What Happens After Divorce Papers Are Served in Massachusetts?

After divorce papers are served in Massachusetts, you must respond with an Answer within 20 days. If you don’t the court could enter a default judgment against you. If that happens, you’ll lose your case before it’s even started. An automatic restraining order goes into place preventing either party from taking assets or incurring more debt. The court may issue temporary orders establishing such things as child custody and spousal support while the divorce is in progress.

Serving Divorce Papers

In a contested divorce, the process in Massachusetts begins with one spouse filing a divorce complaint with the Probate and Family court. This document is then served to the other spouse, typically by a sheriff or constable. You will want to ensure that your spouse receives a copy of the complaint. This is a crucial step because it triggers the legal process.

The Importance of Financial Disclosures

One critical aspect of divorce proceedings in Massachusetts is the requirement for both parties to provide full financial disclosures. This means disclosing all:

  • income,
  • assets,
  • debts, and
  • expenses.

These disclosures are crucial in determining issues like:

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

Failure to provide accurate financial information can lead to penalties, so it’s vital to be thorough and honest in this regard.

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.

Negotiating and Settling Your Divorce

Divorce cases can take different paths in Massachusetts. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on issues like:

  • child custody,
  • property division, and
  • spousal support,

you may pursue an uncontested divorce. This approach can be quicker and less expensive than going to court. We’ll help you draft a written separation agreement, which outlines the terms of your divorce and represents your mutual decisions.

In cases where negotiation fails, or if there are outstanding issues that cannot be resolved amicably, your divorce may proceed to trial. In that case, we’ll represent you in court, presenting evidence, witnesses, and arguments to the judge.

Child Custody and Support

If you and your spouse have minor children, child custody and support will be significant aspects of your divorce case. The Massachusetts family court always considers the best interests of your child when making custody decisions.

Child support is another crucial issue that will be addressed. The court will use established guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of child support, taking into account both parents’ incomes and your child’s needs.

Property Division and
Spousal Support

Dividing marital property can be a complex process. Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. We’ll need to identify marital assets, such as:

  • real estate,
  • bank accounts,
  • credit cards, and
  • any other joint assets,

and work towards a proposed settlement that considers both parties’ particular needs.

Spousal support, also known as alimony, may be a factor in your divorce case. The court will evaluate various factors, such as:

  • the length of the marriage,
  • the financial contributions of each spouse, and
  • their ability to support themselves.

We want to protect your rights and financial security, whether you are seeking spousal support or contesting it.

Court Proceedings and
Final Judgment

Throughout the divorce process, there will be various court proceedings, including hearings and conferences. We’ll prepare for these events, ensuring that you are well-prepared and understand what to expect. The court will issue temporary orders to address immediate issues such as:

  • child custody,
  • spousal support, and
  • use of the family home

while the divorce is pending.

Once all issues are resolved, either through negotiation, mediation, or trial, the court will issue a judgment of divorce nisi. This judgment signifies that the divorce is granted but not yet final. After a waiting period, typically 90 days, the judgment of divorce nisi becomes absolute, and you will receive a judgment of divorce absolute, officially ending your marriage.

Post-Divorce Matters and
Legal Rights

After the divorce is finalized, it’s essential to be aware of post-divorce matters that may arise. These can include:

  • modifications to child custody or support orders,
  • enforcement of court orders, and
  • addressing any outstanding issues from the divorce.


Navigating the divorce process in Massachusetts can be challenging, but with the right legal advice and support, you can make informed decisions and achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. Remember that affordable legal help is available, and seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

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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