Ways to Speed Up a Divorce Case in Massachusetts

Divorce taking too long?  Try these ideas to move your case to conclusion

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Divorce cases can reach a conclusion very quickly, or they can take a very long time to complete.  With the case load that judges have on their plate, family law trials are generally being set six to nine months out from the pre-trial conference hearing, assuming that all discovery is done and the case is ready for trial.  If your trial will take multiple days for the court to hear, your trial will be set even farther out.  The pre-trial conference hearing is usually not set until about nine months after a complaint for divorce is filed.  Thus, even in the speediest of circumstances a family law (divorce) litigant usually won’t see a trial to resolve their case until well over one year after the initial complaint is filed.

Divorce cases are classified as uncontested (called “1A”) or contested (called “1” or “1B”).  Uncontested divorces involve the filing of a joint complaint as well as a complete separation agreement and are by far the quickest way to obtain a divorce.  A contested case involves one party filing for divorce and serving the other party with the complaint.  This page deals with “contested” cases.  For more information about types of divorce cases, click here.

The first question to ask yourself (or your attorney) is whether the case is slow to conclude because of the court, or by the intentional delay tactics of your spouse?

Either way, having your divorce case drag on can be exasperating.  We’re here to help, and have possible solutions for both situations.

If the case seems prolonged because of the court, try these ideas to move your case along:

  • Reach a settlement!  By far the quickest way to resolve your case is by coming to an agreement with your spouse to resolve all the issues.  You can then call the court and have them set an “uncontested” hearing date so you and your spouse can appear and ask the judge to accept your separation agreement and enter a judgment nisi.  You will be absolutely divorced a few months after the hearing.
  • File a motion.  During a divorce case, either party is allowed to file a motion with the court asking that the court enter court orders on any number of requests.  You can ask for child support or custody orders, alimony, payment of certain joint debts like a mortgage or credit cards, or for any restraining orders that will prohibit the other party from taking a particular action.  Just setting a hearing date, if you don’t have a hearing set already, will prompt the court to set further hearings such as a Case Management Conference or Pre-Trial Conference.
  • Finally, you can file a motion under Rule 16, which is discussed in further detail below.

If the case is dragging along due to the delay tactics of your spouse, there could be a variety of reasons why they are not cooperative and helping resolve the case.  Sometimes divorce litigants are just lazy and don’t have any incentive to end their case.  Other times, divorce litigants are slyly trying to gain a tactical advantage by stalling the resolution of a case.  Try these ideas to move your case along when your spouse is the hold up:

  • Begin conducting discovery:  Discovery is a set of tools available to every family law litigant to gain information from the other party or others.  Divorce cases are “civil” actions and the rules for discovery are the same as cases involving large corporations.  As attorneys, we have significant power to oblige your spouse or third parties to provide us with information.  We can send a demand to produce documents to your spouse, have them answer interrogatories under oath, or demand that they personally appear for an oral deposition.  Responding to discovery is not fun, and may prompt your spouse to cooperate and try to resolve the case amicably.
  • Mediate:  No matter what stage your divorce case is in, you can always sit down with a neutral mediator to help resolve the case.  For more about mediation, click here.
  • File a motion:  As stated above, just filing a motion with the court and setting a hearing date will get the court involved in your case and the judge will then want to move things along.  When a hearing is set, your divorce file is pulled and sent to the judge assigned to your case on the hearing date.  The judge can then set future hearings, such as the Pre-Trial Conference.
  • File a motion under Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 16, which allows the court to direct both parties and their respective attorneys to appear in court to discuss how the case can be expedited to resolution.  The court can order the following to be considered at the Rule 16 hearing, the purpose of which is to formulate the issues and have the judge involved in moving the case along:

1. The simplification of the issues;
2. The necessity or desirability of amendments to the pleadings;
3. The possibility of obtaining admissions of fact and of documents which will avoid unnecessary proof;
4. The limitation of the number of expert witnesses;
5. The advisability of a preliminary reference of issues to a master;
6. The possibility of settlement;
7. Agreement as to damages; and
8. Such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the action.

  • Communicate with your spouse directly about resolving the case:  Unless there is a domestic abuse restraining order in place, there is nothing prohibiting parties from communicating with each other about settling their case.  Often a lack of ability to communicate not only causes the end to a marriage, but also may cause the divorce case to take longer than expected.

For more information, feel free to contact our office today.  We offer a free, private consultation to discuss your matter and will help you resolve your case quickly and effectively.