Are Divorce Records Public in Massachusetts? Free Divorce Check

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Background Checks | October 7, 2022

Man asks are divorce records public in Massachusetts while he holds up his phone on the right and the projected image is of a split couple surrounded by public records divorce Massachusetts state on the right.

Are divorce records public in Massachusetts?

Many people seeking comprehensive, quality information about the divorce process in this New England state and if they are able to do a free divorce check will be happy to know that yes, Massachusetts divorce records are public.

One of the reasons for this is that Massachusetts is a “no fault” divorce state, and that means that spouses can file for divorce for any reason, even without the other person’s knowledge.

Fortunately, anyone can do a free Massachusetts divorce search instantly, using online tools and find out for sure, are divorce records public in Massachusetts.

For others who want to obtain copies of divorce records, the process is a little more involved. This complete guide covered all the info anyone needs to search for and obtain divorce records in Massachusetts.

What to Know About Divorce in Massachusetts

Although states across the United States have seen an overall decline in divorce rate in recent years, the word still looms over married couples, with 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that nearly half of all marriages in the nation still end in divorce (~45%).20

Marriage and divorce laws vary from state to state (see Massachusetts marriage law Mass General Laws c.207 and divorce law Mass. General Laws c.208, and subsequently, there is quite a bit of variance in the way that divorce cases are handled.21,22

Screenshot of Massachusetts website about Divorce with yellow arrow pointing to the legal process in ending a marriage.

Here’s what every married MA resident needs to know about divorce in Massachusetts.

Firstly, Massachusetts is a no-fault divorce state. This means that any marriage can be terminated without the necessity to prove the other party was at fault. The petitioner must indicate that there was an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage.

Secondly, to be eligible for divorce filing, an individual must have been a resident of Massachusetts for one year or in a fault divorce case, must be able to prove that the reason for the divorce occurred in the state of Massachusetts and that the couple resided there together.2

Thirdly, the divorce process can be lengthy and costly, particularly in contested cases. Read on for more information about the types of divorce in MA.

Finally, there is a $200 fee to file for divorce in the state of Massachusetts.9

Types of Divorce in Massachusetts

Divorces are categorized based on whether the case is contested or uncontested and whether the complaint is filed as “fault” or “no-fault”. In an uncontested case, both parties agree that a divorce is desirable and have reached an agreement on how assets will be divided. This is a no-fault divorce case.

In contested cases, the parties disagree on some aspect of the case, either the need for divorce or the terms of the divorce.

In a no-fault divorce case, no party is attempting to assign blame for the marital issues, but it is believed that the marriage is not salvageable.

A fault divorce, in contrast, seeks to prove that one spouse was the cause of the marital breakdown.8

Look at how these categories are organized into three types of divorce in the state of Massachusetts.

No-Fault 1A Divorce (Uncontested Divorce Massachusetts)

The first type of divorce is the no-fault 1A divorce. This is an uncontested divorce case where both spouses agree that the marriage is past saving and an agreement between the two parties has been reached about how marital assets will be divided and child custody will be arranged.

No-Fault 1B Divorce (Contested No-Fault Divorce Massachusetts)

The second type of divorce in Massachusetts is a no-fault 1B divorce. This type of divorce case is still categorized as no-fault.

It is, however, a contested case because the two parties disagree about the divorce. The disagreement may be over the matter of the divorce itself or about how financial assets and obligations will be divided.

Note that couples who reach an agreement may apply to have a 1B divorce changed to a 1A.

Fault Divorce (Are Divorce Records Public in Massachusetts When There’s Fault?)

The third and final divorce type in MA is a fault divorce. In this scenario, one party attempts to prove that the other party is the cause of the marital breakdown.

A fault divorce may take longer to execute and finalize, and the proceedings can sometimes be more costly.

Screenshot of Commonwealth of Massachusetts website page about Section 1 with yellow arrow pointing to the causes for divorce and general provisions.

Per Massachusetts divorce law (M.G.L. c. 208, s. 1, acceptable grounds for a fault divorce include:8,23

  • Impotency
  • Desertion of 1 year
  • Gross habits of intoxication
  • Adultery
  • Non-provision of support
  • Abuse
  • Prison sentence of 5 years or more

How to Find Out if Someone Filed for Divorce in Massachusetts

In most cases, either spouse would be aware if the other filed for divorce because a divorce summons would be delivered to the non-filer. However, in some instances, it is possible for one party to obtain a divorce without the other’s knowledge, particularly if they are able to prove that they could not locate or contact an estranged spouse. Thus, it is possible, in theory, for one spouse to file for a divorce and the other spouse not know about it.

So how can someone find out if their spouse has filed for divorce? When asking the spouse directly is out of the question, a concerned individual has a few other resources to consider.

Sometimes, an internet search using the spouse’s full name and “divorce” may generate useful results.

