A divorce becomes final either through a settlement agreement or a court decision. Yet, even the symbolic conclusiveness of a divorce decree does not mean your divorce terms can never be revisited.
Under Massachusetts law, you may modify your divorce agreement to better reflect the changing circumstances of your life. Obtaining a divorce modification is not always easy, but with the help of the right attorney, you could be well on your way toward fairer child support, child custody, visitation and alimony terms.
Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances Key to Obtaining Divorce Modification
Typically only issues involving minor children, alimony and health insurance can be modified; the survival language in the divorce agreement/judgment is essential to that analysis. Property division is always final.
A divorce modification is not the same as an appeal. While parties to a divorce may appeal a trial court's decision to a higher court, it is extremely rare for an appellate judge to overturn a divorce ruling. Furthermore, if both parties agreed to a settlement agreement, they are usually prohibited from filing an appeal.
A divorce modification is a very different process than an appeal. When you file a complaint for modification, you are asking the trial court itself to change the terms of your divorce decree.
So why would a judge modify a decree that likely took weeks to hammer out in the first place? Typically, there has to have been some significant change in the lives of one or both former spouses in order for a modification to be granted.
For instance, a substantial increase or decrease in the income of either party could justify a modification of child support. When it comes to child custody and visitation, relocation of one of the parents, a change in the work schedule of a parent, or the child's environment becoming unsafe (for example, if a new boyfriend or girlfriend of one of the parents is a drug user) could all be reasons for a modification.
Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is unique in that significant changes to Massachusetts alimony laws went into effect in March 2012. Now, alimony generally can be ended when the payer reaches retirement age or when the recipient begins living with a romantic partner. In addition, there is a new formula for determining alimony based on the length of the marriage. Finally, lifetime alimony has been abolished - Massachusetts residents paying it may file for modification beginning in 2013.
Contact a Massachusetts Family Law Modification Attorney for Help
Do not continue to live under divorce terms that no longer comport with the realities of your day-to-day life. If you need a divorce modification, get in touch with a Massachusetts family law attorney today.