How Do Divorce Modifications Work In Massachusetts?

At the time of your divorce, you likely address issues regarding child support, custody, health insurance, college education costs, and division of property. However, not all agreements and judgments contemplate the future, or others go through changes that warrant alterations to an original agreement or judgment. This is why some people need to return to court to modify prior agreements or judgments. It is important to learn how these modifications work.

Change of Circumstances

One of the most important things to know is that you must have a material change of circumstances to return to court regarding a modification. This change of circumstances can equal a major move, a job change that affects the current custody arrangement or a change in income which affects a support order. Talk to a qualified attorney first to determine if your circumstances warrant a modification to avoid unnecessary time in court.

What Can Be Modified?

The Separation Agreement dictates what provisions may be modified in the future.  These provisions are known as merging.  The most common provisions of an agreement that merge are child related issues, health insurance, and possibly alimony.  Provisions that do not merge are called surviving provisions.  Surviving provisions are not modifiable, even due to a change in circumstances.  The most common surviving provision in an Agreement is the property division.

Filing for a Modification

It is important to talk to an experienced family law attorney about modifying a prior Agreement or Judgment. An attorney will be able to talk you through the process, review the prior Agreement or Judgment which you are seeking to modify, and educate you regarding the likelihood of succeeding.  Once a Complaint for Modification is filed, there are many things to consider; for example, whether discovery needs to be conducted, whether financial statements need to be exchanged, and if temporary orders are appropriate.  An experienced attorney will be able to help you navigate the process.

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