In Massachusetts, you can get either a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce.
The Massachusetts Court System's self-help page defines uncontested divorce as "both people agree about everything they file." This might make divorcing spouses think that if they disagree about anything, they can't get an uncontested divorce... but that's not actually true.
In fact, the term "uncontested divorce" is misleading and can lead divorcing spouses to prematurely limit their options. Here, are two common — and harmful! — myths about uncontested divorce.
Myth #1: Uncontested Divorce Is Only for Couples Who Agree on Everything
The term "uncontested divorce" only refers to how the court sees the divorce filing. It doesn't say anything about what happens before the time of filing.
In fact, many uncontested divorces involve a lot of deliberation and negotiation about important issues like asset division, child support, alimony, and parenting schedules. Parties in the thick of these difficult conversations might experience them as highly "contested" — but if they are able to reach an agreement, they can still file joinly for an "uncontested" divorce!
Simply put, divorcing spouses should not assume that just because they don't agree about everything initially, that means they are stuck with a "contested" divorce. There are very effective options, including divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, to help conflicting parties get to an uncontested divorce.
Myth #2: Uncontested Divorce Is Easy
Getting to the point of filing for an uncontested divorce can be hard, especially if there are children involved. The family's resources — time, money, energy — are being divided between two households. Everybody is affected by the changes. That realization can make conversations around money and parenting very stressful.
However, in most cases, working toward an agreement outside of court is far preferable to leaving those important decisions up to a judge. Spouses are the experts on their own family and finances, in a way that a judge never will be. Very few people would prefer that a complete stranger make those decision for them!
Remember, even the most straightforward divorces often involve some level of disagreement. That doesn't mean they have to be litigated in court! The challenge is to find a way to reach an agreement before going to court, so the parties can retain ownership of the process and the important decisions that need to be made. Uncontested divorce can often emerge from situations where agreement initially seems impossible.