By Virginia A. Dyer, Esq., Associate Levine-Piro Law
There are two types of divorce in Massachusetts. They are uncontested divorces and contested divorces.
An uncontested divorce is where the parties have come to an agreement regarding the division of their assets and liabilities, child custody and visitation issues, if any, and the rights and responsibilities of each party. The couple would file a Joint Petition, the Separation Agreement and other required documents. The filing fee is $215. In most instances the couple can walk into court on an agreed upon day and get divorced. The divorce will become final 120 days from the date of the divorce. The parties will save considerable time and money by negotiating and coming to an agreement. If the parties do not want to spend the money retaining attorneys and want to come to an agreement, an attractive option to help them do so is mediation. Many law firms, including Levine-Piro Law, offer divorce mediation services. In the case of mediation, the mediator who is a lawyer, will act as a neutral third party and help the parties work toward a complete agreement. Once the parties are in agreement on all issues the mediator can draft a separation agreement for the parties and all the filing documents for the parties to bring to court. For more information on mediation, please visit Levine-Piro Law’s mediation page at http://www.middlesexmediation.com/.
A contested divorce is where there the parties cannot agree to the division of assets, child custody, visitation and financial rights and obligations. The filing fee would be $215, plus $5.00 for the cost of the Summons. The filing party would have to serve the Complaint for Divorce and accompanying documents on the other spouse in-hand by the Sheriff or Constable’s office in the county where the spouse lives. After filing the Complaint for Divorce, the court sends a Tracking Order, which indicates how long the court anticipates the case will take through the court. Cases that have fewer issues typically take about eight months depending on the court’s schedule. Cases that have significant financial or child custody and visitation issues are anticipated to take about 14 months. It is important to note that there are any number of reasons that the case could take longer. The court uses the Tracking Order to prevent cases from lingering indefinitely due to non-activity or failure to settle.
If the parties in a case are unable to come to a settlement agreement then the case will go to trial. The majority of divorce cases do not go to trial, and the Court schedules Status Conferences and Pre-Trial Conferences to keep the parties on track and to help the parties with settlement. Most of the family courts in Massachusetts now offer conciliation which is a free or low cost mediation program to help parties reach an agreement on contested issues.
If a contested divorce is able to settle within the first six months of the complaint being filed then the parties can can convert their Complaint for Divorce into a Joint Petition and file their Separation Agreement at any time. As mentioned before the divorce will become final 120 days from when the court enters the Judgment Nisi. Contested divorces that settle after the first six months become final 90 days from the date the Judgment Nisi is entered.
For divorce or other family law related questions, or to schedule a free consultation, call the experienced attorneys at Levine-Piro Law at 978-637-2048.