File for Divorce in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (MA) | Divorce in Suffolk County
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Divorce in Suffolk County

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Online Divorce in Suffolk County

divorce in Suffolk County

Please note: OnlineDivorce.com in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, is not a law firm, so it cannot provide legal advice. As a document preparation service, Online Divorce provides the information below for informational purposes only.

There are three types of dissolution procedures recognized in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. They include the fault-based, and two types of no-fault divorce (contested and uncontested). Nowadays, the absolute majority of divorcing couples prefer a no-fault procedure, since it is simple, fast, and more affordable.

The easiest and fastest way to terminate the marriage in Suffolk County is a no-fault uncontested divorce, called 1A divorce in Massachusetts. This type of process implies that the parties agree to file a Joint Petition and are ready to negotiate and arrange an amicable separation by resolving all the disputed issues out-of-court.

This type of dissolution can be easy enough that many spouses organize it without a lawyer as a do-it-yourself divorce. In such a case, the most difficult part is often the paperwork. Divorce documents can be tricky and require a lot of time, which makes Online Divorce an excellent solution for uncontested cases. For a much lower price than hiring an attorney, the Online Divorce company will handle the paperwork process for you.

OnlineDivorce.com in Suffolk County fills out all the required divorce papers within two days, based on the information provided by the customer with the help of an online interview. This quick and inexpensive service helps to complete the divorce forms correctly and meet all the court requirements with no effort. The customer receives printable divorce papers in PDF-format by email and can enjoy clear step-by-step instructions throughout the process.

Online Divorce takes into account the Family Law of the state, as well as local rules of the specific county and unique circumstances of each case to ensure that Middlesex Probate and Family Court will approve the completed documents with no hassle or delays.

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Valid grounds to get divorce in Suffolk County

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When filing for a divorce in Suffolk County, the spouses have to choose the specific ground for divorce which determines all further processes.

The state of Massachusetts recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Fault-based grounds mean that the other spouse’s misconduct led to the separation. All fault-based grounds have to be proven by the plaintiff by providing evidence to the court.

Pursuant to Ch. 208, Sec.1 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the fault-based grounds for divorce include:

  • Cruelty, abuse (physical or emotional)
  • Abandonment for at least one year
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Gross or wanton and cruel refusal or neglect to provide suitable support
  • Adultery
  • Impotence
  • Conviction of a felony crime (for five years)

The only no-fault ground for divorce in Suffolk County, Massachusetts is "Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage.” Under this ground, the spouses have the right to apply for divorce jointly (called 1A divorce in Massachusetts) as well as following a traditional option, meaning that one party is a plaintiff, and the other party is a defendant (called a 1B divorce), which is referred to as contested no-fault divorce.

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Custody of the child in Suffolk County

Custody of the child in Suffolk County

In Suffolk County, as well as in other Massachusetts counties, divorce with children involved must be decided following the best interests of the child.

In Massachusetts, there are two types of custody that may be granted to either one parent or both parents jointly - these are physical and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to the everyday care of a child and determines with whom the child lives. If joint physical custody is awarded, the child is assumed to have more or less equal periods of residing with each parent.

Legal custody determines who has the authority to make the most important decisions concerning the child's life. Joint legal custody may be appointed even if physical custody is sole.

According to Ch. 208, Sec. 31 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the courts shall not make a presumption of favoring one form of custody over another.

Thus, in a divorce in Suffolk County with a child involved, the court assesses each situation on a case-by-case basis. The judge shall consider numerous factors to determine which form of custody meets the best interests of the child, including but not limited to:

  • the child's emotional and physical health;
  • the parents' mental and physical health as well as a moral character;
  • the present living conditions of the child;
  • the parents' custody arrangement if any;
  • the parent-child relationship;
  • any history of domestic abuse, child abuse, or negligence.

Initially, both parents are presumed to have equal rights, so the judge encourages the divorcing parents to reach an agreement and write up a parenting plan. If the parents fail to agree on a resolution, the court will decide custody and visitation matters at its own discretion.

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Rules for child support in Suffolk County

According to Ch. 208, Sec. 28 of the Massachusetts General Laws, an award of shared legal or physical custody shall not affect a parent's responsibility for child support in Suffolk County. The court may order either parent to provide maintenance, health insurance, and education for any child of the marriage.

The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are used to determine child support based on a percentage of income formula.

