Grounds for Divorce in Massachusetts: Fault or No Fault?
Couples divorce for all kinds of reasons. Some petitions are due to very serious issues, which may include physical abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or infidelity. More commonly, though, parties don’t get into nitty-gritty specifics when making their initial filing with the court.
In fact, most of the proceedings in our state simply cite an irretrievable breakdown (i.e. just not being in love anymore) as the grounds for divorce.
But what do we mean by “grounds” anyway? As in most other states, splitting couples are required to formally declare a grounds for divorce in Massachusetts. In this case, “grounds” simply means “the reason for the divorce.”
From there, the Commonwealth divides grounds into “no-fault” and “fault” scenarios. While working with an attorney can help you determine the best grounds to file under, the following will provide a basic overview of what each of these terms really means.
In any marriage, there is always the unfortunate possibility that two people might fall out of love. Even with neither partner to blame, marriages can crumble as individuals grow and change. In these cases, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows for no-fault divorces.
No-fault divorces can be filed jointly by a couple seeking to dissolve their marriage (known as a “1A” divorce) or by just one of the partners (a “1B” divorce). In a 1B divorce, the petitioner does not need to prove that the marriage’s failure was the fault of the other spouse. Instead, they must only show that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning that there is no chance of reconciliation.
But what if you feel your spouse is at fault for the breakdown of your marriage — and you want to make those allegations part of your legal action?
Massachusetts does recognize several grounds for alleging an at-fault divorce. These include:
- Abusive or cruel treatment
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Desertion (for at least one year)
- Partner’s imprisonment (a sentence of five or more years)
Some petitioners file fault divorces believing that it will earn them favor when it comes to dividing the couple’s property or in an impending child custody case. It’s important to know, though, that this is not always the case.
Accordingly, most divorce petitions filed in Massachusetts today are no-fault filings. Even if your spouse was technically at fault, you may find that filing a no-fault action decreases your burden of proof and makes the entire action easier on you and your family. Of course, it’s best to fully consider both options with our attorneys before making any decisions.
How Our Boston Divorce Attorneys Can Help
Divorce can be a challenging and painful process for anyone. That’s especially true if one or both parties feel that the other contributed to the divorce through wrongful or even illegal actions. Massachusetts law recognizes that no two divorces are just alike, and those seeking divorce have a number of options when it comes time to file.
Our Boston divorce attorneys can help walk you through your options for drafting and resolving your divorce petition as efficiently and as amicably as possible. This can be especially important when it comes to child custody and division of property.
We understand that justice matters to you, and we’ll work tirelessly to ensure that you see it before your case is complete. Knowledge makes all the difference, so please contact our office as soon as possible to learn more. We’re here to help.