How to file for divorce in Massachusetts without a lawyer
To file for a divorce in Massachusetts, you will need the follow the 8 steps below. If you have any questions after reading this – please feel free to email our office your questions. We are happy to help free of charge and without any obligation. We provide free Q&A support to hundreds of individuals each year. This, in turn, allows us to improve these “how to” guides for the public.
Before we get started — it is important to know that a couple must live together in Massachusetts as husband and wife to file for divorce. One of the spouses must be a resident of Massachusetts if the cause for divorce occurred within Massachusetts. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside of Massachusetts, the plaintiff must have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year prior to deciding to file for divorce.
Let’s get started …
1. Gather Your Paperwork AND make copies as soon as possible. Store the copies of these documents outside of the marital home
- Last 3 years of taxes
- Most recent pay stubs
- Property tax bills
- Mortgage statements
- Bank account statements
- Retirement account statements
- Credit Card Statements
2. Get a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the town hall of the town/city you were married or resided in. Please note that the certificate from the church is not a valid document to file for divorce in Massachusetts.
3. Make a decision if you will file for a contested or uncontested divorce in Massachusetts. A contested divorce will freeze your spouse’s assets so they cannot spend your money, or if you have concerns that they will increase debts/liabilities or attempt to hide assets/monies. It may be to your benefit to file an uncontested divorce where both parties mutually agree on the terms, only if you feel your spouse will be cooperative. Whether to file contested or uncontested divorce is one of the most important decisions in the process for your successful outcome. The remainder of these steps will focus on an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts.
4. Write your spouse a letter indicating that you would like to resolve the matter amicably and arrange a meeting with all parties present and attorneys, if applicable.
5. Draft a separation agreement encompassing all of the terms that you agreed upon. The court must review the agreement and approve it as “fair and reasonable” and may be rejected by the judge if there are any missing terms or the court deems it unfair. Some judges routinely reject agreements, so it is important to have it carefully written.
6. If you have children (minor child under the age of 18 years old at the time of filing), BOTH parties MUST attend a Parent Education Class. The court will NOT assign a court date until this is completed. Buyer Beware – There are many Parent Education Classes available to take online, however these are NOT valid in Massachusetts. Only sign-up with the approved live programs on the court’s website.
7. Complete all of the forms to file for an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts.
- A filing fee of $215.00 (Payable to “Plymouth Probate Court”. Bank check or money order is required. No personal checks are accepted.)
- A Joint Petition for Divorce form.
- A Certificate of Absolute Divorce or Annulment – Form R408 form.
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate – You must get this from the town/city where you were married.
- An Affidavit from both parties attesting to an Irretrievable Breakdown of the marriage
- A Separation Agreement signed by both parties with each signature notarized. This must address the issues of the division of marital property, proper provisions for alimony (even if it is not requested by either party), custody, support and maintenance of any minor children.
- A Financial Statement must be completed. If your annual income is less than $75,000, a pink SHORT FORM FINANCIAL STATEMENT is required. If your annual income is more than $75,000, a pink LONG FORM FINANCIAL STATEMENT is required.
- Worksheet for Child Support Guidelines if there are any minor children of the marriage
- Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody of a child if there are any minor children of the marriage, you MUST file this form.