The exact amount of child support in a particular divorce case shall be calculated by using a Child Support Worksheet, which takes into account both parents' incomes, child's needs, taxes paid, retirement contributions, and other relevant factors. After determining the amount, the spouses should consider any child support deviation factors provided by the Family Law of Massachusetts.

Also, the parties have the right to agree on the amount of child support, which may differ from what is recommended. The judge will approve the parents' motion if it meets the best interests of the child.

Rules for spousal support in Suffolk County

Rules for spousal support in Suffolk County

In a divorce proceeding in Suffolk County, any spouse is eligible to receive alimony if the court decides that the party who asks for spousal support really cannot support themselves (so the request is reasonable), and the other party is able to pay.

Pursuant to MGL, Ch. 208, Sec. 48, there are four types of alimony available in Massachusetts:

  • Rehabilitative alimony. Typically is ordered for a certain fixed period needed for the other spouse to become self-supporting.
  • Reimbursement. This may be either a one-time or monthly payment aimed to cover education expenses or other improvements to the professional skills of the second spouse.
  • Transitional. This alimony order helps the recipient to start a new life (to move, to change employment, and more).
  • General term alimony. This is long-term maintenance for a recipient who cannot support themselves for some reason. Typically, the duration of the alimony is directly proportional to the length of the marriage.
    Thus, in Suffolk County, for marriages lasting less than five years, alimony cannot last more than half the length of the marriage. In comparison, in a case of divorce after 10 years of marriage and more, alimony can last up to 70% of the length of the marriage.

According to MGL, Ch. 208, Sec. 34, the court may determine the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance based upon a consideration of:

  • the length of the marriage;
  • the conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  • each spouse's age and health;
  • each spouse's income;
  • each spouse's skills and employability;
  • each spouse's estate, liabilities, and needs, as well as the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

Uncontested Suffolk County divorce with children

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Property division in Suffolk County

Property division in Suffolk County

To get a divorce in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, the spouses are encouraged to settle the most disputed terms of their case on their own. If the spouses can agree on dividing the property they own out-of-court, the judge generally accepts a fair and reasonable property division. If the parties fail to agree, the property shall be divided by the Family Court.

To understand how property is divided in a divorce in Suffolk County, it is worth knowing that Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state. In a divorce process, the spouses' property must be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. According to Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 208, Sec. 34, the court decides what would be equitable for a particular divorce case by weighing a lot of factors, including but not limited to:

  • the length of the marriage;
  • the conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  • each spouse's age and health condition;
  • each spouse's employability and earning capacity;
  • the amount and sources of income;
  • vocational skills;
  • employability;
  • estate;
  • liabilities and needs of each of the parties.

Typically, in equitable distribution states, each party's separate property (for example, acquired before the marriage, or inherited by either spouse) is not subject to division. Nevertheless, in Suffolk County, as well as throughout the state, Family Courts have the authority to divide assets of the spouses, regardless of if it was acquired before or after the marriage.

Mediation support in Suffolk County

When getting a divorce in Suffolk County, the spouses may resort to mediation to settle the terms of their dissolution.

Divorce mediation is a non-adversarial approach to resolving disputes. The Massachusetts courts define it as "an informal, confidential process where a neutral person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a case without prescribing what it should be." Mediation is voluntary, but, according to Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 208, Sec. 1A, the court may refer the spouses and children for counseling when the couple is going to obtain a divorce under the ground of irreconcilable differences. Also, in Suffolk County, all divorcing parents with minor children (under the age of 18) have to take a parenting class.

How to file for divorce in Suffolk County | Step-by-Step

1

Foremost, to file for divorce in Suffolk County, the couple has to meet Massachusetts residency requirements, which vary depending on the case circumstances. According to Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 208, Sec. 4, 5, 6, if the ground for divorce occurred within the state, the conditions are quite easy - either spouse must currently reside in Massachusetts.
But if it is impossible to prove that the ground for divorce occurred in the state, one of the parties must have been a resident of Massachusetts for at least one year preceding the filing of the Petition for Divorce.
Also, the plaintiff should file for divorce in the county where he or she currently lives.

2

To start the divorce procedure in Suffolk County, the petitioner has to file the Petition and other divorce documents in the Middlesex Probate and Family Court.

3

At the moment of filing, the plaintiff is required to pay a court filing fee. This fee is mandatory in Suffolk County regardless of the type of divorce.

