What is a Contested Divorce in Massachusetts?

A contested divorce is different from an uncontested divorce.  A contested divorce is more complex and usually involves issues that the spouses cannot come to an agreement about.  These issues may include, but are not limited to, spousal support, child support, child custody, and/or division of assets or debts.  The divorce proceedings in a contested divorce can be complicated and exhausting due to the disagreements of the spouses.

What is the Contested Divorce Process?

In a contested divorce, the couple may go through a number of processes preceding any divorce trial.  Some of the steps spouses may expect to go through in a contested divorce are:

  1. Filing/Serving a Complaint for Divorce. The contested divorce process begins with a spouse files a “Complaint for Divorce” with the family court.  The spouse that files the complaint is the Plaintiff and the spouse who is served with the complaint is the Defendant.  In Massachusetts, the Complaint of Divorce is also served with a Rule 411 which is essentially a financial restraining order.
  2. Answering the Complaint. The defendant has 20 days to answer the complaint.  If the defendant has an attorney he/she will do this for the defendant.
  3. Pre-Trial Phase. After the defendant responds, the contested divorce can enter the pre-trial phase.  This is the stage of a contested divorce that involves discovery.  Discovery is the process during which both sides collect documents pertinent to the divorce.  The parties can exchange, for example, financial documents, medical documents, documents about any child or children born of the marriage, and so on.
  4. Pre-Trial Conference. If a contested divorce does not settle during a settlement conference or any mediation efforts, the divorce may advance to a pre-trail conference.  During the pre-trial conference, the spouses can give their positions on issues.
  5. Divorce Trial. Divorce trial is the very last step in a contested divorce.  Most divorce cases settle before getting to this stage.  However, if the couple cannot resolve their issues they can go before a judge who will hear their positions and render a decision on the divorce.  After a judge renders a decision, there is a 90-day waiting period in Massachusetts before the divorce can be finalized.  During the 90-day period the divorce is pending.

If you are in need of an experienced divorce attorney to help you with your divorce, contact the Law Offices of Cynthia L. Hanley, P.C. to schedule your consultation.