How Long Does a 1B Divorce Take in Massachusetts?

The timeline for a 1B divorce in Massachusetts can vary widely based on several factors. In a straightforward, uncontested case where both parties are in agreement, the process may be completed in as little as several months. However, if the divorce is contested, involves complex issues like property division or child custody disputes, or if the court has a backlog of cases, it can take significantly longer. On average, a 1B divorce in Massachusetts typically takes around 9 to 12 months to finalize, but it’s essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can provide a more accurate estimate based on your specific circumstances.

What is a 1B Divorce?

A 1B divorce, often referred to as a contested divorce, is a common type of divorce in Massachusetts. It’s called “1B” because it falls under Section 1B of Chapter 208 of the Massachusetts General Laws. In a 1B divorce, you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on all the issues of your divorce before filing the paperwork. It can be fault-based or no-fault which just means that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

The Initial Steps

The first thing we need to do is file the Complaint for Divorce, which is the official document that initiates the divorce process. This document outlines the basic details of your marriage, such as your names, addresses, and the grounds for divorce. It’s important to complete this step correctly, as errors or omissions can lead to delays.

Serving the Divorce Papers

Once the Complaint is filed, your spouse must be served with the divorce papers. This is done by a sheriff or constable physically handing them the papers. There are other ways to serve the papers, but we must have the court’s permission. It’s crucial to ensure proper service, as this establishes that your spouse is aware of the divorce proceedings.

Your spouse then has 20 days in which to respond to the Complaint. That response is called an Answer. They may also file a Counter-Claim where they ask the court for what they want out of the divorce.

Temporary Orders

In some cases, it’s necessary to request temporary orders to address immediate concerns like:

  • child custody,
  • support, or
  • spousal maintenance

during the divorce process.

We’ll assist you in filing for these orders and represent your interests in court. Temporary orders can significantly impact the divorce timeline, so it’s essential to handle them promptly.


Discovery is the process of gathering information and evidence related to your divorce, such as:

  • financial records,
  • property valuations, and
  • child custody evaluations.

This phase can be crucial in reaching a fair settlement. As your attorney, I’ll guide you through the discovery process, ensuring you provide the necessary information while also receiving the information you need from your spouse.

Negotiations often occur during the discovery phase. If both parties can agree on the terms of the divorce, it can save time and money. Mediation or collaborative divorce can be helpful in reaching an amicable resolution, and I’ll explain these options to you in detail.

Trial Preparation

If an amicable resolution isn’t possible, we’ll prepare for trial. This involves:

  • gathering evidence,
  • identifying witnesses, and
  • creating a strong case strategy.

Our goal is to represent your interests effectively in court, ensuring your voice is heard.

The Divorce Trial

The divorce trial is where both parties present their cases in front of a judge. I’ll be by your side, advocating for your rights and explaining the process. During the trial, we’ll:

  • present evidence,
  • cross-examine witnesses, and
  • make closing arguments.

While trials can be emotionally taxing, having an experienced attorney on your side can make a significant difference.

Post-Trial Proceedings

After the trial, we must wait for the judge’s decision. The judge will issue a Judgment of Divorce that outlines the terms of the divorce, including:

  • property division,
  • support, and
  • child custody arrangements.

After the judgment is issued, there is a waiting period of 90 days, called a nisi period. The purpose of this waiting period is for you and your spouse to change your mind and get back together. Also, it’s a time to bring something back before the judge that wasn’t known at the time of trial such as hidden assets.

Affordable Massachusetts Divorce Attorneys

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.

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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