How long has it been since you terminated your marriage? Have your circumstances changed since then? While your divorce may last forever, your divorce agreement can change over time.
There are many reasons to consider modifying your divorce agreement. Some examples include:
a significant change in income that will impact child support or alimony payments
a job change requiring a move
needs of aging children
the remarriage of the party awarded the alimony
Child Support Modifications
With regard to child support, you can request to modify your original order. Regardless of changing circumstances, under the child support guidelines, you are entitled to review your child support agreement every three years. Modifications to increase or decrease payments can be requested. Factors such as education, training, health, past employment history, and employment availability will be considered by the Massachusetts courts when determining modifications. Hardships and loss of employment will also be considered.
A change in circumstance that significantly alters the financial situation must occur before the court considers an alimony modification. Whether seeking to increase or decrease alimony payments, a number of factors can be used to justify a change. For example, a job change, such as a demotion or promotion, can prompt a request to decrease or increase payments.
An important consideration in determining the viability of a modification to alimony is whether it has “merged” into the divorce judgment, thereby making it modifiable upon a material change of circumstances. But if the alimony “survives” and has “independent legal significance,” modification may be problematic. A careful reading of the Separation Agreement is critical.
Custody or Parenting Plan Modifications
Any change request involving children will focus on the best interests of the child. A valid reason is needed to change a custody agreement, for example, specific evidence showing that, while in the other parent’s care, the child(ren) are at an increased risk of harm. Circumstances that may warrant an evaluation to a custody agreement include neglectful parenting, substandard living conditions, excessive school absences, or a child’s request for a change.
Terminating Child Support
There are some circumstances where child support may need to be terminated. For example, if a child no longer lives with the parent receiving support or a child is no longer financially dependent on either parent. A family court judge will determine the final judgment regarding the termination of child support.
When it comes to divorce modifications, every family’s needs are different. To facilitate a change in your divorce agreement, the type of change being requested will determine how to file a Complaint for Modification. Another way to make a change may be to file a motion.
A Motion for Reconsideration can be filed to make a change due to new evidence, an issue of fraud, or a mistake with the original motion. In this case, the party requesting the motion will appear before the judge who issued the original decision.
A Motion to Set Aside is used to request that a judge vacate an existing support or custody order. An order to vacate voids a current agreement and the issue reverts to an unresolved status.
Modifying a divorce agreement can be a complicated process. We are here to help you navigate Massachusetts family law to obtain the right outcome for your situation. Contact us for more information about your specific case.
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