Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What happens after my Divorce Agreement is approved by a Judge?

If you filed a Joint Petition for Divorce in Massachusetts then you will participate in an uncontested divorce hearing and the Judge will then issue Findings of Fact the day of the hearing.  A Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue after thirty (30) days, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Joint Petition for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 120 days after the divorce hearing date.

If you filed a Complaint for Divorce then your case will end either with a trial (if you don't settle) or an uncontested divorce hearing (if you settle).  If you reach an Agreement, then a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and be effective as of the date of the uncontested divorce hearing, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Complaint for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 90 days after the divorce hearing date.

Therefore, for 90 - 120 days after your agreement is approved you are still officially married.  During that "nisi" period you cannot remarry, and your tax and health insurance status will be as if you are married.  Once the "nisi" period passes you are officially divorced.

During and after the "nisi" period your Agreement will remain in effect unless the Judge or the Agreement directs otherwise.  This means that usually immediately after your hearing you start acting as required by the Agreement.  If you owned any joint property, the Agreement will likely require you to complete certain paperwork during this time period, such as transferring car titles, or signing deeds. In addition, if you agreed to the transfer of any retirement account you should complete any necessary QDROs as soon as possible and present them to the court for approval and then the retirement account plan administrators for implementation.

Once these transfers are complete there usually isn't any further work for your attorneys, but there may still be some to-dos for you to successfully complete your divorce. You should review your Separation Agreement to ensure that you are currently in compliance with and continue to comply with all of your obligations.

To assist you in completing these processes we have provided you with a Closing Checklist below:

☐      Pay final bill for professional services & fees to your attorney.

☐      Retrieve original files from your attorney.

☐      Store file in secure, safe location.

☐      Update Post Office with any new information (change of address or name).

☐      Update Registry of Motor Vehicles with any new information (change of address or name), and file updated titles for any motor vehicle transfers required by Separation Agreement.

☐      Close any joint accounts as required by Separation Agreement.

☐      Notify your accountant and/or financial planner of any account changes due to your divorce, and the change in your marital status.

☐      Notify your employer human resources department of change in marital status as of the Judgment of Divorce absolute date.

☐      Except as required by Separation Agreement, update beneficiary designations and authorized users on any accounts (bank, retirement, life insurance, etc.).

☐      Schedule Consult for updating Estate Plan (previous estate plan likely voided by divorce).

☐      Update all online account passwords (bank, credit card, loan, e-mail, social networking, etc.).

☐      If Property Transfer: File Quitclaim Deed with proper Registry, and obtain time-stamped copy for evidence of recording.

☐      If Name Change: Obtain Certified Copy of Judgment of Divorce Absolute (after 90 days) directly from Court.

☐      If Name Change: Provide Certified Divorce Judgment to Social Security Administration with Form SS-5 .

Other Resources:

Modification - In the event of a change in circumstances you may be entitled to a Modification of your Agreement, for more information visit: www.criticalmassdivorce.com/modification

Contempt – If the other party fails to meet an obligation required by the Agreement you may be entitled to Contempt sanctions, for more info visit: www.criticalmassdivorce.com/contempt


  1. Why is the Divorce Nisi not filed for 30 days in an uncontested joint petition divorce but immediately in the case of a complaint for divorce?

    I feel like I am getting penalized for being so amicable with my ex!

    Does the judge have any leeway on this item?

    1. Thank you for your comment and question. The Judge does not have any leeway on this item, because it is set by statute. Under a Complaint for Divorce, there is a 6 month waiting period before a Judgment of Divorce can issue after the service of the Complaint. So compared to that, the 30 days is quite short. The difference is that once that 6 months has passed, if a settlement is reached on a Complaint, then an uncontested hearing can be held and the Judgment immediately issues.

      Therefore, you are not being penalized for being amicable and reaching a Joint Petition. In fact, you can actually get divorced 5 months faster than those that file a Complaint for Divorce.


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