Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

What are the grounds of Divorce in Massachusetts?

Is My spouse at fault for our divorce?

Can I change my name at the time of divorce?

Can I get an annulment?

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce?

Can I record my conversations with my spouse?


What are the grounds of Divorce in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, divorce is granted on a fault or no-fault basis. This means that you do not need to prove that your spouse is at fault in order to get a divorce.

The no fault divorce grounds are called "Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage." There are two types of no-fault divorces, they are often referred to as 1A and 1B (which refers to the section of the law where they are found, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, sections 1A and1B). 1A divorce is an uncontested divorce in which both spouses agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they have reached a written agreement with respect to child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody and the division of marital assets. 1B divorce is a contested divorce in which one spouse believes there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or both spouses believe the marriage has ended but they are not in agreement with regard to custody, support or marital property issues.

If you are divorcing based on fault the grounds for a fault-based divorce in Massachusetts are: (1) your spouse committed adultery, (2) your spouse deserted/abandoned you, (3) your spouse has gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, (4) you received cruel and abusive treatment from your spouse, (5) your spouse does not support you, (6) your spouse is impotent, or (7) your spouse is serving a prison sentence of 5 or more years.

Most of Massachusetts divorces will be filed on a no fault basis.

Is My spouse at fault for our divorce?

The seven grounds for a fault-based divorce in Massachusetts are: (1) your spouse committed adultery, (2) your spouse deserted/abandoned you, (3) your spouse has gross and confirmed habits of intoxication, (4) you received cruel and abusive treatment from your spouse, (5) your spouse does not support you, (6) your spouse is impotent, or (7) your spouse is serving a prison sentence of 5 or more years.

Your spouse must fall under one or more of these seven categories in order for the court to determine that they are at fault. You must provide evidence to the court to support that your spouse is at fault.

Can I change my name at the time of divorce?

Yes, you can change your name back to your maiden name at the time of divorce. In your petition for divorce you must indicate that you want to change your name. When the final divorce judgment is entered by the court, your name change will take effect. Note: you are only allowed to change your name back to your maiden name. if you want to change to a name other than your maiden name, you must file the necessary paperwork through the court.

Can I get an annulment?

It depends. To get an annulment, you need to prove that your marriage is either void or voidable. If you were not legally allowed to marry in the first place and the state will never approve such a marriage, it is called a “void” marriage.  If you were not legally permitted to marry because of a particular problem, but the state will allow you to choose to remain married, you have a “voidable” marriage.

Your marriage is void if: (1) one of you was already married to someone else, or (2) you have married a close relative or a close relative by marriage.

Your marriage is voidable if: (1) one of the spouses lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage at the time (ex. Spouse was drunk or mentally ill), (2) One spouse is not physically capable of sexual intercourse, (3) one of the spouses was underage, or (4) there was fraud involved in getting married (the fraud must go to the heart of the marriage itself).

An annulment can take as long as a divorce, so this is not a way to get around a divorce.

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce?

No, you do not need a lawyer to get a divorce. If you feel comfortable completing the forms and representing yourself in court, then you can do without a lawyer. However, you might want to strongly consider getting the assistance of a lawyer if you do not feel comfortable with the forms or representing yourself. Also, if there are issues involving child support, child custody, spousal support, property division, and fault based divorce, it may be best for all parties involved if you obtain a lawyer to help with these issues.

Can I record my conversations with my spouse?

It depends. If you have their permission, then yes you can record the conversation. Massachusetts makes it a crime to secretly record a conversation, whether the conversation is in-person or taking place by telephone or another medium. This also applies to video recording when sound is captured.