Alimony is a payment of spousal support, usually paid by the spouse who earns more income. The law in Massachusetts permits several forms of alimony, and awards are made based upon a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage, the needs of the recipient and the payer's financial status. If you wish to obtain increased alimony from your former spouse, or you want to extend the length of time you can receive alimony, you must take your ex back to court. If your divorce decree does not contain language allowing for a future modification, it will be much more difficult to increase your alimony.
Types of Alimony
State law authorizes several types of alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is granted for a specific time to help the recipient become financially self-sufficient. Other types of alimony include reimbursement alimony and transitional alimony, which is paid for a specified length of time. In addition, Massachusetts authorizes nominal alimony, the award of a nominal amount of money – as little as a dollar per year – which allows the court to maintain jurisdiction. This is a common practice when the payer is temporarily unable to pay alimony and the court intends to give a larger alimony award later. While you may take your husband back to court regardless of the type of alimony awarded, it's important to note that nominal alimony payments mean you will not receive substantive alimony until you return to court.
Petition for Modification
To modify your alimony payments, you must petition the same court that issued your divorce decree. Ask the court clerk to give you a petition for modification in spousal support. Fill out the petition, then return it to the clerk and pay the filing fee. You must serve your ex with a copy of the petition. The clerk will schedule your request for a hearing in front of a judge.
Evidence and Hearing
Massachusetts law requires a material change in circumstances to warrant modification of alimony. Material changes may include a change in your financial situation or a change in information available to you. For example, if you find out that your husband hid some of his assets during the divorce proceedings, this would constitute a change that might warrant a modification in alimony. You must demonstrate this change at the hearing by submitting evidence or calling witnesses who can testify to the change. Your ex is entitled to submit evidence disputing your claims.
After hearing evidence, the judge will issue a final order. The judge may alter the amount of your monthly payments, the period of time for which you'll receive alimony or both. A judicial order is binding, and if your ex fails to pay alimony, you may file a petition to have him held in contempt of court.