Contested and Uncontested Divorce- An Overview

There are two types of divorce in Massachusetts: contested and uncontested. The type you file in your divorce will depend on whether you and your spouse can come to an agreement regarding the major issues in your divorce.

If a divorce is contested and one spouse files for divorce pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 208, sec. 1B, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period before a judge will grant a Judgment of Divorce. After the court enters a Judgment of Divorce, there is also a statutory Nisi period of ninety (90) days. Therefore the divorce will not be final and neither party will be able to remarry until after the expiration of the nisi period. The purpose of the nisi period is to allow parties to change their mind if they decide to reconcile.

The Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts place all contested divorce cases on a 14 month track. It is therefore not uncommon for a divorce to take a year to fourteen months to process. If parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement quickly, or there are continuances, and/or the case is scheduled for trial, a divorce case may take much longer than fourteen (14) months

If a divorce is uncontested and filed pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 208, sec. 1A, there is no six- month waiting period before the court will grant the divorce. However, the court will wait thirty days from the date the parties appear in court before entering a Judgment of Divorce. Thereafter, the 90-day Nisi period still applies which means the divorce will not be final for a total of 120 days

In order to file under a Joint Petition or Uncontested 1A petition the parties must essentially be in complete agreement as to the resolution of all issues. Issues in divorce actions typically involve child custody, child support, visitation, alimony, division of debt, division of real-estate and personal property, and health insurance and uninsured medicals. If the parties are unable to resolve all of these issues and require the courts assistance then the parties must proceed under a 1B Contested Petition.

In general, uncontested or 1A divorces are often less expensive to pursue and faster to obtain. However, it is often worth each party’s time and effort to consult an experienced attorney before coming to agreement or filing a 1A petition as the results of entering into an agreement that one does not fully understand can be far more costly in both time and money than obtaining legal advice from the outset.