4

In the case of uncontested dissolution of marriage (1A), both spouses should fill out and sign a Joint Petition for Divorce form. 1A no-fault divorce is a perfect option if both parties agree, since it takes much less time than other types of dissolution recognized in Massachusetts.
If a person is filing for a 1B divorce, the next step is to decide how to serve divorce papers to the other spouse. In Suffolk County, serving divorce papers, including the Summons and Complaint, is allowed by hiring a sheriff or constable. The plaintiff has to pay the sheriff or constable for the service. When they hand the copies to the defendant, they also give the defendant a tracking notice. The Summons contains the Return of Service form, which is proof that the defendant was served. The service process shall be accomplished within 90 days after the plaintiff files the complaint. After that, the defendant has 20 days to file the Response.

5

In a 1A dissolution, a final court hearing can be scheduled in a few weeks after the filing date, while in the case of a 1B divorce, there is a mandatory waiting period, and a hearing cannot be scheduled any sooner than six months from the filing date unless the court has granted a waiver.

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Filing fees for divorce in Suffolk County

How much a divorce can cost in Suffolk County depends on many factors, including attorney fees, mediation support, and other services the spouses may choose. Nevertheless, the court filing fee is $200 in Massachusetts regardless of the type of dissolution. This payment is mandatory, as well as the sheriff's service fee unless the plaintiff is qualified for a fee waiver due to financial hardship. To waive the court costs, the plaintiff has to disclose their financial information and fill out Affidavit of Indigency and Supplement to the Affidavit of Indigency forms.

How long will it take?

How long it takes to finalize a divorce in Suffolk County mainly depends on the type of dissolution. 1A divorce is typically fast and takes on average between 90 to 120 days to finalize the process (the timeline is closer to the 120 days if there is a separation agreement involved).

Since a 1B dissolution requires a waiting period and the plaintiff has to wait until the defendant responds to the Summons, this procedure takes more time.

Filing for divorce in Suffolk County | Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a divorce cost in Suffolk County?
The cost of any dissolution of the marriage in Suffolk County starts with a court filing fee, and sheriff's service fee (if applicable). The other expenses vary depending on the unique circumstances of each couple, and whether they seek the help of attorneys or other 3rd party service providers. The cheapest option is a do-it-yourself process, while the most costly is traditional litigation. Thus, the cost of the whole procedure will depend on whether the spouses contest the case or can cooperate and arrange an amicable dissolution process.

How do you file for divorce in Suffolk County without a lawyer?
In Suffolk County, the spouses are eligible to proceed without legal representatives and arrange a DIY divorce. This is a comfortable option if the spouses have settled all the issues of their separation and choose to file the petition jointly. They need only to fill out the required papers, file them with the court, and wait for a judgment date.

What forms are required for an uncontested divorce in Suffolk County?
The primary legal paperwork the plaintiff has to file with the court to start the case in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, includes:

  • Joint Petition for Divorce
  • Joint Affidavit
  • Financial Statement
  • An Income Assignment Worksheet
  • Request for Trial Assignment
  • Certificate of Absolute Divorce or Annulment
  • Complaint for Divorce
  • A Divorce/Separate Support Summons
  • An Answer and Counterclaim
  • Settlement Agreement

If the spouses have minor children they should also file:

  • An Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceedings
  • Child Support Guidelines Worksheet

Can I file for legal separation in Suffolk County, Massachusetts?
Massachusetts Family Law does not use the term legal separation. However, there is a similar motion called Separate Support.
Filing a Complaint for Separate Support is an option for spouses who live apart and want to allocate their marital rights and responsibilities as if they were terminating the marriage, but prefer to remain married for various reasons, including religious beliefs and tax benefits.

When is it allowed to remarry after a divorce?
In the state of Massachusetts, a 90-day Nisi Period is required, meaning that the divorce is not considered final until 90 days after the judgment. In turn, the judgment cannot be issued until 30 days after the court hearing, so the divorced spouses are eligible to remarry in 120 days after the hearing.

Divorce in Suffolk County online

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Divorce Courts in Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Suffolk Probate and Family Court
Court Address:
24 New Chardon Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114
Phone:
617-788-8301
Fax:
617-788-8962
Clerk Hours:
8am-4:30pm
Parking information:
There is no public parking available at this courthouse. Parking at your own expense is available in the vicinity of the courthouse at parking lots and garages and metered spaces on the streets.