Family Law: When does my divorce become final?


Family Law:  When does the divorce become final? 

Family law actions such as divorce, contempt and modification are guided by court rules known as the Massachusetts Domestic Relations Procedure Rules.

At the conclusion of a  divorce hearing by agreement of the parties or after a contested trial,  the Judge will enter a Decree Nisi.    After a waiting period of 90 days, the divorce becomes final and the court will automatically enter the Judgment of Divorce Absolute.

Upon the entry of a Judgment of Divorce Absolute you are now unmarried, single, and free to re-marry if you so choose.

Rule 58(c) does provide a mechanism where either party to the divorce may file “objections” during the 90 day waiting period.  Upon filing such objections the Judgment of Divorce Absolute will not enter and the parties will not be finally divorced.

Typically objections may result from fraud or mistake.  Massachusetts Domestic Relations  Procedure Rule 60.

Most all divorce cases complete the waiting period and  a Judgment of Divorce Absolute is obtained.

It is the rare divorce case when “objections” are filed and rarer still  when the court considers and allows the objection(s).

It is important that you remain aware of the date your divorce becomes final and absolute.

You should obtain  a certified and sealed copy of your Judgment of Divorce Absolute from the Court at the Register of Probate’s Office, or ask your lawyer to obtain it for you.

“Massachusetts Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 58:  Entry of Judgment.”

(a) After Trial or Hearing or by Agreement. Subject to the provisions of Rule 54(b): (1) Upon a decision by the court that a party shall recover only a sum certain or costs or that all relief shall be denied, or upon a written agreement for judgment for a sum certain or denying relief, the court shall forthwith prepare, sign and enter judgment; (2) upon a decision by the court granting other relief, the court shall promptly approve the form of the judgment. Every judgment shall be set forth on a separate document. A judgment is effective only when so set forth and when entered as provided in Rule 79(a). Entry of the judgment shall not be delayed for the taxing of costs. Attorneys shall submit forms of judgment upon direction of the court. All judgments in cases governed by these rules shall enter within thirty days after completion of trial.

 (b) Upon Order of Supreme Judicial Court. The clerk shall enter any judgment specifically directed by the Supreme Judicial Court. Identical to Mass.R.Civ.P. 58(b)

 (c) Nisi Judgment. At any time before the expiration of ninety days from the entry of a judgment of divorce nisi, the defendant, or any other person interested, may file in the Registry of Probate a statement of objections to the judgment becoming absolute, which shall set forth specifically the facts on which it is founded and shall be verified by affidavit. Notice of the filing of said objections shall be given to the plaintiff or defendant or his attorney, not later than the day of filing said objections. The portion of the judgment to which any objection is filed, but only that portion, shall not become absolute until such objections have been disposed of by the court. If said petition to stay the judgment absolute is subsequently dismissed by the court, the judgment shall become absolute as of ninety days from the date of the judgment nisi.

“Massachusetts Domestic Relations Procedure Rule 60:  Relief from Judgment or Order.”

(a) Clerical Mistakes. Clerical mistakes in judgments, orders or other parts of the record and errors therein arising from oversight or omission may be corrected by the court at any time of its own initiative or on the motion of any party and after such notice, if any, as the court orders. During the pendency of an appeal, such mistakes may be so corrected before the appeal is docketed in the appellate court, and thereafter while the appeal is pending may be so corrected with leave of the appellate court. Identical to Mass.R.Civ.P. 60(a)

 (b) Mistake; Inadvertence; Excusable Neglect; Newly Discovered Evidence; Fraud, etc. On motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or his legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment. The motion shall be made within a reasonable time, and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) not more than one year after the judgment, order or proceeding was entered or taken. A motion under this subdivision (b) does not affect the finality of a judgment or suspend its operation.

This rule does not limit the power of a court to entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, order, or proceeding, or to set aside a judgment for fraud upon the court. Writs of review, of error, of audita querela, and petitions to vacate judgment are abolished, and the procedure for obtaining any relief from a judgment shall be by motion as prescribed in these rules or by an independent action. Identical toMass.R.Civ.P. 60(b)


Should you have any questions please contact Thomas A. Karp, Attorney at Law with offices in Norwood and Quincy, Massachusetts  Please telephone:  781-762-7875

© 2014, Thomas A. Karp, Attorney at Law



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