How to file a No-Fault 1A Joint Petition for Divorce

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Filing a no-fault divorce means the marriage needs to end but neither person is to blame. You ask for a divorce because of the "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." You can either file a No-Fault 1A Joint Petition for Divorce or a Complaint for No-Fault 1B Divorce. This article covers Joint Petitions. If you and your spouse can't file for divorce together, learn how to file a Complaint for Divorce. 

You do not need a lawyer to file for divorce. But cases like divorce can be complicated. Having a lawyer to help you can be very important, especially if your spouse is violent, abusive, or controlling. Try to talk to a lawyer before filing for divorce.

Learn more about divorce and separation in Massachusetts.

When can we file a Joint Petition for Divorce?

You can file a No-Fault 1A Joint Petition for Divorce when:

  1. You and your spouse both want a divorce. And
  2. You agree on all the decisions you have to make in your divorce.

You and your spouse must agree about:

  • alimony or spousal support,
  • dividing your assets and property,
  • dividing your debts,
  • what you will do with your marital home, and
  • what you will do about health insurance.

If you have minor children together, you also must agree about:

  • custody,
  • parenting time,
  • child support, and
  • tax issues, like the child tax credit, dependent child deduction, and head of household status.
How do we file a Joint Petition for Divorce?

If you and your spouse file for divorce together, file:

Separation Agreements are important. They can affect your life for a long time. Learn more about Separation Agreements. 

Learn more about the steps to take when filing a Joint Petition for Divorce on the Probate and Family Court website.

Which Probate and Family Court do we file in?

You can file for divorce in Massachusetts if:

  • you have lived in the Massachusetts for a year, or
  • you lived together as a married couple in Massachusetts and what happened to cause the divorce (the "grounds" for divorce) happened in Massachusetts.

If either of these 2 things is true, then you can file for divorce in Massachusetts, even if your spouse lives in another state.

You file your petition in Probate and Family Court. Every county has a Probate and Family Court.

If you or your spouse still lives in the county where you last lived together, file in that county.

If neither of you still lives in the county where you last lived together, file:

  • in the county where you live now, or
  • in the county where your spouse lives now.
How much does it cost to file a 1A Joint Petition for Divorce?

The Probate and Family Court charges fees for filing and handling certain documents. Check out the Probate and Family Court fee page to find out how much it will cost. As of January 2024, it cost $215 to file a joint petition.

If you cannot afford the costs of filing a No-Fault 1A Divorce, see Affidavit of Indigency.

What is a Separation Agreement?

To show the judge that you and your spouse agree, you and your spouse sign a Separation Agreement and get it notarized. 

Learn more about Separation Agreements.

What happens after we file a Joint Petition for Divorce?

The court schedules a hearing. Both you and your spouse must go to court for the hearing.

At the hearing, the judge reviews your Separation Agreement to be sure it:

  • deals with all the decisions you need to make, and
  • is fair and reasonable

The judge will ask if you:

  • read the agreement,
  • think it is fair, 
  • understand it, and
  • signed the agreement of your own free will. 
When is my divorce final?

After the divorce hearing, the judge issues a Judgment of Divorce Nisi. The court will mail the Judgment of Divorce Nisi to you. This means your divorce will be final in 120 days. You will not get any future order or papers from the court after you get the Judgment of Divorce Nisi.

You are still married and you cannot marry anyone else until the end of the 120 days. 

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