Massachusetts Divorce Cost
The cost of getting a divorce in Massachusetts gets more expensive the less cooperation there is between spouses. The least expensive type of divorce is when a couple submits a joint petition in which no children are involved. In this case, the only fee that may have been paid will be to the court when filing the joint petition. If there are children involved, there will probably be an additional fee.
Costs for filing a petition jointly or singly vary from county to county. Regardless of the amount, the process in every county is similar enough to help you create a rough budget of how much a divorce cost in Massachusetts. If you are filing a petition against another person, they must be formally served with a copy of the complaint before the case can proceed. Spouses who do not wish to do this themselves will have to pay a fee to a sheriff’s office or process server for this service.
Once the spouse is presented with a copy of the complaint, they may choose to file an official response disputing any part of the divorce statement. They will be charged an additional fee for this paperwork. Be sure to distinguish between expenses charged to one person and costs shared by a couple when creating an estimate of Massachusetts divorce costs in your type of case.
Some people may want to consider sharing the expense of an attorney with experience in divorce mediation who will provide neutral advice and legal expertise. If no agreement can be reached and the case must be heard by a judge, this attorney cannot represent either spouse.
Whether drafted voluntarily by a couple or with the help of a mediator or attorney, separation agreements should explain how in detail how couples plan to handle:
- Child custody arrangements
- Alimony payments
- Child support payments
- The payment of shared debts
- Division of mutual property
At any point in the proceedings, one or both spouses may decide to retain private legal counsel. Divorce attorneys may charge a flat fee or an hourly rate depending on the nature of their services, which will make up the bulk of your budget when estimating how much a divorce cost in Massachusetts. When consulting with any divorce attorney, obtain a detailed, written estimate of how many hours of work your case will take to prepare for and what the final charges will be.
Child support payments will be determined by following official state guidelines. However, a judge may choose to alter the standard payment if:
- The parent who must make the payments does not have sufficient financial resources to honor this commitment
- The non-custodial parent must spend unusually large amounts for visitation purposes
- When considering whether to award alimony to a petitioning spouse, Massachusetts judges will take into consideration:
- The age, health, occupation, and income of both spouses
- The length of the marriage
- Property belonging to either spouse
- Both parties’ behavior during the marriage
In all cases, the judge is the final person to determine how much a divorce cost in Massachusetts.
Alimony in Massachusetts
When two spouses decide to separate in Massachusetts, they have the option of minimizing the expenses of divorce by filing a joint petition requesting an end to their marriage. Along with this petition, they must submit a written agreement detailing how they plan to handle any potential areas of dispute. One of the most important things to detail is the specifics of their agreement regarding alimony in Massachusetts.
Although Massachusetts law used to provide for permanent alimony to be paid, legislative reforms have made this no longer possible. Generally speaking, a spouse may apply for temporary or rehabilitative rehab. If permanent alimony of regular monthly payments is granted, these will generally end when the person making payments retires.
When granting temporary alimony in Massachusetts, judges adhere to guidelines that help determine how many months or years of payment can be granted. Generally, the longer the marriage the large the number of payments that can be received. Rehabilitative alimony can be also requested for a fixed or indefinite amount of time. This kind of financial support is meant to help the spouse receiving it acquire the skills or education required to re-enter the workforce.
Couples who are drafting an alimony agreement do not need to hire an attorney to advise them if they can resolve their differences by themselves. You should be able to find a model template online to help create this agreement. When preparing this agreement, have all relevant financial information on hand, such as:
- Both spouses’ financial assets and earning ability
- Both parties’ tax rates
- Both parties’ financial contribution to the marriage
Judges are required to take note of:
- The marriage’s length and both parties’ conduct during that time
- Both parties’ skill levels and employability
- Each party’s financial obligations and resources
- Health insurance costs
- Both parties’ age and health
Should both spouses agree on the desirability of drafting a mutually satisfactory agreement regarding alimony in Massachusetts but be unable to privately resolve their differences, they may find it worthwhile to engage the services of an attorney who specializes in mediating between couples filing for divorce. This expense will help ensure that all the applicable legal rules have been followed in the terms and language of the document.
Less expensive alternatives to legal advice include using an online calculator to receive a rough approximation of the standard payment in your case. It may also be possible to reach a resolution regarding alimony in Massachusetts during informal, court-supervised pretrial hearings.
If it is not possible to arrive at an agreement at any time to the scheduled court date, one or both spouses may wish to find legal counsel. This lawyer may not be any divorce mediation attorney whose services have been used. Retaining this kind of attorney will add a considerable amount of expense to the divorce process and is not to be undertaken lightly. Do not trust any attorney who seems to guarantee an unrealistic outcome or judgment by the court.
How to File for Divorce in Massachusetts
The decision to divorce can be difficult. Filing for divorce doesn’t have to be. This guide will teach you how to file for divorce in Massachusetts.
1. Find Out Where To File
Before you can file for divorce, you need to know which county to file in. You are only eligible to file for divorce in Massachusetts if either you or your spouse has lived in the state for at least 1 year. If you and your spouse should have lived together as a married couple in a Massachusetts county, and at least one of you still lives in that county, you must file for divorce there.
If you wish to file for divorce in Massachusetts and both spouses are living in different counties from where they lived as a married couple, you may file in either the county where you live or the county your spouse lives.
2. Fill Out and File the Complaint
In order to file for divorce in Massachusetts, you must first draft a written complaint for divorce. A complaint is simply the document that gets the divorce process started in the court system. It will include your grounds for divorce (you will probably want to use the most common “no-fault” grounds, but some fault grounds may also be alleged, for instance, if you can prove adultery.)
3. Serve Your Spouse With Notice
Your spouse must be given official notice, which is also known as “serving” them with a complaint and summons. You may hire the sheriff’s office or a private process server to officially deliver a copy of the complaint and summons, or, if your spouse lives outside of the state, you must send certified mail containing the forms to file for divorce in Massachusetts.
If your spouse cannot be located, you may also be able to file for divorce in Massachusetts if you are willing to publish a notice in the newspaper near your spouse’s last known address. You may wish to ask a lawyer about this process, as publishing notice can be somewhat complicated and expensive.
4. Temporary Hearing
After you file for divorce in Massachusetts, you may request a temporary hearing to decide on issues for the duration of the divorce. The judge will assign temporary possession of the marital home, temporary child custody, support, and any other support needed for the duration of the divorce. This will sometimes include payment of attorney fees from one spouse to the other.
5. Court Dates
Most of the time, divorcing spouses can agree to a settlement, either on their own or with the assistance of attorneys or a trained mediator. If spouses cannot agree, they will go to trial. You will be given notification about any court dates that you must show up for.
Jury trials are not used in divorce cases. A judge will hear both sides of your case and issue a divorce order. If your divorce goes to trial, it will only be finalized after the trial has been completed.