Is an Uncontested Divorce Right for You? 

May 2, 2024 O'Connor Family Law Divorce

It’s always difficult when a marriage ends. In many cases, a divorce signifies the end of the future plans, love, hopes and dreams you had when you and your spouse married. 

One of the first questions to ask yourself when you’ve decided to move forward with the divorce process is whether an uncontested divorce may be right for you. What kinds of situations would lead you to pursue an uncontested divorce rather than a contested divorce? Below, our Westborough Uncontested Divorce Attorney Brittany Garvey briefly lays out the framework for divorce in Massachusetts. 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers a few different types of divorce: 

  • Uncontested or Contested Divorce
  • Fault or No-Fault Divorce

Fault Vs. No-Fault Divorce

You can read more about this topic in our dedicated article but the truth is that most people choose a no-fault divorce. Here’s why: in a fault divorce, the person asking for the divorce must prove specific ground(s) or reason(s) for the divorce. The fault divorce process is more time-consuming and expensive than a no-fault divorce.

A no-fault divorce, in contrast, does not require the parties to prove blame for the breakdown of their marriage. The basis for this action in Massachusetts is simply called an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” The process is started by one of the parties filing in probate or family court in the county where they lived as a couple or, if they no longer live there, in a county where one of them lives now.

Uncontested No-Fault Divorce (1A)

An uncontested no-fault divorce is called a “1A divorce” in Massachusetts. This is when both spouses agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and they have reached an agreement on all of the following issues:

To qualify for a 1A divorce, you and your spouse must have a written separation agreement that spells out how you will handle the important issues involved. If there is even one issue that you and your spouse cannot agree on, then you will have to go back to the drawing board and hammer out an agreement or you may need to take the issue to court in a contested divorce proceeding. Typically, separation agreements are between 10 and 35 pages but this can vary based on the complexity of the estate to be divided, length of marriage, and other factors. Once an agreement has been reached, the divorcing couple files a Joint Petition for Divorce, and the parties are called Petitioner A and Petitioner B. Many couples find that they can work through a greater portion of the 1A process on their own, reducing legal fees and allowing the process to run more smoothly. Individuals seeking an uncontested may find divorce mediators helpful. Mediation can be a great way to navigate the divorce process with a trusted attorney while still keeping costs lower than less amicable forms of divorce.

Contested No-Fault Divorce (1B)

A contested no-fault divorce is called a “1B divorce” in Massachusetts. (Note that the terms 1A and 1B refer to sections of the authorizing statute that set out the procedures of these two types of divorces.) In a contested no-fault divorce, one spouse believes there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, OR both spouses believe the marriage has ended but do not agree on the following issues:

  • Parenting time
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Child custody 
  • Division of marital assets

In a contested no-fault divorce, a Complaint for Divorce names the spouses as plaintiff and defendant. This is different than a 1A divorce which uses a Joint Petition. A contested no-fault divorce is a court action requiring judicial involvement. Filing for a 1B divorce often takes longer than a 1A divorce. In fact, a finalized contested divorce cannot be granted earlier than six months from the date of filing by the clerk’s office without special permission from the court. That said, in most cases, the parties will negotiate and arrive at a separation agreement. Without an agreement, you will likely need to hire an attorney to help with the process.

If you and your spouse come to an agreement after filing a contested divorce, you can file a request to change the divorce complaint from a 1B to a 1A divorce which could expedite the divorce process depending on where you are in proceedings.

The Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce

For spouses looking to amicably separate, the most desirable type of divorce is often the Uncontested 1A Divorce. There are many benefits to this type of divorce (again, if both parties can agree on all issues!). This type of divorce allows the parties to avoid many of the recriminations involved in a fault divorce. Uncontested divorces also allow both parties to select the method of divorce, such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce. These methods are generally less expensive and can be less emotionally taxing for the parties than a full-blown trial.

While it’s not necessary to have an attorney represent you in an uncontested divorce (or any divorce, for that matter), here at O’Connor Family Law, we suggest that you think carefully about being unrepresented in order to avoid legal pitfalls that you may not be aware of. For example, if you have a large estate to divide with your spouse, you may wish to seek legal counsel to ensure that all considerations have been made within your agreement, helping to minimize the risk of future motions. Even if you think that you and your spouse are in full agreement on all of the issues that must be included in a separation agreement, couples often find that there were, in fact, issues that they didn’t agree on which had simply not yet come up. Having an experienced Westborough uncontested divorce attorney on your side can help you think through the nuances of decisions made throughout your separation.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Final Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts?

To finalize your uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must attend a court hearing. The judge will review your agreement to make sure that it has included all of the proper provisions and that it serves the best interests of your minor children, if any. If everything is properly completed and you’ve met all the requirements for a no-fault 1A divorce in Massachusetts, the judge will approve your agreement within 30 days after the hearing. Thirty days after approving your agreement, the judge will enter a judgment, which starts another 90-day waiting period (Read: Stuck in The Waiting Room- The Divorce Nisi Period) before the divorce judgment is “absolute.” Your divorce will be final 120 days from when the judge approves your settlement agreement. 

Contact a Westborough Uncontested Divorce Attorney Today

Don’t leave your future to chance. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you every step of the way. Contact your Westborough uncontested divorce attorney today at 774-314-4725.

About the Author

Attorney Brittany A. Garvey is big on negotiations but if your kitchen’s on fire, she’s not afraid of a little heat. As a Divorce Mediator with nearly a decade of experience in family law and a special passion for protecting children’s rights, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands with Attorney Garvey’s name on it.

100% of our attorneys at O’Connor Family Law have personal experience with family law issues which means that we know what it’s like to deal with a difficult ex because we’ve been there.

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