However, a more likely way of finding the desired information is by contacting the county clerk or visiting the courthouse in the county where a divorce is most likely to have been filed. If a complaint has been filed, a county clerk should have these documents available. Note that fees may apply.16

Massachusetts Divorce Timeline

The timeline for a divorce in Massachusetts depends entirely upon the type of divorce complaint that is filed, and a divorce isn’t over once the paperwork is submitted. The total time for a divorce to be finalized can be between six months and two years (in more complicated cases), with an average of about one year.11

Timeline for a No-Fault 1A Divorce

Because a no-fault 1A divorce is an uncontested case, it tends to advance more smoothly and quickly than a contested case. The written separation agreement is drafted and signed prior to paperwork filing, less mediation/attorney time and input is required, and the judge’s responsibilities are to ensure that information is accurate and complete rather than to rule on the justness of asset distribution, etc. The table below looks at a timeline breakdown for no-fault 1A divorces.6,12

Point in Divorce ProcessAverage Time to Completion
Paperwork FilingThis is the initial step or starting point.
Divorce HearingCan be scheduled immediately. May take around one month for a court date, depending upon court availability. Hearing will probably take one day.
Nisi PeriodFollowing the judge’s decision to dissolve the marriage, there is a 30-day waiting period before the nisi decree is issued. There is an additional 90-day waiting period for the nisi decree to become final.
Total Time For Divorce ProceedingsAround 6 months, give or take.

Timeline for a No-Fault 1B Divorce or Fault Divorce

Contested divorce cases usually take significantly longer than uncontested cases because of negotiations, discovery time, and potential trials. The table below provides some insight into the timeline for contested divorce cases.11

Point in Divorce ProcessAverage Time to Completion
Paperwork FilingDivorce proceedings begin when the petitioner submits the initial paperwork and fees.
Service of Divorce SummonsPetitioner has 90 days to serve papers to the spouse.
Response to SummonsRespondent has 20 days to file a response in court.
Exchange of Financial Statements/Separation AgreementTime to completion is variable. The parties may require mediation or attorney assistance to complete this step.
DiscoveryThe length of discovery is variable and depends upon the extent of the issues which need to be resolved.
Pre-trial HearingSome cases may have a pre-trial when there are unresolved issues.
Divorce HearingMust be scheduled at least 6 months after the initial filing date.
Nisi PeriodFollowing the judge’s decision to dissolve the marriage, a divorce decree nisi is immediately issued. The couple must wait 90 days for the nisi decree to become final.
Total Time For Divorce ProceedingsTypically 12 to 18 months.

What Does a Divorce Decree Look Like in Massachusetts?

Once a judge has determined that a marriage has experienced an “irretrievable breakdown,” the judge will enter an order for the divorce. In no-fault 1A cases, a judgment nisi (also called divorce nisi or decree nisi) is automatically entered after 30 days.

In no-fault 1B cases and fault divorces, the judgment is entered immediately. Ninety days later, the decree nisi will become absolute. A divorce decree is a legally binding document.1,3

Divorce decrees vary in length depending on the type of divorce filed: uncontested divorce decrees may only be a single page document, while contested divorce decrees may include all the forms, trial information, and judge’s rulings.1 The divorce decree will list the date and place of the divorce ruling.

It should include the name of the presiding judge as well as the full names of both parties.

Decrees typically outline the division of responsibilities and assets for each party following divorce.19

Decrees For Divorce Absolute Vs. Divorce Nisi

There are two types of divorce decree in the state of Massachusetts: the divorce decree nisi and the divorce decree absolute. A divorce nisi decree means that the judge has granted the divorce, and the couple is in a sort of limbo waiting stage for the divorce to finalize. The idea behind the decree nisi is to give the involved parties time to re-evaluate if necessary or ascertain that the details of the divorce agreement are complete and accurate.

After a specified period of time, the divorce automatically becomes final and the divorce decree becomes absolute. In Massachusetts, the nisi waiting period is 120 days for 1A divorces and 90 days for 1B and fault divorces.3

Are Massachusetts Divorce Records Public? (Public Divorce Records Massachusetts)

For anyone who has ever questioned “how to know when my divorce is final,” “how to find my divorce date online for free?,” or “Are divorce records public in Massachusetts?,” knowing how to access divorce records is key. In general, divorce proceedings are a matter of public record and should be accessible to anyone who knows where to look. There are some instances when divorce information may be sealed, such as to protect the privacy of a minor, but in most situations, these are available public records.

Unfortunately, there is not one universal way to access these records. Divorce cases are handled at the state level, and therefore there is not a nation-wide database for divorce records. When searching for divorce records, an individual must look to the state and county in which the divorce occurred.19

Mass.Gov Divorce Records

The official Mass.gov website is an excellent resource for individuals exploring the ins and outs of the divorce process.32 This website provides guidelines on how to request a certified copy of a divorce record by mail or in-person. Note that there are fees to obtain certified copies.4

If an individual wants to access their divorce records but does not require a certified copy, there are some online options available. Mass.gov uses a Trial Court Electronic Case Access database where individuals can do case searches for free, and the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also has an online Public Records Request Database where some records may be found.14, 17, 32

To access divorce records, the requestor must have the docket number of the divorce case.

