Uncontested Divorces: The Best Way To End The Unhappy Marriage
Over half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Divorces are usually acrimonious and extremely litigious. In Massachusetts, as an example, it is not uncommon for divorcing spouses to obtain divorce lawyers, as both spouses prepare for a long-fought court battle. Indeed, a contested divorce in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts often times will last years, and will cost both former spouses tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.
However, although uncommon, there is a small-percentage of divorcing spouses that have an amicable relationship. The marriage did not work out. But nonetheless, the spouses have an agreement with respect to their finances, their children, and their property. Both spouses are ready to accept and to move forward.
An uncontested divorce in Massachusetts is the most expeditious and cost efficient way of obtaining a divorce in Massachusetts, and while an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts requires voluminous amounts of paperwork, the expense and the toll the divorce takes on the parties and their children is exceedingly less than a hotly-contested divorce.
Below, we briefly go through the documents that are required for a Massachusetts uncontested divorce and explain each document and its importance.
The Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce: An Agreement Is Just The Beginning
Divorce/Separation Agreement. Obviously, out of all of the documents that are necessary to start an uncontested Massachusetts Divorce, the most important document is the Divorce Agreement. This document must totally and completely resolve all matters that relate to the parties’ marriage. This includes a parenting schedule, a child support order, division of all assets and debts, alimony (if applicable), health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, taxes, etc. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Each case is different and you may have issues or concerns in your divorce that may not exist in another divorce case. You must be careful with this document. It is binding upon you, your spouse, and your children for a very, very long time. If at all possible, I would strongly recommend retaining an attorney to assist in the entirety of this process, but if that is not practical, I would at least recommend that each party retain an attorney to independently review the Divorce Agreement between the parties.
Financial Statements of Both Parties. In an uncontested Massachusetts Divorce, the parties are required to file financial statements. The “Massachusetts Divorce Financial Statement Form” is created by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court and there are numerous forms to complete, dependent upon your financial circumstances. For example, every individual must complete the “Massachusetts Financial Statement Form,” however, there are two separate forms to use dependent upon your gross income. If you earn less than $75,000.00 per year, you may file the “Short Form Financial Statement.” If, however, you earn more than $75,000.00 per year, you must file a “Long Form Financial Statement.” This form, unlike the Short Form, must be notarized by a Notary Public.
Financial Statement Schedule A. Now more than ever, we are an economy of small business owners. Accordingly, if you are self-employed in Massachusetts you must file a “Financial Statement Schedule A,” along with your Short or Long Form Financial Statement. This form gives the court a snapshot of your monthly expenses, revenues, etc., and is a vital tool in providing the court with a complete picture of your small business’s financial circumstances.
Financial Statement Schedule B. If you own rental property and obtain income from said property, you must also complete “Financial Statement Schedule B.” This form is used to provide the court and the other party with a snapshot of your annual rental incomes and expenses. It is imperative that the information provided in this form is correct and up-to-date.
2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (If the parties have children). It is imperative that the court insures that any child involved in a divorce proceeding are financially supported by both parents. To that end, the “2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet” must be completed and filed with the Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce Packet.
Further, it is imperative the parties understand that the weekly child support figure the guidelines suggest is the child support figure the court will impose upon the parties. However, the parties may agree to a higher or lower amount, but the parties must have articulable reasons as to why the order that deviates from the amount suggested by the “Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.” (“She doesn’t want that much” is not a valid reason, fyi).
Certificate of Absolute Divorce or Annulment. The “Certificate of Absolute Divorce or Annulment” is required at the outset of a Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce. This form asks for basic information regarding your marriage, such as how long the marriage was, how many children were born of the marriage, etc.
Certified Copy of Your Marriage Certificate. The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court requires that the parties file a certified copy of your marriage certificate upon the commencement of an uncontested Massachusetts Divorce. A certified copy of your marriage certificate is available in the city or town where you were married, or you may obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate online here.
Joint Petition for Divorce. The Massachusetts Family and Probate Court requires that the parties file ONE Joint Petition for Divorce. This is a straight-forward document that each party must sign. The Joint Petition for Divorce provides the court with the necessary information and the necessary request by both parties that their marriage be dissolved.
Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceedings. Each party must complete their own “Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceedings.” This document certifies to the court that there are no current or closed custody cases involving the parties children. Each party is required to file their own document and each party is required to sign the affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury.
Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce: The Uncontested Divorce Hearing
After the filing of the Joint Petition or a Divorce, and all the attached documents, the court will schedule the matter for an uncontested divorce hearing.
The uncontested divorce hearing itself is very brief. The court will review the parties’ divorce agreement to insure the agreement is fair and reasonable, and that there have been adequate provisions for each party and for the parties’ children. After the court has reviewed the Divorce Agreement, the parties will be asked certain questions to determine that you have read the agreement; that you believe it to be fair reasonable under the circumstances; and, that you have had the opportunity to review your spouse’s financial statements, and believe those statements to be true.
Upon the completion of the uncontested Massachusetts divorce hearing, Massachusetts Probate and Family Court will send you a copy of the judgment of divorce for your records. The divorce will be absolute 120 days after the hearing, and the parties remain married until this “divorce nisi” period is over.
Attorney Anthony Rao, Esq. has handled hundreds of uncontested divorces throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is available for a free telephone consultation at 617-953-0836, or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the uncontested divorce process in Massachusetts.