Filing for Divorce During Covid-19
Divorces are an emotionally taxing process, and with the current global pandemic putting a halt on most of everyday life, this already arduous process can become more stressful. In Massachusetts, there are different options for filing for divorce: it can be either a fault or no-fault divorce and contested or uncontested.
Massachusetts is considered a no-fault state. Simply put, this means that the court does not require a party to show that there has been any wrongdoing by the other party. The ground for divorce is called an “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” which means that the spouses agree that the marriage cannot be reconciled and that they are unwilling to live together. Divorce proceedings can be filed in Massachusetts if the person filing for divorce lives in Massachusetts, or the marriage ended and you’ve lived together in Massachusetts.
A no-fault divorce can be either contested or uncontested. A no-fault uncontested divorce is typically called a filing a “1A” divorce under G.L.c. 208 section 1A. This means that both parties agree that the marriage has come to an end without fault from either party, and they have written agreements for terms of the divorce like child support and dividing assets. The written agreement is known as a separation agreement, and both parties must agree to the terms contained within the agreement. This must be presented to the court. A contested divorce, or a “1B” divorce under G.L.c. 208 section 1B, is when both parties agree that the marriage has come to an end without fault of either party, but they do not agree on the terms of their divorce.
Massachusetts is an “equitable division” state, which means that all the marital property assets are divided fairly between the former spouses. It is important to note that equitable division does not mean simply dividing the property 50-50 between the two former spouses. It means that both parties need to agree about how to fairly divide their assets. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, then according to G.L.c. 208 section 34, a judge can also divide the assets among the former spouses. If the court is presiding over the division of marital property, it will consider certain factors such as the length of the marriage, age, amount and sources of income, and occupation to name a few. If you are thinking of getting a divorce, or in the process of a divorce, it is important to consult an experienced attorney who can ensure that the separation agreement reflects what is rightfully yours.
Divorce During Coronavirus
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Massachusetts Court System has responded accordingly. Currently, there are limited openings around the state of Massachusetts. While hearings are still being done through telephone or video conference, courts have started opening for certain matters including in-person meetings and in-person business with the clerk’s office. Currently, divorce proceedings are not considered to be an emergency matter, according to the current Standing Order. This means that divorce cases will most likely be held virtually. If you have an open divorce case that has been impacted by COVID-19, please contact your attorney and they will be able to provide better guidelines for your local court’s reopening plan. If you are thinking of filing for divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult an experienced attorney who will be able to give you specialized advice based on your needs.