Screenshot of Mass Gov website page about Probate and Family Court Locations with yellow arrow pointing to the map of Massachusetts.

If this information is unknown, the individual can contact the county Probate and Family Court (Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2022, Probate and Family Court Locations) to obtain it.33

County Divorce Records

In the state of Massachusetts, divorce cases are handled by the specific county’s Probate and Family Court. The Probate and Family Court also maintains copies of divorce records for each case in the county.

Use the following table to access the websites for the Probate and Family Court in each county of Massachusetts.

Are Divorce Records Public in Each Massachusetts County?Massachusetts County Divorce Records
Are Divorce Records Public in Barnstable County, Massachusetts? (Barnstable County Divorce Records)Barnstable Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Berkshire County, Massachusetts? (Berkshire County Divorce Records)Berkshire Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Bristol County, Massachusetts? (Bristol County Divorce Records)Bristol Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Dukes County, Massachusetts? (Dukes County Divorce Records)Dukes Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Essex County, Massachusetts? (Essex County Divorce Records)Essex Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Franklin County, Massachusetts? (Franklin County Divorce Records)Franklin Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Hampden County, Massachusetts? (Hampden County Divorce Records)Hampden Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Hampshire County, Massachusetts? (Hampshire County Divorce Records)Hampshire Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Middlesex County, Massachusetts? (Middlesex County Divorce Records)Middlesex Probate and Family Court South – Woburn
Middlesex Probate and Family Court North – Lowell
Are Divorce Records Public in Nantucket County, Massachusetts? (Nantucket County Divorce Records)Nantucket Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Norfolk County, Massachusetts? (Norfolk County Divorce Records)Norfolk Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Plymouth County, Massachusetts? (Plymouth County Divorce Records)Plymouth Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Suffolk County, Massachusetts? (Suffolk County Divorce Records)Suffolk Probate and Family Court
Are Divorce Records Public in Worcester County, Massachusetts? (Worcester County Divorce Records)Worcester Probate and Family Court

Now that the question of “Are divorce records public in Massachusetts?” has been addressed, interested parties may find themselves wondering about what other public records are available to them. Individuals can find additional public record information and resources listed by county in the following tables.

Note that the district court of Massachusetts is located in 62 courts across the Commonwealth. Most counties are served by multiple district courts. Scroll to the bottom of the district court page to see which cities are served by that court.

For additional information about criminal records searches, read Background Check: Massachusetts (MA) State Database Search Guide (CORI).

Barnstable CountyRecords SearchBerkshire CountyRecords Search
Barnstable County Superior CourtBarnstable County Superior CourtBerkshire County Superior CourtBerkshire County Superior Court
Barnstable County Public RecordsBarnstable County Public Records RequestsBerkshire County Public RecordsBerkshire County District Attorney’s Public Records
Barnstable County Marriage RecordsSame as aboveBerkshire County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Barnstable County Divorce RecordsBarnstable Probate and Family CourtBerkshire County Divorce RecordsBerkshire Probate and Family Court
Barnstable County Online RecordsBarnstable County Public Records Request Form
Massachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Berkshire County Online RecordsCommonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Massachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Barnstable County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsBerkshire County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Barnstable County District ClerkBarnstable District Court 
Falmouth District Court
Orleans District Court
Berkshire County District ClerkNorthern Berkshire District Court
Pittsfield District Court
Southern Berkshire District Court
Barnstable County Criminal RecordsBarnstable County Sheriff’s OfficeBerkshire County Criminal RecordsBerkshire County Sheriff’s Office
Barnstable County Deed RecordsBarnstable County Registry of DeedsBerkshire County Deed RecordsSouthern Berkshire Registry of Deeds
Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds
Berkshire North Registry of Deeds
Barnstable County Real Property RecordsSame as aboveBerkshire County Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

Bristol CountyRecords SearchDukes CountyRecords Search
Bristol County Superior CourtBristol County Superior CourtDukes County Superior CourtDukes County Superior Court
Bristol County Public RecordsBristol County Public Records RequestDukes County Public RecordsDukes County Public Records
Bristol County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsDukes County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Bristol County Divorce RecordsBristol Probate and Family CourtDukes County Divorce RecordsDukes Probate and Family Court
Bristol County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Dukes County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Bristol County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsDukes County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Bristol County District ClerkAttleboro District Court
Fall River District Court
New Bedford District Court
Taunton District Court
Dukes County District ClerkEdgartown District Court 
Bristol County Criminal RecordsBristol County Sheriff’s OfficeDukes County Criminal RecordsDukes County Sheriff’s Office
Bristol County Deed RecordsNorthern Bristol County Registry of Deeds
Bristol County Register of Deeds, Southern District
Dukes County Deed RecordsDukes County Registry of Deeds
Bristol County Real Property RecordsSame as aboveDukes County Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

