Massachusetts Modifications

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 when 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 to change or modify the previously entered judgment.

The modification requested is usually due to a change in a party’s financial situation or a change in the parenting plan that affects the child’s well-being. Sometimes, the change may also involve relocation or re-marriage of one of the parties.

Modifications include:

  1. Alimony: This may be modified if a substantial and material change in circumstances impacts an ability to pay alimony or a need for an increased amount. 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.
  2. Child Support: Child support is modified when there is a difference between the amount 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, as alimony, child support is usually modified when one party gets a new job, receives a pay increase, loses a job, etc.
  3. Child Custody and Parenting Plans: Child Custody or Parenting Plan agreements may be modified based on a material change in circumstances that affects the child’s best interests. This is often the case in relocation situations or other material changes in the child’s needs. 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 they were previously living, it will likely make it challenging to maintain the pre-existing parenting schedule, and a modification may be needed. Substance abuse, domestic violence, and 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.
  4. 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 for modifying a judgment. For example, if a parent can now get affordable health insurance that was not available in the past or if another material change in circumstances has occurred that affects the nature and availability of health insurance, a complaint for modification can give rise.
  5. Tax Exemptions: Concerning 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 spend more than 50% of the time with the child, they can ask the Court for the right to share in claiming the child as an exemption on their 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 to determine whether or not your life changes qualify as “material” for a Complaint for Modification. Call us today at 978-851-2291 to discuss your situation and see how we can help.

For your convenience, appointments may be scheduled during flexible hours. Our office is centrally located in Tewksbury, near Route 93 and Route 495, and we serve clients in Middlesex and Essex County.

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