally comprised of an information portion, negotiation portion, and filing portion. During the information portion of the process, both spouses will exchange information and documents to ensure that they both are on the same page and can make informed decisions.
Once both spouses feel that they sufficiently understand the details of the situation, they work with their attorneys to negotiate a complete agreement. In those cases where the spouses are not able to come to an agreement on some issues, the attorneys can mutually hire a mediator to help resolve the disagreement. Mediators are neutral third-parties who are normally retired family court Judges or experienced family law attorneys.
After the spouses have a full agreement, the remaining part of the process is identical to a mutual uncontested divorce. Your attorneys will file the agreement along with the rest of the divorce filing packet and schedule a quick uncontested hearing.
Overall, uncontested divorces, whether mutual or negotiated, are the quickest and easiest way to get divorced in Massachusetts and move on with your lives. If you are considering divorce and need help moving forward, contact an experienced Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer today to learn about your legal rights and options.