Essex CountyRecords SearchFranklin CountyRecords Search
Essex County Superior CourtEssex County Superior CourtFranklin County Superior CourtFranklin County Superior Court
Essex County Public RecordsEssex District Attorney’s Public Records RequestsFranklin County Public RecordsCommonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Essex County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsFranklin County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Essex County Divorce RecordsEssex Probate and Family CourtFranklin County Divorce RecordsFranklin Probate and Family Court
Essex County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Franklin County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Essex County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsFranklin County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Essex County District ClerkGloucester District Court
Ipswich District Court
Lawrence District Court
Lynn District Court
Newburyport District Court 
Peabody District Court
Salem District Court
Franklin County District ClerkGreenfield District Court 
Orange District Court
Essex County Criminal RecordsEssex County Correctional Facility & Sheriff’s HeadquartersFranklin County Criminal RecordsFranklin County Sheriff’s Office
Essex County Deed RecordsNorthern Essex Registry of Deeds
Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds
Franklin County Deed RecordsFranklin County Registry of Deeds
Essex County Real Property RecordsSame as aboveFranklin County Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

Hampden CountyRecords SearchHampshire CountyRecords Search
Hampden County Superior CourtHampden County Superior CourtHampshire County Superior CourtHampshire County Superior Court
Hampden County Public RecordsHampden County District Attorney Public Records RequestsHampshire County Public RecordsNorthwestern District Attorney Public Records Requests
Hampden County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsHampshire County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Hampden County Divorce RecordsHampden Probate and Family CourtHampshire County Divorce RecordsHampshire Probate and Family Court
Hampden County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Hampshire County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Hampden County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsHampshire County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Hampden County District ClerkChicopee District Court
Holyoke District Court
Palmer District Court
Springfield District Court
Westfield District Court
Hampshire County District ClerkEastern Hampshire District Court 
Northampton District Court
Hampden County Criminal RecordsHampden County Sheriff’s DepartmentHampshire County Criminal RecordsHampshire County Sheriff’s Office
Hampden County Deed RecordsHampden County Registry of DeedsHampshire County Deed RecordsHampshire Registry of Deeds
Hampden County Real Property RecordsSame as aboveHampshire County Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

Middlesex CountyRecords SearchNantucket CountyRecords Search
Middlesex County Superior CourtMiddlesex County Superior CourtNantucket County Superior CourtNantucket County Superior Court
Middlesex County Public RecordsMiddlesex County Public Records RequestsNantucket County Public RecordsTown & County of Nantucket Public Records Request
Middlesex County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsNantucket County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Middlesex County Divorce RecordsMiddlesex Probate and Family Court South – Woburn
Middlesex Probate and Family Court North – Lowell
Nantucket County Divorce RecordsNantucket Probate and Family Court
Middlesex County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Nantucket County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Middlesex County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsNantucket County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Middlesex County District ClerkAyer District Court 
Cambridge District Court
Concord District Court
Framingham District Court
Lowell District Court
Malden District Court
Marlborough District Court
Newton District Court
Somerville District Court
Waltham District Court
Woburn District Court
Nantucket County District ClerkNantucket District Court
Middlesex County Criminal RecordsMiddlesex County Sheriff’s OfficeNantucket County Criminal RecordsNantucket County Sheriff’s Department
Middlesex County Deed RecordsMiddlesex South Registry of Deeds
Middlesex North Registry of Deeds
Nantucket County Deed RecordsTown & County of Nantucket Registry of Deeds
Middlesex County Real Property RecordsSame as aboveNantucket County Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

Norfolk CountyRecords SearchPlymouth CountyRecords Search
Norfolk County Superior CourtNorfolk County Superior CourtPlymouth County Superior CourtPlymouth County Superior Court
Norfolk County Public RecordsNorfolk County Public RecordsPlymouth County Public RecordsPlymouth County Public Records Requests
Norfolk County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsPlymouth County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Norfolk County Divorce RecordsNorfolk Probate and Family CourtPlymouth County Divorce RecordsPlymouth Probate and Family Court
Norfolk County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Plymouth County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Norfolk County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsPlymouth County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Norfolk County District ClerkBrookline District Court 
Dedham District Court
Quincy District Court
Stoughton District Court
Wrentham District Court
Plymouth County District ClerkBrockton District Court
Hingham District Court
Plymouth District Court
Wareham District Court
Norfolk County Criminal RecordsNorfolk County Sheriff’s DepartmentPlymouth County Criminal RecordsPlymouth County Sheriff’s Department
Norfolk County Deed RecordsNorfolk County Registry of DeedsPlymouth County Deed RecordsPlymouth County Registry of Deeds
Norfolk County Real Property RecordsSame as abovePlymouth County Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

