New Developments in Domestic Violence Law in Massachusetts

There have been a number of new developments in criminal law in our state. Here are some of the developments most pertinent to divorce:

  • In criminal law, there is now a charge of domestic assault and battery, which did not previously exist. The criminal charge of domestic assault and battery is for people who were/are married with a child together. One benefit of this charge is that it offers an enhanced sentence for repeat offenders.
  • Also in criminal law, there is now a charge for strangulation/suffocation. Like domestic assault and battery, this charge offers an enhanced sentence for second-time offenders. This charge also offers an enhanced sentence where the victim is pregnant.
  • In Massachusetts, victims of domestic violence can now get up to fifteen days of unpaid leave for domestic violence-related needs if the employer employs 50 or more people. Family members of domestic violence victims may also be allowed to take unpaid leave to help with domestic violence- related needs. The organization Employers Against Domestic Violence ( is a great resource on this topic.
  • Domestic violence often falls within the purview of both the District Court and the Probate Court. Now, when the District Court hears a 209A matter, the District Court can modify custody and visitation pertinent to the 209A for up to thirty days until it is revisited by the Probate Court.

What is the 410 Exchange?

Divorce involves a lot of paper.  Within forty-five days of service your divorce complaint, the Massachusetts court rules require you to complete a 410 exchange, which involves collecting the following documentation and providing it to opposing counsel:


  • Your federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the past three years, as well as the tax documentation for any private entity in which you have an interest (like a limited partnership); and


  • Your four most recent pay stubs; and


  • Documentation regarding the cost and nature of your available health insurance coverage; and


  • All your bank account statements for the past three years; and


  • All your statements for all your investments and retirement assets for the past three years; and


  • All loan or mortgage applications you made in the past three years; and


  • All your financial statements or statements of assets/liabilities in the past three years.


Collecting this documentation is a lot of work. As soon as you start considering divorce, you should make an effort to get this paperwork in order. It often takes banks a while to retrieve three years of statements, so you will benefit from getting started on this task as early as possible.



Can Massachusetts Hear a Custody Case About a Child Who Does Not Live in Massachusetts?

Yes, Massachusetts can initiate or modify custody orders for children out of state if:

  • Massachusetts was the home state of the child in the past six months, but now the child no longer lives in Massachusetts because one parent removed the child while the other parent remains in Massachusetts.
  • No other state would have jurisdiction as the home state, and the child and parents have a significant connection to Massachusetts, and there is substantial evidence about the child’s care in Massachusetts.
  • Another state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that Massachusetts is the more appropriate forum and it is in the best interests of the child that Massachusetts assumes jurisdiction.

[M.G.L. Chapter 209B Sec. 2]