Who Should File for Divorce First in Massachusetts?

Husband filing divorce paperwork in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there is no strategic advantage in terms of legal outcomes based on who files for divorce first, as the courts do not consider the order of filing as a factor in the decisions they make regarding the divorce. The person who files first is designated as the Plaintiff and the other as the Defendant, which only means that the Plaintiff presents their evidence first if the case goes to trial​​.

However, there are some practical considerations that may influence one’s decision to file first. Filing first can show seriousness about the divorce, allow for proactive steps in preparing the case, and can give a sense of control over the situation. It can also provide financial advantages, such as taking a snapshot of the financial situation before assets can be hidden or dispersed.

Navigating Your Divorce in Massachusetts:
A Guide to Taking the First Step

Embarking on the path of divorce is never easy, but being well-informed can ease the journey. As an attorney who’s guided many through this process in Massachusetts, I want to ensure that you have the knowledge to navigate these waters with confidence. Understanding whether to file first in a divorce is a strategic decision that can affect the outcome and the experience. This guide will help you weigh the options and choose the best course of action for your unique situation.

Understanding the
Legal Landscape

Massachusetts law recognizes both fault and no-fault divorces. A no-fault divorce, which cites an ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage, is the most common path because it doesn’t require proof of wrongdoing. Fault-based divorces, while available, are less common due to the complexity and burden of proof required. Whichever route you choose, the process begins when one spouse files a Complaint for Divorce with the court, setting the legal proceedings in motion.

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.

Strategic Advantages of
Filing First

Filing for divorce first in Massachusetts can provide strategic advantages. As the plaintiff, you will present your case first if your divorce goes to trial, which can set the stage for the entire proceeding. Additionally, filing first sometimes allows you to choose the jurisdiction and timing, ensuring that you are proceeding on your own terms and timeline. It can also prevent your spouse from hastily disposing of assets or incurring further debt, as the filing triggers automatic financial restraining orders.

Financial Considerations and Asset Protection

 When you initiate the divorce, you can protect your financial interests from the start. The Massachusetts courts issue an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO) on assets, ensuring that property and accounts remain status quo upon filing. This means your spouse cannot sell, transfer, or borrow against property, change beneficiaries on policies, or destroy any marital assets. By filing first, you essentially lock in the financial snapshot of your marriage, which can be vital in complex financial disputes.

The Psychological and
Emotional Benefits

There’s an emotional side to filing first as well. Taking this step can provide psychological relief as it signals a move from contemplation to action. This shift can bring a sense of empowerment and control during a time that often feels tumultuous and reactive. The clarity that comes with this decision can also provide a foundation for future negotiations and a framework for the next chapter of your life.

Making an Informed Decision

Choosing whether to file first for divorce is a personal decision with legal, financial, and emotional implications. It’s important to weigh these considerations carefully. This guide is just the beginning. As your attorney, I’m here to provide personalized advice that aligns with your goals and needs. Together, we can navigate this process, protect your interests, and work towards a resolution that sets you on a path to a brighter future.

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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