Suffolk CountyRecords SearchWorcester CountyRecords Search
Suffolk County Superior CourtSuffolk County Superior CourtWorcester County Superior CourtWorcester County Superior Court
Suffolk County Public RecordsSuffolk County District Attorney’s Office Public RecordsWorcester County Public RecordsWorcester County District Attorney – Public Records Requests
Suffolk County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsWorcester County Marriage RecordsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Suffolk County Divorce RecordsSuffolk Probate and Family CourtWorcester County Divorce RecordsWorcester Probate and Family Court
Suffolk County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Worcester County Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database
Suffolk County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsWorcester County Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Suffolk County District ClerkChelsea District Court Worcester County District ClerkWorcester Juvenile Court
Dudley Juvenile Court
Fitchburg Juvenile Court
Milford Juvenile Court
Clinton District Court
Dudley District Court
East Brookfield District Court
Fitchburg District Court
Gardner District Court
Leominster District Court
Milford District Court
Uxbridge District Court
Westborough District Court
Winchendon District Court
Worcester District Court
Suffolk County Criminal RecordsSuffolk County Sheriff’s DepartmentWorcester County Criminal RecordsWorcester County Sheriff’s Office
Suffolk County Deed RecordsSuffolk Registry of DeedsWorcester County Deed RecordsWorcester Registry of Deeds
Suffolk County Real Property RecordsSame as aboveWorcester County Real Property RecordsSame as above

Many Massachusetts residents live in one of the following most-populated cities: Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Cambridge, Lowell, Brockton, New Bedford, and Quincy. The following direct readers to the relevant city or county resources for each of these cities.

BostonRecords SearchWorcesterRecords Search
Boston Superior CourtSuffolk County Superior CourtWorcester Superior CourtWorcester County Superior Court
Boston Public RecordsCity of Boston Public RecordsWorcester Public RecordsCity of Worcester Public Records
Boston Marriage RecordsCity of Boston City ClerkWorcester Marriage RecordsCity of Worcester City Clerk
Boston Divorce RecordsSuffolk Probate and Family CourtWorcester Divorce RecordsWorcester Probate and Family Court
Boston Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
City of Boston Archives
Worcester Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Worcester Public Records Portal 
Boston Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsWorcester Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Boston District ClerkBoston Municipal CourtWorcester District ClerkWorcester District Court
Boston Criminal RecordsBoston Police DepartmentWorcester Criminal RecordsWorcester Police Department Public Records Center
Boston Deed RecordsSuffolk Registry of DeedsWorcester Deed RecordsWorcester Registry of Deeds
Boston Real Property RecordsSame as aboveWorcester Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

SpringfieldRecords SearchCambridgeRecords Search
Springfield Superior CourtHampden County Superior CourtCambridge Superior CourtMiddlesex County Superior Court
Springfield Public RecordsCity of Springfield Public RecordsCambridge Public RecordsCity of Cambridge Public Records Request
Springfield Marriage RecordsSpringfield City Clerk’s OfficeCambridge Marriage RecordsCity of Cambridge City Clerk’s Office
Springfield Divorce RecordsHampden Probate and Family CourtCambridge Divorce RecordsMiddlesex Probate and Family Court South – Woburn
Springfield Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
City of Springfield Online Records Portal
Cambridge Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
Springfield Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsCambridge Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Springfield District ClerkSpringfield District CourtCambridge District ClerkCambridge District Court
Springfield Criminal RecordsSpringfield Police Department Public Records RequestsCambridge Criminal RecordsCambridge Police Department
Springfield Deed RecordsHampden County Registry of DeedsCambridge Deed RecordsMiddlesex South Registry of Deeds
Springfield Real Property RecordsSame as aboveCambridge Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

LowellRecords SearchBrocktonRecords Search
Lowell Superior CourtMiddlesex County Superior CourtBrockton Superior CourtPlymouth County Superior Court
Lowell Public RecordsCity of Lowell Public RecordsBrockton Public RecordsCity of Brockton Public Records Request
Lowell Marriage RecordsLowell City ClerkBrockton Marriage RecordsBrockton City Clerk
Lowell Divorce RecordsMiddlesex Probate and Family Court North – LowellBrockton Divorce RecordsBrockton Probate and Family Court
Lowell Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
City of Lowell Public Records
Brockton Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
City of Brockton Online Services 
Lowell Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and StatisticsBrockton Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
Lowell District ClerkLowell District CourtBrockton District ClerkBrockton District Court
Lowell Criminal RecordsCity of Lowell Public RecordsBrockton Criminal RecordsBrockton Police Department Public Records Requests
Lowell Deed RecordsMiddlesex North Registry of DeedsBrockton Deed RecordsPlymouth County Registry of Deeds
Lowell Real Property RecordsSame as aboveBrockton Real Property RecordsSame as above

 

