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 by filing a Complaint for Modification in the proper Probate and Family Court. A child support judgment may be modified for any of the following reasons set forth in the Guidelines as follows:
- There is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the guidelines;
- Previously ordered health care coverage is no longer available;
- Previously ordered health care coverage is still available but no longer at a reasonable cost or without an undue hardship;
- Access to health care coverage not previously available to a parent has become available; or
- Any other material and substantial change in circumstances has occurred.
Alimony ordered pursuant to a Separation Agreement between the parties may be modified pursuant to the terms of that agreement. Otherwise a material 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. In addition, remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient would be grounds for a modification or termination of alimony.
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 if the child is age appropriate.
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’re 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.