Where Do I File For Divorce in Massachusetts

August 20, 2018


Imagine finally reaching the decision to move out of your toxic marriage and file for divorce, only to have the entire Complaint rejected because it was filed in the wrong court.


Questions concerning where to file the divorce are issues of personal jurisdiction, which is the Court’s authority to exercise authority over the person.   Issues of jurisdiction can arise when a separated couple no longer live together in the same County, State or sometimes Country.  Issues can be simple or complicated.   Below are a few common illustrations of jurisdiction questions.


John and Amy were married in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts on January 1, 2008.  The couple bought a home in Peabody, Essex County, Massachusetts and lived together as husband and wife for 10 years.  July 1, 2018, John decides the marriage isn’t working, moves out of the home and rents an apartment in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.   Amy remains in the Peabody home.  Amy wants to file the divorce but is not sure what is the correct Court to file.


In The above scenario, Amy would file in the Essex Probate and Family Court.  In Massachusetts, the Complaint for divorce is filed in the Family and Probate Court of the County where the filing party resides.   The Middlesex Probate and Family Court would be the place to file, if John filed the Complaint.

I still live in Massachusetts but my spouse has moved out of State. Where do I file the Complaint?


Using the above fact pattern, if John had moved to New Hampshire when he separated, Amy would still file the Complaint for Divorce in the Essex County Probate and Family Court. In Massachusetts, the divorce is still filed in the Probate and Family Court where the filing party resides, in this case Essex County.   The filing party must satisfy residency requirements of living in Massachusetts for over one year and the breakdown of the marriage must occur in Massachusetts, Amy would still have to serve John the Complaint for Divorce in New Hampshire.

Other jurisdictional issues are:

  1. Couple married out of State. When the Couple separate, one party moves to Massachusetts and the other party stays in the original state;
  2. Couple married out of the Country, moved to Massachusetts, couple separates and one party moves back to the original country;
  3. OR the couple married in Massachusetts, lived in Massachusetts, the marriage broke down in Massachusetts, and one party has left for parts unknown.

For answers to these questions or solutions to your specific situation visit  https://www.mass.gov/divorce and contact   Fleischer Law Solutions for specific questions concerning your unique situation.