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From navigating complex legal and financial decisions to making life-altering choices that will affect the future of the whole family, even the idea of divorce can seem overwhelming. For many couples, however, separation is ultimately the best decision for everyone involved. According to the American Psychological Association, roughly 40 to 50% of American marriages end in divorce.

In past decades, state law only allowed for divorce if one partner could prove that the other was at fault for the marriage’s failure. However, today all states recognize some form of no-fault divorce, including Massachusetts. This allows couples who do not have major grievances to separate without necessarily going through the process of litigating who is to blame.

What are potential grounds for an at-fault divorce?

During a fault-based divorce proceeding, one partner must provide specific evidence that the other caused the marriage to break down. Massachusetts law recognizes seven grounds for pursuing an at-fault divorce, including:

  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Severe substance abuse
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Non-support
  • A prison sentence of five years or more
  • Impotence

How does no-fault divorce work?

For many couples, the choice to divorce is less about blaming the other and more about simply recognizing that the relationship is no longer working. For a no-fault divorce, one or both partners simply assert that there has been an “Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage.” This type of divorce is further divided into two categories:

  1. Uncontested: Both spouses agree the marriage is over and have negotiated written agreements concerning child support, child custody, alimony, parenting time and division of marital assets.
  2. Contested: One spouse believes that the marriage is over or both believe so, but the spouses cannot come to a mutual agreement about the above items.

Seeking the best outcome possible

Whichever type of divorce a spouse, or spouses, choose to pursue, seeking legal counsel may be invaluable to ensuring an outcome that lays a strong foundation for the future. In addition to providing legal advice and support should the divorce go to court, family law practitioners are often able to act as negotiators, potentially helping couples to avoid litigation altogether.