Can You Contest a Divorce in Massachusetts?

Yes, you can contest a divorce in Massachusetts. Grounds for contesting include fault-based reasons and jurisdictional issues. It involves filing a response, gathering evidence, negotiation, and potentially going to trial. Legal representation is essential, but alternative options like mediation can also be explored.

Understanding Divorce
in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, divorce can be a complex and emotional process. First, it’s important to understand that there are two main types of divorce: contested and uncontested. Contested divorce occurs when both spouses cannot agree on certain key issues, while uncontested divorce involves mutual agreement on all issues. Grounds for divorce in Massachusetts can be categorized into fault-based and no-fault grounds. Understanding these distinctions is crucial in determining whether you can contest your divorce.

Grounds for Contesting a Divorce in Massachusetts

Lack of Jurisdiction

One possible reason to contest a divorce is a lack of jurisdiction. This means that either you or your spouse does not meet the residency requirements for filing a divorce in Massachusetts. To proceed with a divorce in this state, either you or your spouse must have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year before filing the divorce complaint or that you lived here as a couple, and the cause of your divorce happened here. Contesting on jurisdictional grounds requires proving that neither party meets these requirement.

Fault-Based Grounds

Massachusetts recognizes fault-based grounds for divorce, which can provide a basis for contesting the divorce. These grounds include:

  • adultery,
  • cruelty and abuse, and
  • desertion.

To contest the divorce on fault-based grounds, you must be prepared to present evidence that supports your claims. This can involve providing witness testimonies, documentation, or other forms of proof to demonstrate the misconduct of your spouse.

No-Fault Divorce Grounds

The most common ground for divorce in Massachusetts is a no-fault divorce, based on the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” Contesting a no-fault divorce may involve demonstrating that the marriage is not, in fact, irretrievably broken, or that both parties can work on reconciling their differences. Although it’s possible to contest the divorce on these grounds, it’s unlikely a judge will agree. If your spouse wants out of the marriage, you generally can’t stop them from getting a divorce.

Contested Divorce Process

Steps in Contesting a Divorce

Contesting a divorce in Massachusetts involves several steps, each with its own legal requirements. First, you must file a response to your spouse’s divorce complaint within a specific timeframe, typically 20 days. This response outlines your position and any counterclaims you may have. Following this, the discovery phase begins, during which both parties exchange information and evidence. Mediation and negotiation are typically attempted to reach a settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached, a pretrial conference and eventually a divorce trial may be necessary.

Affordable Massachusetts Divorce Solutions

An affordable divorce is possible. At Afford Law, our fees are based on your income, so the less you earn, the less you pay. Our mission is to provide experienced legal help you can afford.

If you can’t afford our lower rates for a traditional attorney-client relationship, you have another option. Our legal coaching service can save you money and still give you access to a skilled attorney. In this arrangement, you represent yourself in court while we work with you behind the scenes to prepare you every step of the way. This service is available to you for one low monthly fee.

Grounds for Successfully Contesting a Divorce

Burden of Proof

In a contested divorce, the burden of proof falls on the party contesting the divorce. This means that you must provide evidence to substantiate your claims and convince the court that your reasons for contesting are valid. It’s crucial to work closely with your attorney to gather the necessary evidence and build a compelling case.

Factors Influencing the Court's Decision

When contesting a divorce, the court will consider various factors when making a decision. These factors may include:

  • the best interests of any children involved,
  • financial considerations,
  • property division, and
  • spousal support.

The court’s primary concern is to ensure a fair and just outcome.

Potential Outcomes

Contesting a divorce can lead to different outcomes, depending on the circumstances. While the goal may be to secure a more favorable settlement or prevent the divorce altogether, it’s important to be prepared for various outcomes. These can range from a negotiated settlement to a court-ordered resolution.

Alternatives to Contesting
a Divorce

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

Before fully engaging in a contested divorce, it’s worth exploring alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce. These methods prioritize open communication and cooperative decision-making, often resulting in a more amicable and cost-effective resolution.

Settlement Negotiations

Even in contested divorces, there is often room for settlement negotiations. We can engage with your spouse’s attorney to explore potential compromises and agreements that may avoid the need for a trial. Settlement negotiations can save both time and money while still achieving a fair resolution.

Benefits of Amicable Proceedings

While contesting a divorce may be necessary in some cases, pursuing an amicable resolution is often in the best interests of all parties involved. It can reduce emotional stress, save on legal costs, and allow for a smoother transition into post-divorce life, particularly if you have children.


In conclusion, contesting a divorce in Massachusetts is indeed possible, but it requires careful consideration of your circumstances, a strong legal strategy, and affordable legal representation. Whether your reasons are fault-based or stem from jurisdictional issues, consulting with an experienced attorney is your best course of action. Remember that the court’s ultimate goal is to achieve a fair and just outcome, and we’ll work diligently to protect your rights throughout the process.

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