New BedfordRecords SearchQuincyRecords Search
New Bedford Superior CourtBristol County Superior CourtQuincy Superior CourtNorfolk County Superior Court
New Bedford Public RecordsCity of New Bedford Public Records RequestsQuincy Public RecordsCity of Quincy Public Records Request
New Bedford Marriage RecordsNew Bedford City ClerkQuincy Marriage RecordsQuincy Office of the City Clerk
New Bedford Divorce RecordsNew Bedford Probate and Family CourtQuincy Divorce RecordsNorfolk Probate and Family Court
New Bedford Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case AccessQuincy Online RecordsMassachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access
New Bedford Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
New Bedford City Clerk
Quincy Vital Records LocationsRegistry of Vital Records and Statistics
New Bedford District ClerkNew Bedford District Court
New Bedford City Clerk
Quincy District ClerkQuincy District Court
New Bedford Criminal RecordsNew Bedford Police DepartmentQuincy Criminal RecordsQuincy Police Department Records Requests
New Bedford Deed RecordsBristol South Registry of DeedsQuincy Deed RecordsNorfolk County Registry of Deeds
New Bedford Real Property RecordsSame as aboveQuincy Real Property RecordsSame as above

Current Divorce Statistics in Massachusetts

The last decade has witnessed more couples in the U.S. seeking premarital background check and marriage background check before marriage, waiting longer to get married, and avoiding traditional marriage altogether. Subsequently, the United States has seen a decline in the divorce rate as well.

Before diving into the question of “Are divorce records public in Massachusetts?” take a look at some recent divorce statistics for the state.

The New England area of the U.S. has some of the lowest rates of divorce, nationally. Massachusetts is no exception with a divorce rate of 6.4%.13 This “crude” divorce rate denotes the number of divorced women out of every 1,000 married individuals.12

Another statistic commonly used is the percentage of the population that is currently divorced. According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 data, approximately 9.4% of Massachusetts residents were divorced at the time of data collection.35

Screenshot of United States Census website page about Massachusetts with yellow arrow pointing to the number of families in it.

Some estimates which include divorces and legal separations place Massachusetts at an approximate rate of 11%.18

Scan the tables below to see the percentage of divorced people per Massachusetts county and major city.

Divorce Rate By Massachusetts County% Divorced*% Divorced/Separated18
Divorce Rate in Barnstable County, MA11.7%~13%
Divorce Rate in Berkshire County, MA12.5%~15%
Divorce Rate in Bristol County, MA11.1%~13%
Divorce Rate in Dukes County, MA13.6%~13%
Divorce Rate in Essex County, MA10.4%~12%
Divorce Rate in Franklin County, MA12.9%~15%
Divorce Rate in Hampden County, MA10.9%~13%
Divorce Rate in Hampshire County, MA10.1%~12%
Divorce Rate in Middlesex County, MA7.9%~10%
Divorce Rate in Nantucket County, MA10.3%~13%
Divorce Rate in Norfolk County, MA8.2%~10%
Divorce Rate in Plymouth County, MA9.3%~12%
Divorce Rate in Suffolk County, MA7.7%~11%
Divorce Rate in Worcester County, MA10.9%~13%

* Estimates from 2020 census data.

The following table looks at the divorce rate for the eight most populous cities in the state of Massachusetts.

Divorce Rate By Massachusetts City% Divorced*% Divorced/Separated18
Divorce Rate in Boston7.3%~10%
Divorce Rate in Worcester11.7%~14%
Divorce Rate in Springfield10.8%~15%
Divorce Rate in Cambridge6.3%~8%
Divorce Rate in Lowell10.5%~13%
Divorce Rate in Brockton10.1%~15%
Divorce Rate in New Bedford11.7%~15%
Divorce Rate in Quincy8.7%~10%

* Estimates from 2020 census data.

What to Do When Filing for Divorce in Massachusetts

The process required for divorce filing depends to large extent upon the type of divorce complaint the petitioner is filing. Likewise, there are some forms which are specific to divorce type. Explore the steps below to file for divorce in Massachusetts.

Step 1: Ensure eligibility for divorce in Massachusetts. (e.g. 1 year residence, residence in state as a couple, etc.).

Step 2: Respectfully discuss the intention to divorce with the spouse. A spouse caught unawares by divorce papers is less likely to be cooperative.

If the spouse supports the decision to divorce, proceed to Step 3.

If the spouse does not support the decision to divorce, proceed to Step 3b under “Filing a 1B Divorce.”

Filing a 1A Divorce

Step 3a: In a separate conversation, discuss the terms of the divorce (property division, child custody, etc.) and create a separation agreement which outlines the terms. The written contract must be signed by both parties and a notary. Note that some couples may choose to use an attorney or mediator to help reach an agreement.

Step 4a: Complete the necessary forms to proceed with a “no-fault 1A divorce.” The necessary forms are linked below.

Note: Additional forms apply for couples with children and in some special circumstances. See Divorce Probate and Family Court Forms.34

Step 5a: File the completed forms in person with the county Probate and Family Court or online with the court’s eFiling system.10 Pay the $200 filing fee and $15 filing surcharge.6

The court schedules a hearing date after all forms have been filed and fees have been paid.

Filing a 1B Divorce

Step 3b: Complete the necessary forms to proceed with a “no-fault 1B divorce.” The necessary forms are linked below.

