Uncontested Divorces: Your Honor I Do Not Contest
Over 57% of marriages end in divorce in the United States. Divorce is now as commonplace as buying a house or sending a child off to college. The public-at-large is correct to assume that divorces are acrimonious, long, and passionate battles. After all, a divorce involves the only things that truly matter to any sensible person, e.g., children, family, your home, your retirement savings, etc. Not only does it involve these very important things, a divorce proceeding is literally the process that is used to determine how these things are divided between you and your current spouse.
However, a small-percentage of divorces begin with an agreement already in place between the spouses. While rare, an uncontested divorce is an expeditious, relatively inexpensive way of obtaining a divorce.
An uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, like in many other states, requires numerous and complicated documents to draft, compile, and collect. Indeed, unlike a Massachusetts contested divorce where the only requirement at the outset of the proceeding is the divorce complaint itself, an uncontested Massachusetts divorce requires every single document for your uncontested divorce be filed upon the commencement of your case. Below, we briefly go through the documents that are required for a Massachusetts uncontested divorce and explain each document and its importance.
Massachusetts Uncontested Divorce: The Document List
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.
Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (If the parties have children). It is imperative that the court insures that any children involved in a divorce proceeding are properly supported by both parents. To that end, the “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 entirety of the uncontested Massachusetts Divorce packet, the court (on its own) will schedule the matter for a hearing. (Be forewarned: due to the complexity of the uncontested divorce process, it is not uncommon for the court to return your packet with an explanation as to why the court did not process the uncontested divorce packet).
At the hearing itself, the parties should arrive promptly at the courthouse at 8:30am. The court will call all uncontested matters first, and you want to be prompt. The hearing itself is usually brief, as the court will review the Divorce Agreement to make certain it is 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 reasonable, and that you have had the opportunity to review your spouse’s financial statements, etc. Pursuant to Massachusetts law, the divorce will be absolute 120 days after the hearing. (Neither party can remarry in this time period).
Attorney Anthony Rao has handled hundreds of uncontested Massachusetts Divorce throughout the entirety of the Commonwealth. He is available for a free-telephone consultation at 617-953-0836, or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org