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Post-Divorce Problems: Should my Alimony Order Change?


Whether or not an alimony order can be modified post-divorce depends first on whether the order merged or survived.   Many decisions in a divorce agreement, such as property division, survive the Judgment and cannot be changed.  When reaching an agreement, spouses can decide whether or not to make alimony orders or waivers permanent by surviving them or merge them into the Judgment.  If merged this means that such orders can be modified if there is a material and significant change in circumstances.  Merging alimony orders is more typical because no one knows exactly what could change in the future.

If the order merged, then the duration of an alimony order may be modifiable under The Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  We have explored this possibility at length in our previous post:  Modification under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011: Updated Flowchart.

In addition, under both the current law and the new law (which takes effect on March 1, 2012), alimony orders that merged can be modified if there has been a material and significant change in circumstances.

In order to modify alimony you must file a Complaint for Modification.  If you are able to agree to a change with your ex (either directly, through mediation, or through collaborative negotiation) then you can file an agreement with your Complaint and request an uncontested hearing.  If you can’t agree, then you must file a Complaint for Modification which tells the court what has changed.

To succeed on a Complaint for Modification you must prove two things: first you must prove that there has been a "significant material change in circumstances;" and second you must prove that the change in circumstances warrants a change in the Order.

A "significant material change in circumstances" is simply explained as a change in your life that is big enough to have an effect on the factors that related to the original Order of the Court. For example, if the Order that you want to change is alimony, then you must demonstrate that there has been a change to the factors that affect an alimony determination, such as the income of the parties, expenses of the parties or needs of the parties. In addition, you must demonstrate that that change is significant.

Click here to calculate your Alimony in Massachusetts under the new law.

Click here to learn more about filing a Complaint for Modification.


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