  • Certified copy of the marriage certificate (Obtainable from the Registry of Vital Records)24
  • Complaint For Divorce Under Section 1B (CJD-101B)27
  • A financial statement from each spouse (In a contested case, the petitioner may submit a “Request For a Financial Statement.” The respondent has 10 days to provide the statement to the court.)28

Note: Additional forms apply for couples with children and in some special circumstances. See Mass.gov.7

Step 4b: File the completed forms in person with the county Probate and Family Court or online with the court’s eFiling system.10 Pay the $200 filing fee, $15 filing surcharge, and a $5 divorce summons charge.

Step 5b: After filing the necessary paperwork, the divorce complaint and summons must be served to the spouse (respondent). See Mass.gov’s guide on “Service of Process of Domestic Relations Complaints“.29 At this point, the divorce has been officially filed and divorce proceedings are in motion.7

After the spouse responds (or doesn’t respond) to the divorce summons, the divorce proceeds to a pre-trial or trial hearing.

Filing a Fault Divorce

In the case of a fault divorce, the relationship between spouses is less likely to be civil and the divorce is not collaborative. The steps for filing this type of divorce look a bit different.

Step 1: Ensure eligibility for divorce in Massachusetts. (e.g. 1 year residence, residence in state as a couple, etc.). Furthermore, ensure that there are provable grounds for a fault divorce (see M.G.L. c. 208, s.1).23

Step 2: Complete the necessary forms to proceed with a “fault divorce.” The necessary forms are linked below. Notice that the Complaint for Divorce Form for a fault divorce is different from the form required for a no-fault 1B divorce.

  • Certified copy of the marriage certificate (Obtainable from the Registry of Vital Records)24
  • Complaint for Divorce Form CJD-101 (signed by petitioner)31
  • Record of Absolute Divorce (R-408)27
  • Note: Additional forms apply for couples with children and in some special circumstances. See Mass.gov5

Step 3: File the completed forms in person with the county Probate and Family Court or online with the court’s eFiling system.10 Pay the $200 filing fee, $15 filing surcharge, and a $5 divorce summons charge.

Step 4: After filing the necessary paperwork, the divorce complaint and summons must be served to the spouse (respondent). See Mass.gov’s guide on “Service of Process of Domestic Relations Complaints”.29 At this point, the divorce has been officially filed and divorce proceedings are in motion.5

After the spouse responds (or doesn’t respond) to the divorce summons, the divorce proceeds to a pre-trial or divorce trial hearing.

Where Can I Get Mass Probate Court Forms?

In the state of Massachusetts, divorce cases are handled in the Probate and Family Court system of each county. The Mass.gov website maintains all of the required forms for divorce proceedings.

Screenshot of Mass Gov website page about Probate and Family Court forms with yellow arrow pointing to the collection of court forms.

Individuals can download the desired forms directly from the website using the link above.34

What Is the Difference Between Massachusetts Marriage Records and Massachusetts Marriage License Records?

Anyone who has ever wondered about the difference between marriage records and marriage license records is in good company. The small distinctions in terminology can be confusing for individuals who need to acquire specific marriage records for official or personal reasons.

In Massachusetts, there are two types of marriage records: the marriage license and the marriage certificate. A marriage license is issued to individuals intending to marry. The license grants the authority for the individuals to be married.

In contrast, a marriage certificate can be issued after a couple is married. It certifies that the individuals are legally married and the marriage is valid.19

As anyone who has been through a divorce knows, divorce proceedings can be intense, complicated, and drawn out. Individuals may endure further stress attempting to track down divorce records after the fact. This article addressed the question of “Are divorce records public in Massachusetts?” and provided all the necessary resources for anyone to obtain their divorce records.

Frequently Asked Questions About Are Divorce Records Public in Massachusetts

What Is a Judgement of Divorce Nisi?

A judgment of divorce nisi or decree nisi is the judge’s official decision to terminate the marriage in question. However, divorce nisi is not yet final because it requires a specified waiting period before automatically finalizing. In Massachusetts, the divorce nisi waiting period is either 90 days (for fault divorces and 1B divorces) or 120 days (for 1A divorces).15

What Is a Certificate of Divorce Absolute?

At the end of the mandatory divorce nisi waiting period, if no action is taken by either party to negate or amend the divorce terms, the divorce becomes final. At this point, the divorce becomes “absolute,” and a divorce decree or certificate absolute can be issued in place of a decree nisi. The certificate of divorce absolute can serve as proof of a finalized divorce for any official purpose.

Where Do I Access Massachusetts Public Records?

Public records requests can be made manually by accessing the request form through the Mass.gov website and mailing or submitting the form in person.32 Many public records may also be accessible through the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Records Access Officer or Public Records Request Database.17

Can I Find Online Divorce Records?

