There are two different common ways to obtain a divorce in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The first is an uncontested divorce or “1A” divorce. The other is a contested divorce which is typically referred to as a “1B” divorce.

Historically, divorcing couples needed to state grounds or faults for filing divorce.  These grounds still exist today in Massachusetts and are listed in Mass. General Laws chapter 208, section 1:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Gross and confirmed habits of intoxication
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Non-support
  • Impotency
  • A prison sentence of 5 or more years

In most instances, it is easier to file for “no fault” divorce under “1A” or “1B.” Filing a “fault” divorce requires proving one these grounds and can prolong the divorce process.

A “no fault” divorce is a divorce where the marriage has become broken beyond reasonable repair. In many states this is referred to as “irreconcilable differences.” Under Massachusetts law, it is referred to as an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.”

Uncontested Divorce: 1A Divorce 

Both spouses are often in complete agreement that their marriage is over and beyond repair, and have reached agreements on child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody, dividing marital assets and liabilities, and other issues. Once both spouses have acknowledged in writing that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and have signed a Separation Agreement with terms including child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody, and dividing marital assets, they may jointly file an uncontested no-fault divorce petition. If they have minor children, they will be required to attend a court-approved parenting class before a divorce is granted.

Contested Divorce: 1B Divorce

If only one spouse believes that the marriage is over and there is an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” or both spouses believe the marriage is beyond repair, but they are not in agreement regarding alimony or spousal support, child custody, child support, or dividing marital property or debts, the only option is to file a contested “no fault” divorce.

After filing for a contested divorce, parties often come to an agreement and may file a motion to convert the case to an uncontested “1A” divorce. In many counties in Massachusetts, the divorce may be finalized immediately. In other counties, you may need to wait from three to five weeks for a hearing to have a Judge to approve the divorce agreement or “Separation Agreement.” There is typically no wait if a hearing is already scheduled.

Nisi Period

The divorce nisi is the period of time between the judge granting the divorce and when the divorce becomes final. In Massachusetts, a divorce does not become final for up to 120 days following the judge entering a judgment of divorce. The parties may not remarry during this “nisi period.”  The parties have a chance to change their minds and make sure one party did not fail to report assets or mislead the Court or the other party about their property holdings or income. No further action is required. Once the “nisi period” is over, the divorce will automatically become final. For a 1A divorce, a judgment nisi is entered automatically thirty days after entry of the order approving the agreement. Ninety days later the divorce become final. For a 1B divorce, the divorce becomes final 90 days from the date of the hearing if a judgment is entered.

If your divorce requires orders regarding alimony or spousal support, child custody, child support, college expenses, medical insurance coverage, dividing marital property or debts, you should retain an experienced divorce attorney to ensure your interests are protected.

If you are interested in seeking a contested or uncontested divorce in the Boston, MA area, please contact us at 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation today, and see how we can help you through this difficult process.