The Uncontested Hearing

After two divorcing parties have reached a Separation Agreement and filed it with the court, the court will call them in for a 1A hearing, also known as an uncontested hearing.  These hearings generally last about five minutes and are straightforward, yet a surprising number of my clients request that I accompany them.

If you are prepared and confident, you probably do not need counsel for a 1A hearing.  Here is what to expect:

1) The judge will begin by asking both parties to state their names for the record and be sworn in.

2) The judge will ask the parties their date of marriage, date of separation, and whether the marriage is irretrievably broken.  The parties’ answers should reconcile with the information on the 1A divorce complaint and in the Separation Agreement.

3) The judge will ask each party if they signed the Agreement freely and voluntarily, believe it to be fair and reasonable, had the opportunity to consult counsel, and had the opportunity to review all financial records requested from the other party before signing the Agreement.

4) The judge may ask if the parties understand that they have requested the Agreement to either merge or to survive

5) If the judge is satisfied with all the answers and the quality of the Separation Agreement, the judge will most likely enter the divorce at that moment.  (Remember you cannot remarry until the nisi period is over!)

What Does It Mean to Have a No-Fault Divorce?

You may have heard horror stories about states without no-fault divorce.  In these states, one had to show wrongdoing by a spouse in order to get divorced.  The wrongdoing had to exceed a loss of love in the marriage.  Instead, it was generally adultery, abandonment, felony, etc. The tricky part was that a party could assert a defense of recrimination, essentially, “Yes, I was adulterous but so were you.”  If a court found both parties at fault, the action for divorce was defeated and both parties were stuck in the marriage.

Thankfully, Massachusetts is a no-fault divorce state which means residents have the option of getting divorced without citing a reason beyond “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.”  Although most people pursue divorce on grounds of irretrievable breakdown, Massachusetts allows you to cite fault if you want.  You should talk to your attorney if you’re inclined to cite a fault ground of divorce because these fault grounds of divorce may not help your case.  In fact, they could hinder negotiations by infuriating the opposing party.