I’ve asked my spouse for a divorce and sometimes they agree and sometimes they don’t. What should I do?
There are only 2 ways to get a divorce in Massachusetts. You can either get an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce.
For you to get an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must both file jointly. There must not be any disputes between you two on any of the issues surrounding the divorce. You must agree to the divorce and in addition, agree on all the terms of property division, alimony, child custody, child support, etc. If you can’t agree on 1 or more issues, then you cannot file for an uncontested divorce.
If you’re trying to get your spouse to agree to the divorce, that means you’re trying to get an uncontested divorce. I always tell my clients that if possible, always try for an uncontested divorce because it is cheaper, faster and easier. However, if you’re faced with a spouse that sometimes gives their consent and sometimes doesn’t, it’s very difficult to have an uncontested divorce. That is because an uncontested divorce requires more than a passing agreement. Your spouse cannot simply sign some papers and that’s it. They have to agree to all the terms, sign the paperwork, fill out a financial statement, then wait for a few months before going to court and also agree to go to court with you to tell the judge that he agrees and continues to agree. This entire process can take up to 3-4 months. If at any point before going to see the judge, they don’t agree, then you’re stuck and you might have to start back at square one with a contested divorce.
In these situations where you have a partner who flip flops, I advise that it’s better to file for a contested divorce from the start. That is because by doing so, you’ve started the clock running and you’re not wasting time to get him or her to agree. Once you file for the contested divorce, you continue to negotiate with your partner to try to get an agreement. If an agreement is reached, you can always convert your contested divorce to an uncontested one. However, if they don’t cooperate at the last minute, you already have a divorce case on file and the case is already moving along so you haven’t wasted any time.
The family and probate court follows a schedule for contested divorces so that you cannot get what’s called a Pretrial before 6 months have passed upon filing of a contested case. If you file right away and negotiate with your partner while the clock is running, that is where precious time and possibly attorney’s fees are saved.
If you’re in a situation like the one described above and you feel stuck, feel free to call me for a free phone consultation. Each person’s case is a bit different so advice might differ based on the facts of your situation.