In order to adjudicate a divorce case, the court must have not only personal jurisdiction over both parties but also subject matter jurisdiction. Unlike personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived. If the court does not have it, the case may not proceed.
In a divorce case, the court has subject matter jurisdiction if the parties lived together as husband and wife in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 4, which governs subject matter jurisdiction in divorce cases, states: “A divorce shall not, except as provided in the following section, be adjudged if the parties have never lived together as husband and wife in this commonwealth; nor for a cause which occurred in another jurisdiction, unless before such cause occurred the parties had lived together as husband and wife in this commonwealth and one of them lived in this commonwealth at the time when the cause occurred.”
However, where only the plaintiff lives in the Commonwealth, the basis for subject matter jurisdiction may be found in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 5 which states: “If the plaintiff has lived in this Commonwealth for one year last preceding the commencement of the action if the cause occurred without the commonwealth, or if the plaintiff is domiciled within the commonwealth at the time of the commencement of the action and the cause occurred within the commonwealth, a divorce may be adjudged for any cause allowed by law, unless it appears that the plaintiff has removed into this commonwealth for the purpose of obtaining a divorce.”