Massachusetts Divorce


For women considering divorce in the state of Massachusetts, we've got a simple to understand guide for you. You can become familiar with the most relevant laws pertaining to divorce, as well as be able to find a lawyer who can represent you or experts who can help you work through the financial issues. We also offer easy access to support child calculators and guidelines, help for victims of domestic violence, and divorce support groups. 

Massachusetts Divorce Laws

Copyright notice regarding state divorce laws

Residency requirements and where to file: A divorce can be initiated in Massachusetts as long as either spouse has lived in the state for one year prior to filing

The divorce petition should be filed with the probate court where one of the spouses lives. In cases of inconvenience or hardship, jurisdiction may be transferred to the court in the county where the inconvenienced party resides. [Chapter 208-6]

Divorce grounds: The court recognizes the following reasons as ground for divorce:

  • irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
  • adultery
  • impotency
  • continued abandonment for 1 year before the divorce petition is filed. A temporary return of the defendant with the intent to nullify these grounds for divorce will be disregarded.
  • confirmed and excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • harsh and abusive conduct
  • maliciously or cruelly refusing to supply the other party appropriate support and maintenance.

A divorce may also be granted if either spouse has been sentenced for life or for five or more years in a federal prison or penitentiary in Massachusetts or any other state. [Chapter 208-1 and 208-2]

Is legal separation recognized in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts doesn't recognize legal separation as a judicial action. Instead, spouses may choose to live separately while still married. As far as protecting yourself while you are separated, you can write a separation agreement which details how everything will be handled both financially and concerning the children while you are living apart. To be valid, this separation agreement must be signed by both spouses and filed with the court.

The court may also issue temporary orders for support relative to a separation of the parties, such as spousal maintenance, the support of any minor children, and provisions for health insurance. The court may also issue orders regarding the custody, care, and maintenance of any minor children. [Chapter 208-17, 208-20, and 209-32]

How will everything be divided in our divorce?

In Massachusetts, assets and debts will be distributed in a fair and equitable fashion based on the circumstances of each party. Property that was owned prior to the marriage shall remain the separate property of that person.

The court will use the following factors to decide how assets will be divided if the parties can't reach a mutual agreement:

  • How long the couple has been married
  • Evidence of misconduct while married
  • The age and relative health of each spouse
  • Each spouse's amount and sources of income
  • Each spouse's occupation, vocational skills and ability to earn a living
  • The individual assets and debts of each party
  • Each spouse's future ability to attain income and assets
  • The present and future needs of the minor children
  • The contributions of each spouse as a homemaker
  • Each spouse's contribution to the attainment, maintenance, or increased valuation of their individual estates

[Chapter 208-34, and 209-1]

Can I stay in the family home while the divorce is pending?

The court may order a spouse to vacate the marital home for no more than 90 days while an action for divorce or separate support is pending if it finds that the safety and welfare of the children or that one spouse would be endangered. This period may be extended upon further motion. [Chapter 208-34B]

Will I receive any alimony?

Either spouse may be ordered by the court to pay alimony to the other party. When establishing the amount of support which will be paid, the court will consider how long the couple has been married, the conduct of the spouses during the marriage, the age and relative health of each spouse, the sources and amounts of income in addition to the occupation and ability of each spouse to earn a living. The contribution of each spouse as a homemaker and in the attainment and increased valuation of each spouse's respective estates will also take into consideration. If alimony is awarded, the court may require property or assets be attached as security for its payment. [Ch 208-34 and 208-12]

On a side note, Massachusetts has recently changed the duration for how long alimony may be ordered, thus putting a stop to lifetime alimony in most situations.

Can I change my name?

The court will allow a woman to revert to a maiden name or surname a former spouse when the divorce is granted. [Ch 208-23]

How does the court determine who gets custody?

In Massachusetts, either parent (in the absence of misconduct) may be awarded custody of the children. The court will take into consideration the children's welfare and happiness when determining custody and if the past or present living conditions have or will adversely affect the child's physical, emotional, moral, or mental health. Other issues the court may take into consideration are whether any member of the family has alcohol or addiction problems or has abandoned the child, and whether the parents are able and willing to cooperate in matters concerning the child. Along these same lines, the court may also evaluate evidence of abuse towards the child or parent when determining custody and restricting visitation.

The parents may also decide on custody without having the court make this determination. Such custody arrangements will usually be granted unless it is determined by the court that such an arrangement is not in the best interests of the children. [Chapter 208-31]

How much child support will be awarded in Massachusetts?

To figure out how much child support to order, the court will apply the appropriate child support guidelines based on the custody arrangements. These guidelines can be accessed on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines page. 

Child support may be ordered for dependent children until the age of 21 who live at home with the parent and depend on the parent for maintenance. If the child is attending school, support may be extended until the age of 23 and is principally dependent due to enrollment in an educational program. If the obligated parent has health insurance coverage available through his or her employment, the court may order that parent to provide health insurance for the dependent child. The court will take into consideration whether there are other children being supported by the obligated parent when setting the child support obligation. [Chapter 208-28]

Online Divorce Laws - General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208

Divorce Lawyers and Firms

Law Offices of Laura J. Cervizzi, P.C.
350 Park Street, Suite 201
North Reading, MA 01864
Phone: 978-276-0777 

Infinity Law Group
Gabriel Cheong
75 2nd Ave. #605
Needham, MA 02494
Counties served: Suffolk, Norfolk
Phone: 617-652-5748
Infinity Law Group in Needham, MA is dedicated to helping families get through the toughest times. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys can help provide guidance in these trying times. Contact our attorneys today for a free phone consultation. 

Mavrides Law
10 High St #1002
Boston, MA 02110
Counties served: Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, Middlesex, Bristol, Barnstable, Worcester, Essex
Phone: (617) 723-9900

Wilkinson & Finkbeiner  
Offices located in: 
New Bedford - (508) 316-9720
Boston -
(617) 795-3611
Hingham -
(781) 908-0551
The attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner are highly experienced with decades of family law experience. They are one of Boston's preeminent family law firms and will advocate for your rights in a professional yet cost-effective manner. They are dedicated to helping you navigate the issues and resolving your case from negotiating a settlement and preparing of pleadings to litigating your case if necessary. 

We also have a page where you can search for other divorce attorneys in your area. 


Mediation Works Incorporated
10 Liberty Square  - Fourth Floor
Boston, MA 02109-1632
Phone: 617-973-9739

Mediation is for couples seeking to define the terms of their divorce in less time, with less cost, and often with less hostility and fewer lasting negative effects. Mediation Works Incorporated is a non-profit organization offering a sliding fee scale to help make divorce mediation affordable for all Massachusetts residents.

Divorce Support Groups

Look up divorce groups in your region. You can find support services such as DivorceCare meetings for adults, groups for survivors of domestic abuse, and services for children affected by divorce.

Parent Education Classes

All parties in a divorce involving minor children are ordered to attend an approved parent education program before the divorce can progress, unless the court waives the requirement. Please note that On-Line parent education programs are generally NOT accepted in Massachusetts. For list of the various programs offered throughout the state, visit the Parenting Education Programs from

Help for Domestic Abuse

Jane Doe Inc. - Official DV site for Massachusetts. You can access a statewide directory of domestic violence programs by clicking on the "Find Help" button.