Divorce & Changes in Circumstance in Massachusetts

By Beverly Bird

Ideally, if a significant change occurs in your life, it will happen while you are in mid-divorce, so your eventual decree can adequately address it. This isn't usually the case, and Massachusetts allows spouses to modify the terms of their decrees after divorce to accommodate changes. However, unless you and your spouse agree to a modification by consent, Massachusetts judges require “substantial and material” changes in circumstance before they’ll issue a modification order. “Substantial” means the change must be big; “material” means it must directly relate to the provision you want to change.

Ideally, if a significant change occurs in your life, it will happen while you are in mid-divorce, so your eventual decree can adequately address it. This isn't usually the case, and Massachusetts allows spouses to modify the terms of their decrees after divorce to accommodate changes. However, unless you and your spouse agree to a modification by consent, Massachusetts judges require “substantial and material” changes in circumstance before they’ll issue a modification order. “Substantial” means the change must be big; “material” means it must directly relate to the provision you want to change.

Custody

Changes that warrant a modification of custody terms usually involve the suitability of the custodial parent’s home. If she loses her job and must move to accommodations without adequate bedroom space for the children, this qualifies. If she takes in a roommate who has a history of domestic violence or child abuse, a court would most likely change the custody terms to insure the children’s safety. One of the most significant changes affecting custody occurs when the custodial parent wants to move out of state with the children. This would seriously affect the children’s relationship with their other parent, so the existing parenting plan or custody arrangement would require tweaking to accommodate such a move, if the court allows it at all.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Child Support

Massachusetts enacted legislation in January 2009 prohibiting changes to child support orders unless a substantial and material change has occurred. Exceptions exist if the order has been in place for three years or more or if the child receiving support reaches the age of majority, emancipates and moves out on her own without going to college. Other than emancipation, the court usually requires that at least one parent’s income must have increased or decreased by at least 20 percent since the time when child support was calculated. There might also have been a change of custody, so one parent should now be receiving child support instead of paying it.

Spousal Support

The remarriage of a spouse receiving alimony or spousal support would be a significant change in circumstances. The court generally considers that this means she does not need ongoing financial assistance from her ex any longer. However, Massachusetts courts will not modify spousal support orders for changes of circumstance if the decree specifically states that the alimony provision is not modifiable.The remarriage of the spouse paying support is not a factor.

Property

You cannot alter the property provisions of a divorce decree in Massachusetts because of changed circumstances. The terms of a decree regarding property distribution are usually ironclad, regardless of whether a spouse’s need for the property changes post-divorce. Decrees issued by a judge after a divorce trial can be appealed within a short period of time, but only under limited conditions. Changes in a spouse’s circumstances don’t qualify. If you and your spouse reached a marital settlement agreement without going to trial, you can only change its property terms if you can prove to the court that your ex committed some type of fraud during the negotiations, such as by misrepresenting debts or assets.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Modified Judgment of Divorce in Michigan

References

Related articles

Can a Kansas Divorce Judgment Be Modified?

Your divorce decree provides a guide for you and your former spouse as you continue with life after divorce. It sets out the amount of child support or alimony owed each month, specific child custody arrangements and property divisions like who gets to keep the house. As the months and years go by, however, it may become necessary to modify some of the original tenets of the divorce decree as each spouse's life changes and evolves. The court will generally award modifications for child support, spousal support, child custody and parenting plans with adequate proof of the need for a change.

How Can I Get Custody if My Ex-Wife Has Been Married Four Times?

Courts recognize a parent’s right to move on after divorce, so remarriage in itself is not usually a cause for custody modification -- even if your ex has done it three times since the two of you parted ways. However, a substantial change of circumstance is an acceptable reason to petition the court for a custody change. Depending on how your ex’s most recent marriage affects your child, this might be sufficient reason to ask a judge to give you custody.

How Long Do You Pay Alimony in Missouri?

Like many states, Missouri courts prefer to call alimony “spousal maintenance.” By any name, there are few definitive rules regarding when a judge orders it and how long the payments last. Missouri courts have a great deal of discretion when it comes to spousal maintenance or support. It usually comes down to the opinion of a single judge, based on the particular circumstances of your case.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Is a Divorce Decree a Modification of a Legal Separation As Far As Child Support Goes?

State laws vary on how soon after separation a couple can divorce, but sometimes spouses need to resolve issues of ...

Non-Modifiable Divorce Laws in Florida

When couples divorce in Florida, they must resolve all marital issues before they can move on and start life anew. ...

Remarriage & Custody

Remarriage is usually not a reason for a change in custody unless other factors are involved. Parents naturally move on ...

Dating During the Temporary Custody Phase of a Divorce in Oklahoma

Oklahoma's divorce statutes don't include a specific prohibition about dating. They don't say that if you go out for ...

Browse by category