An Explanation of Divorce Terms

Whether you are considering filing for divorce or you find yourself already in the middle of divorce proceedings, you may have heard an assortment of divorce terms, and you might be wondering what these terms mean. Divorce can be a difficult and confusing situation, but there is no reason you need to continue to be confused by some of the terms you are hearing.

One thing some people wonder about is the difference between an “uncontested” and “contested” divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees on things such as child custody, child support, alimony, parenting time, and division of marital assets. In a contested divorce, there is a disagreement about one or more of these items. For example, maybe both parents want sole custody of the children, or they disagree on how their assets should be divided.

The other two terms people getting a divorce may wonder about are “fault” or “no-fault” divorces. While you might be wanting to point fingers and say that the divorce was all the other person’s fault, that is not what the terms actually mean.

Under Massachusetts law, there are actually specific requirements for a divorce to be labeled a “fault” divorce. Annoyance with the other person or thinking that the other person is not trying hard enough to preserve the marriage do not make it a fault divorce. Most divorces are “no-fault,” meaning the marriage is broken beyond repair, but neither person was to blame for the destruction of it.

Even if you feel the other person is at fault for a divorce, to make it a “fault” divorce, the one asking for the divorce must prove the other person is a fault. In Massachusetts, there are only seven acceptable reasons to consider the other person at fault. They include adultery, desertion, non-support, gross and confirmed habit of intoxication (alcohol or drugs), cruel and abusive treatment, or a prison sentence of at least five years. If you need help understanding how to prove your spouse is at fault, a Massachusetts family lawyer can help. A “fault” divorce is generally going to take longer to resolve and cost more than a “no-fault” divorce.