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Massachusetts - Divorce Requirements
The following information is to provide a basic understanding of the various aspects of Massachusetts divorce.

Click here for more specific information regarding Massachusetts divorce laws.

Every effort has been made to assure that the information contained in these pages is accurate however, due to the ever changing nature of the law some material may be outdated or may no longer apply.

Residency Requirements One spouse must be a resident
Where to File Actions for divorce shall be filed, heard and determined in the probate court, held for the county where one of the parties lives, except that if either party 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 court in a county in which such party resides.
Grounds for Divorce A divorce from the bond of matrimony may be adjudged for
  • Adultery
  • Impotency
  • Utter desertion continued for one year next prior to the filing of the complaint
  • Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication caused by voluntary and excessive use of intoxicating liquor, opium, or other drugs
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • A spouse being of sufficient ability, grossly or wantonly and cruelly refuses or neglects to provide suitable support and maintenance for the other spouse
  • An irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
Voluntary or required mediation No
Voluntary or recommended CounselingYes
Property Distribution Massachusetts is an "equitable distribution" state. The court has full discretion to divide the real estate and all marital property, which includes any gifts or inheritances, and pension benefits. The following factors are generally considered: age and health, length of marriage, vocational skills, occupations, contributions in acquisitions, employability of spouses, and custody. Marital conduct is not a consideration in the division of any property.
Child Custody Upon a judgment for divorce, the court may make such judgment as it considers expedient relative to the care, custody and maintenance of the minor children of the parties and may determine with which of the parents the children or any of them shall remain or may award their custody to some third person if it seems expedient or for the benefit of the children.

In making an order or judgment relative to the custody of children, the rights of the parents shall, in the absence of misconduct, be held to be equal, and the happiness and welfare of the children shall determine their 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.
Child Support In determining the amount of the child support obligation or in approving the agreement of the parties, the court shall apply the child support guidelines promulgated by the chief justice for administration and management, and there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the amount of the order which would result from the application of the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support to be ordered.

If, after taking into consideration the best interests of the child, the court determines that a party has overcome such presumption, the court shall make specific written findings indicating the amount of the order that would result from application of the guidelines; that the guidelines amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances; the specific facts of the case which justify departure from the guidelines; and that such departure is consistent with the best interests of the child.
Spousal Support Upon divorce or upon a complaint in an action brought at any time after a divorce, whether such a divorce has been adjudged in this commonwealth or another jurisdiction, the court of the commonwealth, provided there is personal jurisdiction over both parties, may make a judgment for either of the parties to pay alimony to the other.