In Massachusetts, you may proceed with an “uncontested” divorce or a “contested” divorce. A common misconception regarding the difference between an uncontested divorce and contested divorce is that one party may be opposed to getting divorced entirely. That, however, is not the case. The parties’ agreeability to the divorce itself has no bearing on whether a divorce will be granted.
An uncontested divorce is the result of the parties reaching an agreement as to the terms of the divorce on all issues in advance of filing with the Court. This includes the division of all property (the “marital estate”), division of any debts, custody of the children, child support, alimony, and/or any other terms relative to the dissolution of the marriage. In this instance, the parties file together as Joint Petitioners and seek the divorce jointly, filing with the Court all relevant forms and a fully executed Separation Agreement which outlines all agreed upon terms. The Court will then schedule the parties to appear for an uncontested hearing to present their agreement to the Court for approval. The divorce will become absolute (final) in 120 days after the Court’s approval of an agreement.
The benefits of an uncontested divorce generally include:
Having more control over the outcome of your case
Resolving your issues outside of court, often in a more amicable manner
If you and your spouse are both willing to work together and commit to reaching an agreement on the issues associated with your divorce, then an uncontested divorce may be a good option for you. Our divorce and family law attorneys at Bergeron | Burgess are well-equipped to help you navigate this option.
If you are wondering if the uncontested option may work for you and your spouse, please contact us today at 508-492-1618 to schedule an initial consultation.
Many individuals ultimately seek a divorce through the contested divorce option. Since an uncontested divorce is only an option where the parties fully agree on all terms in advance of filing, all it takes is a disagreement on a singular issue to make the case a contested divorce at the outset.
In a contested divorce, one party files a Complaint for Divorce in the Probate and Family Court. The Court processes the paperwork and opens a case. The Court will then return paperwork to the party who filed the divorce, including a Summons, which is required to be served on the other party, typically by a constable or sheriff.
Once the other party is served, certain protections are put in place such as the “Automatic Restraining Order”. The Automatic Restraining Order applies to the preservation of the marital estate and prohibits parties from dissipating and squandering assets, liquidating or transferring assets, incurring substantial debt, and removing the other party as beneficiary on life and health insurance policies.
There may be instances where parties need to be heard in court sooner rather than later. Once a contested divorce is filed, there are procedures in place to allow parties to seek temporary relief from the Court pending final resolution of their divorce matter. If a party is in need of financial contribution from the other party, access to or use of certain belongings, temporary custody of the children, or other temporary relief, a Motion for Temporary Orders may be appropriate. Depending on your unique circumstances, our divorce and family law attorneys can make requests for relief in your case while the matter is pending.
The filing of a Compliant for Divorce triggers rules regarding the mandatory disclosure of financial information. In addition to the documents required to be disclosed pursuant to court rules, the parties may seek additional “discovery” of other relevant information or documents. In order to determine whether a final settlement is fair or beneficial to you, it is important that there is a complete financial disclosure.
Approximately six months after the filing of a Complaint for Divorce, the Court will schedule a case for a Pre-Trial Conference. Many parties present a complete settlement for divorce on this date. In the event that you have not been able to reach a complete settlement, the Pre-Trial Conference is often an opportunity to elicit feedback from your judge regarding the issues which remain unresolved. The Court will oftentimes provide some guidance as to how they may review or determine certain issues in a case should the matter go to trial. Very often, the Court’s invaluable feedback during this Hearing will allow the parties to reach a full and final resolution of their divorce matter.
In some cases, settlement is not possible, and the parties must present their issues to the Court in a trial. At trial, each party will have the opportunity to present their case to the Court. The judge will ultimately decide what should happen with respect to the divorce and enter a Judgment as to all remaining contested issues including custody, child support, alimony, and the division of assets and liabilities.
In a contested divorce matter, the divorce will become absolute (final) 90 days after either the Court’s approval of a full agreement or the Court’s Judgment after a trial.
No matter the circumstances or the path your divorce matter leads you, our divorce and family law attorneys at Bergeron | Burgess are here to guide you each step of the way.
If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys regarding contested divorce, please contact us today at 508-492-1618 to schedule an initial consultation.