How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Massachusetts?

divorce timeline
Divorce is never an easy process, and when the decision to part ways becomes a battleground, the timeline can become even more uncertain. For those embarking on a contested divorce journey in Massachusetts, understanding the expected duration can provide some much-needed clarity amidst the chaos.

Legal Requirements in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a divorce can be granted on both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds. The most common ground for divorce in Massachusetts is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” which is the state’s version of a no-fault divorce. However, fault grounds such as adultery, desertion, or cruel and abusive treatment can also be cited.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree on all issues, including property division, child custody, visitation, and support. In contrast, a contested divorce involves disagreement on one or more of these issues, requiring court intervention to reach a resolution.

Timeline for a Contested Divorce in Massachusetts

The timeline for a contested divorce in Massachusetts can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case, the cooperation of the parties, and the court’s schedule. Here is a general outline of the process:
  1. Filing the Complaint: The process begins with one spouse filing a Complaint for Divorce in the Probate and Family Court in the county where either spouse lives. The other spouse is then served with the Complaint and has 20 days to respond.
  2. Discovery Phase: This phase involves the exchange of information and documents related to the case, including financial records, property valuations, and any other relevant evidence. This phase can be time-consuming, especially if there are complex financial issues or disputes over property.
  3. Negotiation/Mediation: Before going to trial, the parties may be required to attempt mediation to resolve their differences. If successful, a settlement agreement is drafted and presented to the court for approval.
  4. Pre-trial Conference: If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will schedule a pre-trial conference to discuss the issues in the case, identify areas of agreement, and narrow the issues for trial.
  5. Trial: If the case goes to trial, both parties present evidence and testimony to support their positions. The judge then issues a decision, usually within a few weeks or months after the trial concludes.
  6. Final Judgment: Once the judge issues a decision, a final judgment of divorce is entered, which outlines the terms of the divorce, including property division, support, and custody arrangements.

Factors Affecting the Timeline

Several factors can impact the timeline of a contested divorce in Massachusetts, including: Complexity of Issues: Cases involving complex financial issues, child custody disputes, or extensive marital assets can take longer to resolve. Court Schedule: The availability of court dates and the backlog of cases in the court can affect the timeline. Cooperation of the Parties: The willingness of both parties to cooperate and negotiate in good faith can expedite the process. Attorney Involvement: The level of attorney involvement and their ability to navigate the legal process effectively can also impact the timeline.

Contact Logan & Logan LLP For Divorce Lawyers On The South Shore

In conclusion, the timeline for a contested divorce in Massachusetts can vary significantly depending on various factors. While some cases may be resolved in a matter of months, others can drag on for years. It’s essential for parties involved in a contested divorce to seek legal counsel to navigate the complexities of the process and work towards a timely resolution. Contact our expert attorneys at Logan & Logan LLP today for a free consultation (617) 209-3723 or fill out our contact form.  
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