By Attorney Jeanne Kangas –
The waiting period in Massachusetts after your divorce is allowed by a Judge is 90 to 120 days. However, that waiting period may not be exactly 90-120 days from your hearing date.
If you filed a Joint Petition, you are participating in an uncontested divorce. At your hearing before a Judge, if the Judge finds the separation agreement to be fair and reasonable under the circumstances of your marriage, the Judge will issue Findings of Fact that day. A Judgment of Divorce Nisi (meaning “temporary divorce”) will issue after 30 days; and it will become Absolute after another 90 days. Thus, after you file your Joint Petition you are not legally and officially divorced until at least 120 days after the divorce hearing date.
Instead of a Joint Petition, if you filed a Complaint for Divorce, you and your spouse will either settle all the issues between you or there will be a trial. If you settle, there will be an un-contested divorce hearing, which will become Absolute 90 days after the hearing date. Thus, after you file your Complaint for Divorce you are not officially and legally divorced until at least 90 days from the hearing date.
The Massachusetts law, M.G.L.c.208.s21 states that judgments become final after “the expiration of ninety days”. But it actually may take longer than that. Why? It is because the Courts are not open on holidays and weekends. You have to look at the calendar to see when your divorce becomes final. If the 30 or the 90 day waiting period lands on a holiday or a weekend day, your divorce is final on the next weekday the Court is open; and that could add two more days for finality.
How does the date the divorce becomes final effect your taxes? If you are paying alimony (spousal support) to your spouse, you would want to be able to take the payments as a tax deduction as soon as possible (and if you are the recipient spouse, you would want to postpone having to pay taxes on the payments). If you were to divorce by means of a Joint Petition (at least 120 days to finality), you would have to be standing before a Judge on September 2nd of 2014 for the divorce to become final on December 31, 2014. If you were to divorce by means of a Complaint for Divorce (at least 90 days to finality), you would have to be standing before a Judge on October 31, 2014 for your divorce to become final on December 31st.
If your divorce is final before the end of the calendar year, you can file as single for that year, and claim all alimony payments made during that year as a tax deduction. (The recipient spouse would have to declare those payments as income and be liable for taxes on them.) Just be sure the payments qualify as alimony under IRS regulations.