Do You and Your Partner Need to Agree to Get a Divorce in Massachusetts?

Husband and wife agreeing to a Massachusetts divorce

In Massachusetts, you can file for divorce without your partner’s agreement. This would be a for a contested or what’s called a 1B divorce. In order to file for an uncontested divorce you and your spouse not only have to agree to the divorce, but to all the issues of the divorce before you file. The state allows for “no-fault” divorces, meaning you only need to claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken down.

Contested vs.
Uncontested Divorce

Contested Divorce in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the agreement of both parties is not necessary for a contested divorce. In a contested divorce, spouses may have significant disagreements on crucial matters such as:

  • property division,
  • child custody, or
  • alimony.

Despite these disagreements, the divorce process can move forward. In such cases, the court plays a vital role in resolving the disputes, making decisions based on legal arguments and evidence presented by both sides. The court’s intervention helps ensure that even when spouses cannot agree on various issues, the divorce can proceed and reach a resolution.

Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts

Conversely, the agreement of both parties is crucial for an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts. In an uncontested divorce, spouses must be in complete agreement on all terms, including:

  • the division of assets,
  • child custody arrangements, and
  • spousal support, if applicable.

This type of divorce offers a streamlined and often faster process, as it avoids the need for litigation and court intervention. Mutual consent between both parties is a fundamental requirement for pursuing an uncontested divorce, and it reflects a harmonious resolution to the marriage dissolution process.

Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
in Massachusetts

No-Fault Divorce

In Massachusetts, the standard method of divorce is known as a “no-fault” divorce. This means that you do not need to prove your spouse did something wrong to file for divorce. Unlike the old days when a spouse had to prove wrongdoing, a no-fault divorce simply requires one spouse to claim that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is a common ground for divorce in Massachusetts and does not necessitate mutual consent.

Grounds for Divorce

While “no-fault” divorce is the norm, there are also “fault-based” grounds for divorce, such as:

  • adultery,
  • cruelty, or
  • abandonment.

However, these grounds are less commonly used in modern divorce proceedings. In most cases, couples opt for no-fault divorce due to its simplicity and efficiency. It’s important to note that even if you choose a fault-based ground, your spouse’s agreement to the divorce is not mandatory.

The Divorce Process
in Massachusetts

Filing for Divorce

To initiate the divorce process in Massachusetts, one spouse must file a Complaint for Divorce in the appropriate court. This is a legal document outlining the reasons for divorce and the desired outcomes, such as:

  • child custody,
  • property division, and
  • alimony.

Importantly, your spouse’s agreement is not required at this stage unless it’s an uncontested divorce.

Service of Process

After filing the divorce papers for a contested divorce, they must be served to your spouse following the legal procedures. This is to ensure that your spouse is aware of the divorce proceedings. Your spouse’s response at this point can range from contesting the divorce issues to consenting, but their agreement is not necessary for the process to continue.

Response from the Other Spouse

When your spouse receives the divorce papers, they have the option to respond. They can either contest the divorce, meaning they disagree with its terms, or they can choose not to contest it, effectively consenting to the divorce. Even if they contest, it does not mean that both parties have to agree for the divorce to proceed.

The Role of an Attorney

Seeking legal representation during your divorce is crucial, especially if your spouse disagrees with the terms. An experienced attorney can protect your rights, guide you through the process, and negotiate on your behalf to reach a favorable resolution. Even in an uncontested divorce, legal counsel ensures that your interests are safeguarded.

How Much Does an
Attorney Cost?

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.

Mediation and Negotiation

Mediation or negotiation can be effective methods for reaching agreements with your spouse. A skilled attorney can help facilitate these discussions, making them less adversarial. The goal is to achieve mutually beneficial resolutions without the need for a contentious legal battle.


In short, you don’t need your spouse’s permission to get divorced. You can file for a contested divorce without their consent. However, if you want to file for an uncontested divorce, which will save you money, they must not only have to agree to a divorce, but they must agree to every issue of the divorce. If possible, you should pursue an uncontested divorce because it will save you money, time and stress. But that’s not always possible.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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