Divorce records in the state of Massachusetts can be difficult to find online, and many searches on the Mass.gov state government page will direct individuals to a public records request form to be mailed in or submitted in person. However, there are a couple of online routes available. These include Mass.gov’s Trial Court Electronic Case Access database and the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Public Records Request Database.14, 17, 32


References

1Cheong, G. (2016, May 25). What is a Divorce Decree? Infinity Law Group. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.infinlaw.com/faq/divorce-decree/>

2Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Divorce. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/divorce>

3Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Finalizing a Divorce. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/service-details/finalizing-a-divorce>

4Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Get a Copy of Your Divorce Record. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/how-to/get-a-copy-of-your-divorce-record>

5Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Get A Fault Divorce. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/guides/get-a-fault-divorce>

6Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Get A No-Fault 1A Divorce. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/guides/get-a-no-fault-1a-divorce>

7Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Get A No-Fault 1B Divorce. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/guides/get-a-no-fault-1b-divorce>

8Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Learn About the Types of Divorce. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/info-details/learn-about-the-types-of-divorce>

9Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Probate and Family Court Filing Fees. Mass.gov. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/info-details/probate-and-family-court-filing-fees>

10efileMA. (2022). Massachusets Court System File & Save. efileMA. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <http://www.efilema.com/>

11Gaudet, R. (2022). Timeline of a Massachusetts Divorce. The Law Offices of Richard Alan Gaudet, LLC. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://gaudetlawoffice.com/timeline-of-a-massachusetts-divorce/>

12Hubbard, K. (2020, December 8). Here Are the States Where Your Marriage Won’t Last. U.S. News. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/states-with-the-highest-divorce-rates>

13Lazar, R. (2021, October 8). Divorce Rates in Massachusetts. Law Offices of Renee Lazar. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.reneelazarlaw.com/blog/2021/10/2021-divorce-rates-in-massachusetts/>

14masscourts.org. (2022). Massachusetts Trial Court Electronic Case Access. mascourts.org. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.masscourts.org/eservices/home.page.2>

15Rossi Cook, S. (2019, November 8). What Is A Judgement of Divorce Nisi? Susan Rossi Cook Attorney & Mediator. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.rossicooklaw.com/blog/2019/11/what-is-a-judgement-of-divorce-nisi/>

16Sandvick, C. (2021, May 6). How to Find Out if a Divorce Has Been Filed. WikiHow. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.wikihow.com/Find-out-if-a-Divorce-Has-Been-Filed>

17Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Public Records Request Database. Public Records Division. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://www.sec.state.ma.us/RequestSearchWeb/Webpages/SearchResultsDetail.aspx>

18Statistical Atlas. (2022). Overview of Massachusetts. Statistical Atlas. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://statisticalatlas.com/state/Massachusetts/Overview>

19www.staterecords.org. (2022). How to Find a Divorce Record in Massachusetts. Massachusetts State Records. Retrieved August 30, 2022, from <https://massachusetts.staterecords.org/divorcerecords?_ga=2.32504446.1754680984.1661964436-629180500.1658864994>

20Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Marriage Divorce Rates. National Marriage Divorce Rates. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national-marriage-divorce-rates-00-20.pdf>

21The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Marriage General Laws. General Laws Chapter 207. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleIII/Chapter207>

22The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Divorce General Laws. General Laws Chapter 208. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleIII/Chapter208>

23The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Divorce General Laws. General Laws Chapter 208 Section 1. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleIII/Chapter208/Section1>

24Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. Ordering a Birth, Marriage, or Death Certificate. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/ordering-a-birth-marriage-or-death-certificate>

25Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Probate and Family Court. Probate and Family Court Joint Petition for Divorce Pursuant to G.L. c.208, § 1A (CJD 101A). Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/info-details/probate-and-family-court-joint-petition-for-divorce-pursuant-to-gl-c208-ss-1a-cjd-101a>

26Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown. Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown Form. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/doc/affidavit-of-irretrievable-breakdown-0/download>

27Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Divorce or Annulment Certification. Divorce or Annulment Certification Form. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/doc/divorce-or-annulment-certification-vital-statistics-r-408/download>

28Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Court Basics. Filing Financial Statement in the Courts. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/filing-financial-statements-in-the-courts>

29Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Service of Process in the Courts. Service of Process of Domestic Relations Complaints in Probate and Family Court. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/info-details/service-of-process-of-domestic-relations-complaints-in-probate-and-family-court>

30Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Probate and Family Court. Probate and Family Court Complaint for Divorce (under G.L. c. 208, § 1B) (CJD 101B). Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/info-details/probate-and-family-court-complaint-for-divorce-under-gl-c-208-ss-1b-cjd-101b>

31Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Probate and Family Court. Probate and Family Court Complaint for Divorce (CJD 101). Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/info-details/probate-and-family-court-complaint-for-divorce-cjd-101>

32Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mass.gov Homepage. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/>

33Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Probate and Family Court. Probate and Family Court Locations. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/orgs/probate-and-family-court/locations>

34Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2022). Probate and Family Court Forms. Probate and Family Court Forms for Divorce. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://www.mass.gov/lists/probate-and-family-court-forms-for-divorce>

35United States Census Bureau. (2022). Data Census. Massachusetts Census Data. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from <https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=0400000US25>

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