Most states have a residency requirement ranging from 90 days to 1 year before a spouse can file for divorce. Only three states – Alaska, South Dakota, and Washington – have no minimum requirement minimum threshold other than the plaintiff must be a resident at the time of filing.
Massachusetts has a 1-year residency requirement for some, but not all, divorces.
Divorce Grounds in Massachusetts
All states in the U.S. provide for some form of no-fault divorce. Massachusetts is among the two-thirds of states that all offer a fault-based divorce. There are two types of no-fault divorce in the state.
In an uncontested no-fault divorce, both spouses agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken down. They have also reached a written agreement about child support, parenting time, alimony, child custody, and property division. In a contested no-fault divorce, one or both spouses believe the marriage is irretrievable broken down, but they cannot reach an agreement about the divorce terms.
The fault-based grounds for a Massachusetts divorce include the following:
- Gross and Confirmed Habits of Intoxication
- Cruel and Abusive Treatment
- Prison Sentence of 5 or More Years
The plaintiff must be able to prove a specific ground. Fault divorces require litigation. Depending on the totality of the situation, the plaintiff in a fault divorce may receive a greater share of the marital property or alimony.
1-Year Residency Requirement
The residency requirement is intended to prevent spouses from moving to Massachusetts for the purpose of filing for divorce. If the reason the marriage is ending occurred in another state, there is a one-year residency requirement for the plaintiff (person filing for divorce). The plaintiff will also have to live for 12 consecutive months in the state before filing if the two parties never lived together in the state as a married couple.
Here are two examples to illustrate when the 1-year residency requirement would be enforced:
- You and your spouse lived together in another state. Your spouse cheated on you. The two of you separated and you moved to Massachusetts to be closer to family. You decide you cannot stay married to your cheating spouse. You can file for divorce in Massachusetts only after you have lived in the state for 12 consecutive months.
- You and your spouse lived together in another state. Your spouse cheated on you. You both move together to Massachusetts to put the affair behind you. Two months later, you decide that you cannot forgive your spouse and want a divorce. You will need to wait until you have lived in the state for 1 year before you can file.
A plaintiff can file for divorce if they currently reside in the state and have lived there continuously for one year. When those conditions are met, the specifics of where the fault occurred are irrelevant. Unlike some states, Massachusetts does not recognize nor require legal separation prior to divorce.
Exceptions to 1-Year Residency Requirement
If the cause for the divorce occurred in Massachusetts, there is no 1-year residency requirement. The only domicile requirement is that the plaintiff must be a resident at the time of filing. This exception is true whether the divorce filing is based on a fault-ground or not.
Here are two examples of when a 1-year residency is not required:
- You and your spouse move to Massachusetts. After six months, you discover something about your spouse that causes you to rethink the marriage. You and/or your spouse decide that it’s an issue that cannot be overcome. You can file for a divorce before the 1-year mark for two reasons: You both lived in the state as a married couple and the cause of the irretrievable breakdown occurred in the state.
- You and your spouse move to Massachusetts. Three months later, your spouse cheated on you while on a business trip in New York. You can still file for divorce before that 1-year mark because both of you lived together as a married couple in Massachusetts when the marriage-ending event occurred.
Experienced Legal Counsel for Your Divorce
Massachusetts divorce laws are often confusing and complicated. Let the team at Percy Law Group, PC help you unravel how the laws impact the specifics of your case. From beginning to end, we will represent your best interests so that you can securely begin your next chapter.
Even in so-called amicable divorces, disagreements are common. You need experience at your side.
Schedule a free consultation to learn how our firm can guide your divorce case. Get started by calling (508) 206-9900. We have five convenient locations: Cranston, Fall River, Quincy, Dartmouth, and Taunton.