Divorce generally ranks among the worst of times in a person’s life. While two people must agree to marry either one can decide to divorce. No one in Massachusetts can be compelled to remain married. When one spouse believes there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” and wants to end it, divorce becomes inevitable.

Divorce is the legal procedure that formally ends a marriage. It is controlled by state law. Every divorce has three legal parties: the husband, the wife and the state. In Massachusetts the state’s interests are represented by the probate and family court. No divorce is allowed without court approval.

In Massachusetts there are three types of divorce. One is based on “fault” and the other two are based on “no-fault”. Of the two types of “no-fault” divorce only one is non-adversarial.

A non-adversarial, no-fault divorce (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 1A) requires the willing participation of both parties. There is no plaintiff and no defendant. Instead of a complaint there is a joint petition. Instead of a trial there is a hearing.

Only in a non-adversarial, no-fault divorce is the court prevented from making any inquiry into, or considering any evidence of the individual marital fault of the parties. Divorce mediation is based on a non-adversarial no-fault divorce.