Though divorce sometimes makes people feel helpless, it’s vital to remember that there are several important ways in which you can shape the process. When you file for divorce, one of the key choices you’ll make with the guidance of your lawyer is the legal ground on which you wish to dissolve the marriage.

In the mid-1970s, Massachusetts introduced no-fault divorce, which allows spouses to end their marriage based solely on the fact that their relationship is irretrievably broken. This means that it is not necessary to prove that your husband or wife committed some type of misconduct or has as a particular condition in order to get divorced. Many couples here and around the country choose this option, which usually makes the marriage dissolution process easier and less contentious.

A no-fault divorce does not necessarily mean that the parties agree on terms relating to parenting and financial issues. Under Massachusetts law, you can apply for an uncontested “1A” divorce when there is no dispute over property division, parenting time, alimony or child support. A contested “1B” divorce is still a no-fault dissolution, but one where the parties disagree on one or more terms. Through negotiations or mediation, spouses might be able to reach a settlement, which would then be submitted to the court, converting the matter to a 1A uncontested divorce.

While some states have completely eliminated fault-based divorces, Massachusetts still allows them based on the following seven grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Impotence
  • Desertion for at least one year
  • Voluntary and excessive alcohol or drug use
  • Cruel and abusive treatment
  • Failure to provide suitable support
  • Imprisonment for at least five years

Before making the decision to seek a fault-based divorce, you should carefully weigh the potential consequences of this choice. Your husband or wife might strenuously object to a divorce decree saying they committed some form of marital misconduct. This can increase the time, expense and stress associated with ending a marriage.

Some people believe that they can obtain more favorable divorce terms by using a fault ground. However, the legal justification for the divorce does not directly affect these determinations, even if there is some connection to the fault ground. For example, the fact that a spouse squandered marital funds on an adulterous affair might be reflected in an equitable distribution decision, but this can occur even if their spouse files for a no-fault divorce. Likewise, domestic abuse would be a very important factor in a child custody decision regardless of the specific divorce ground.

Discussing your options with an experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer will help you find the best path as you look to secure a fair result and move forward. Greco Law, PLLC represents divorcing spouses throughout the Boston area, including Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties. Please call 978-806-6922 or contact me online to schedule a consultation at my Woburn office.