Although it is natural to wonder how long your Massachusetts divorce will take, a divorce attorney can only give you an estimate because every situation is unique.
However, there are some broad similarities between certain kinds of divorce cases. By considering the factors involved, it is possible to get an idea of how long divorce proceedings could take in your situation.
Timeline of an Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts
As a general rule, cooperation between the divorcing parties speeds the divorce process. When both spouses are amicable and willing to work together, their divorce will be much simpler because attorneys will spend less time negotiating and will not need to present extensive arguments to a judge.
Both parties must agree about the most important issues to file for an uncontested divorce. While this type of dissolution is usually quicker than a contested divorce, some factors can still prolong the process. Common examples include:
- Shared children
- A large amount of property to be divided
- Conflicts in the spouses’ respective schedules
- A backlog of Massachusetts divorce cases in the courts
Even if both parties are entirely in agreement, an uncontested divorce can take seven to eight months to finalize. In part, this is due to the time it takes to prepare the terms of a separation agreement.
Once the agreement is complete, the couple will file their joint petition and other required documents with the Massachusetts courts. The court will then set a hearing date, which could be months away if the court is busy.
Thirty days after a judge approves the couple’s agreement, the court enters a temporary judgment of divorce. The temporary judgment becomes final within 90 days.
How Long Do Contested Divorce Proceedings Last?
The length of contested divorce proceedings can be much harder to predict because there are so many factors that could influence the timeline. For instance, the case can be much more complex if one party files for a fault divorce or disagrees that the marriage has ended. If the couple both want to divorce and are only contesting issues such as child custody or property division, the time needed to finalize may not be as lengthy.
When a spouse wants to file for a contested separation, they must file a complaint of divorce with the state of Massachusetts and serve papers on their spouse. That spouse then usually files an answer with the court and then the parties exchange financial statements and eventually negotiate a separation agreement. If the parties cannot agree on some issues, they may schedule a pre-trial hearing to resolve these matters, or they may wait for the judge to settle the issues at trial. In most cases, the court will not schedule a hearing until at least six months after the filing date. Once the court enters a judgment, the divorce becomes final after 90 days.
While Massachusetts courts strive to finalize contested divorces within 14 months, the process can take considerably longer if the areas of contention are complex.
Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Divorce Attorney
If you are facing the prospect of divorce, it is wise to work with an accomplished family law attorney. The legal team at Koiles Pratt has helped countless clients protect their interests and move forward with their lives after divorce. Contact us today to learn how we could help.