Modification of Family Court Judgments in Massachusetts
After a judgment of divorce or adjudication of paternity is entered in the Massachusetts family court, there are times it may be necessary to modify the judgment. When there is a material change in circumstances, parties will often file a complaint for modification with the court in order change or modify the judgment that was previously entered.
The modification requested is usually is due to a change or changes to a parties’ financial situation, or a change in the parenting plan that effects the well-being of the child. Sometimes the change may also have to do with relocation or re-marriage of one of the parties as well.
Alimony may be modified if there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances that impact an ability to pay alimony or a need for an increased amount of alimony. A Complaint for Modification may be filed to seek a change (increase/decrease) or termination of alimony. More often than not these are usually related to employment status and/or business income, but not always. Sometimes health related issues can affect an award of alimony too.
Alimony may also be modified if you have exceeded the durational limits of the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act of 2011.
- Child Support
Child support is modified when there is a difference between the amount of child support being paid and the amount that should be paid under the Child Support Guidelines. Since the guidelines in Massachusetts change every four years, a modification can be sought as a matter of course even if the parties’ financial situations have not changed, however, like alimony child support it usually modified when one party gets a new job, receives a pay increase, loses a job etc.
- Child Custody and Parenting Plans
Child Custody or Parenting Plan agreements may be modified based on a material change in circumstances which affects the best interests of the child. This is often the case in relocation situations, or other material changes in the needs of the child. If a party is seeking to relocate, the child may not be removed from Massachusetts without permission of the other parent or from the Court. If a parent relocates an unreasonable distance from where he or she was previously living, it will likely make it difficult to maintain the pre-existing parenting schedule and a modification may be needed.
Substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse/neglect all may require an immediate emergency modification by the Court. This is done by filing an emergency motion with the Court to suspend parenting time. This motion hearing is usually followed by a speedy follow up hearing where both parties are present.
- Health Insurance
Judgments regarding health insurance coverage can also be modified. Health insurance that was available previously but is no longer available (or is now too expensive) may be grounds to modify a judgment. For example, if a parent can now get affordable health insurance that was not available in the past or other material change in circumstances has occurred that affects the nature and availability of health insurance can give rise to a complaint for modification.
- Tax Exemptions
With regard to dependency exemptions the custodial parent (defined as the parent having actual custody of a child for the greater portion of a year) is entitled to claim the child as a dependent unless the custodial parent affirmatively waives the right to claim the exemption in writing and the writing is attached to the non-custodial parent’s tax return. This rule applies to both married parents and parents who were never married each other. If a party is paying child support and does not have more than 50% of time with the child, they can ask the Court for the right to share in claiming the child as an exemption on his or her tax returns. Likewise, if a child support payor is in arrears of Court ordered child support payments, the aggrieved party can ask that the Court suspend that parent’s right to claim the child as a tax exemption, if such right exists.
The Wright Family Law Group can provide you with a complete legal analysis of your situation in order for you to determine whether or not your life changes qualify as “material” for a Complaint for Modification. Call us today to discuss your own personal situation and let us see how we can help. 978-851-2291, or contact us online.
For your convenience, appointments may be scheduled during flexible hours. Our office is centrally located in Tewksbury near Route 93 and Route 495. We serve clients in Middlesex and Essex County.