If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse cannot resolve the issues, the divorce will go into litigation. In a Massachusetts contested divorce, as in other adversary civil proceedings, there is a plaintiff and a defendant. This means that a request for divorce (the complaint) is filed in a Massachusetts court by one of the spouses (the plaintiff). This is what is called a 1B complaint for divorce. After filing, the papers are then served with a summons upon the other spouse (the defendant) by a sheriff, constable or other process server. In Massachusetts, the complaint can be filed in whichever county either of the parties live. When a party lives out of state, most states provide that they cannot file for a divorce there until they have established residency. This usually means they have to have lived there for at least a year. The plaintiff must prove the allegations in the complaint for the divorce to be granted. Massachusetts recognizes irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship as grounds for divorce which is what often is referred to as a no-fault divorce.
The defendant must answer the complaint in writing within twenty days. Once the suit is filed, and an answer is received, the case enters the pretrial period, which may last several months. It is important to know, however, that the parties may agree upon mutual settlement at any time during this period, in which case the case does not go to trial.
During the pretrial or discovery period, each side prepares its arguments and collects all pertinent facts and documents. Each spouse also has the right to review the other spouse’s information. Discovery may include interrogatories (questions which the other side must answer in writing under oath), depositions (oral questioning outside the courtroom) and requests for documents such as financial records. You can expect to hear from your lawyer if she requires documentation from you, or if there is a scheduled court date. Parties to a divorce are required to attend all court hearings with their legal counsel so make sure you are able to clear your calendar when the time comes.
The attorneys may present requests (motions) to the judge, who may or may not grant them. For example, they may request postponement of a court date or ask for certain information to be provided by the other spouse.
The large majority of 1B divorce cases in Massachusetts are settled out of court. If this is not achieved, a trial will take place before a judge (without a jury). Each party presents his or her case and evidence to support it, which may include testimony by witnesses. After hearing all evidence, the judge will study the case and issue a decision, usually several days later.
If you or your spouse plans to dissolve the marriage, you need an experienced Massachusetts family law attorney to help you guide you through the divorce process. We handle all family law matters are handled with the utmost care and compassion. Call us today toll free at 978-851-2291, or contact us online.
For your convenience, appointments may be scheduled during flexible hours. Our office is centrally located in Tewksbury near Route 93 and Route 495. We serve clients in Middlesex and Essex County.