How Long Does the Average Divorce Take in Massachusetts? 

Couple meeting with an affordable Massachusetts divorce lawyer

In Massachusetts, an uncontested divorce can take about six months to finalize, while a contested divorce may take around 12 to 18 months due to disputes over issues like custody, alimony, or property division.

The Heart of the Matter:
Types of Divorce in Massachusetts

Uncontested Divorce: The Amicable Route

In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all the issues. This path is less about fault and more about forging a separation agreement that honors the best interests of everyone involved. If there is even one thing you and your spouse can’t agree to, you’ll have to go down the contested divorce route.

Contested Divorce: When Consensus is Out of Reach

For many couples, an uncontested divorce isn’t possible. A contested divorce takes longer, is more costly and more stressful. It’s best to try to come to an agreement on as many issues as possible, then you have less to fight about in court.

The Legal Thicket:
Navigating Divorce Proceedings

Initial Steps: Filing Divorce Papers

The divorce process officially begins with the filing of divorce papers. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse file the paperwork together. If you’re getting a contested divorce, one of you files the documents and have the other one served with those papers by a sheriff or constable. From the filing date, a clock starts ticking, governed by Massachusetts family law.

Financial Entanglements: Dealing with Assets and Support

Finances play a huge role in divorce. Property division, child support payments, and even who keeps the health insurance can lead to a difficult process. Property that you both want to keep must be divided somehow.

The Children's Chapter:
Custody and Support

Protecting Minor Children: The Court's Prime Directive

When it comes to your children during your divorce, the court always wants to do what is in their best interest. That includes deciding who they’ll live with to how much parenting time the other parent will have. If you want custody of your children, we’ll have to show the judge why living with you is the best thing for them.

Child Support Payments: A Delicate Calculation

Children are expensive to raise, and the court recognizes that. Each parent has to be financially responsible for your children. Massachusetts uses the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines when setting the amount of child support. It takes into account several factors, such as:

  • Each parent’s income,
  • Child care costs, and
  • Health insurance costs.

The Waiting Game:
Understanding Massachusetts' Mandatory
Waiting Periods

From Hearing Date to Nisi Period

After the court hearing, there’s a mandatory waiting period – the nisi period – a time when the judgment of divorce nisi sits, waiting to become final. For uncontested divorces the nisi period is 120 days. For contested divorces, it’s 90 days. You don’t have to do anything during this time. It’s just a waiting period.

The Financial Fabric:
Spousal Support and Division of Assets

Alimony: What to Expect

Spousal support, or alimony, is a key aspect of many divorces, especially when one spouse has sacrificed career advancement for the family. It’s not part of every divorce. When deciding about alimony, the court considers several factors, such as:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • The income of each spouse,
  • The earning capacity of each spouse, and
  • Each spouse’s needs.

Real Estate and Retirement: Dividing More Than Just Property

Real estate often represents the bulk of a couple’s assets, but the division of assets can extend to pension funds and other retirement savings. When it comes to dividing your marital home, there’s a lot of emotional attachment that’s involved. It’s not just an asset. Massachusetts is an equitable division state. That means that the court will divide your property fairly, not necessarily equally.

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.

Choosing Your Path:
Mediation, Collaboration, or Traditional Divorce

Divorce Mediation: A Path to Amicable Resolution

Divorce mediation is often a less adversarial and more cost-effective alternative to traditional divorce, allowing couples to work through a divorce mediator. The mediator is a neutral person who tries to get you and your spouse to come to an agreement on your issues. It gives you more of a say in the outcome of your divorce.

Collaborative Divorce: A Team Approach

Collaborative divorce involves both parties working together with their attorneys and other experts to reach a settlement agreement without going to court. This can be a less expensive and less stressful option than a traditional divorce. Here, it’s all about cooperation and seeking an amicable outcome.

Reaching a Settlement:
The End of the Legal Road

The divorce settlement represents the culmination of the legal separation process – it’s when the divorce decree is finally issued. It can be a long and difficult journey, but you can make it. Many people are going through the same thing. I’ve been through it myself, twice. I can tell you from experience, that there is life after divorce, a better life. Good luck on your journey.

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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