When to Modify Your Divorce Agreement

How long has it been since you terminated your marriage? Have your circumstances changed since then? While your divorce may last forever, your divorce agreement can change over time.

There are many reasons to consider modifying your divorce agreement. Some examples include:

  • a significant change in income that will impact child support or alimony payments
  • a job change requiring a move
  • needs of aging children
  • the remarriage of the party awarded the alimony

Child Support Modifications
With regard to child support, you can request to modify your original order. Regardless of changing circumstances, under the child support guidelines, you are entitled to review your child support agreement every three years. Modifications to increase or decrease payments can be requested. Factors such as education, training, health, past employment history, and employment availability will be considered by the Massachusetts courts when determining modifications. Hardships and loss of employment will also be considered.

Alimony Modifications
A change in circumstance that significantly alters the financial situation must occur before the court considers an alimony modification. Whether seeking to increase or decrease alimony payments, a number of factors can be used to justify a change. For example, a job change, such as a demotion or promotion, can prompt a request to decrease or increase payments.

Custody or Parenting Plan Modifications
Any change request involving children will focus on the best interests of the child. A valid reason is needed to change a custody agreement, for example, specific evidence showing that, while in the other parent’s care, the child(ren) are at an increased risk of harm. Circumstances that may warrant an evaluation to a custody agreement include neglectful parenting, substandard living conditions, excessive school absences, or a child’s request for a change.

Terminating Child Support
There are some circumstances where child support may need to be terminated. For example, if a child no longer lives with the parent receiving support or a child is no longer financially dependent on either parent. A family court judge will determine the final judgment regarding the termination of child support.

When it comes to divorce modifications, every family’s needs are different. To facilitate a change in your divorce agreement, the type of change being requested will determine how to file a Complaint for Modification. Another way to make a change may be to file a motion.

Motion Examples
A Motion for Reconsideration can be filed to make a change due to new evidence, an issue of fraud, or a mistake with the original motion. In this case, the party requesting the motion will appear before the judge who issued the original decision.

A Motion to Set Aside is used to request that a judge vacate an existing support or custody order. An order to vacate voids a current agreement and the issue reverts to an unresolved status.

Modifying a divorce agreement can be a complicated process. We’re here to help you navigate Massachusetts family law to obtain the right outcome for your situation. Contact us for more information about your specific case.

What to do when your ex refuses to comply with your parenting schedule?

Once you’ve completed the process of going through a divorce, settling on child support, and agreeing to a parenting schedule, you’d think you can finally move forward and start your new life. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

When you’re facing the frustrating reality that your ex simply won’t comply with your legally binding agreements, whether that be alimony payments or a parenting schedule, you have options. Massachusetts residents can file a complaint for contempt to address non-compliance with temporary orders and final judgments.

Understanding the ins and out of contempt proceedings is an essential part of litigation in the Probate and Family Court, which is why working with an attorney is vital. Anyone found violating a court order, such as failing to pay child support, denying parenting time, etc., may be considered to be in contempt of court.

The court can enforce a defendant to comply with the order(s) in violation by filing a contempt order. To begin the process, a Complaint for Contempt must be filed through the Probate and Family Court that issued the order being violated. Next, a court clerk provides a Contempt Summons—a court order that instructs the defendant when they are expected in court. A deputy sheriff or constable will then serve the defendant with the original summons.

The burden of proof in contempt actions falls to the plaintiff. For help understanding your options when your ex, or soon to be ex, fails to comply with a court order, contact our law office today.

Massachusetts Grandparents, Know Your Rights Regarding Visitation and Custody of Your Grandchildren

When it comes to grandparents’ rights, Massachusetts laws can be tricky to navigate. However, grandparents do have financial, visitation, and custody rights under certain circumstances. To utilize such rights, legal assistance might be necessary to help you take action.

Grandparents today are frequently faced with decisions about what is best for their grandchildren under challenging situations. Whether seeking visitation or custody, grandparents can take legal recourse when it is in the best interest of the child/children.

Visitation Rights

Grandparents who are denied visitation with their grandchildren have a legal right to petition the court. However, grandparents are required to prove that such visitation is in the child/children’s best interests.

Under Massachusetts law, grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation if the parents are divorced, living apart with a court-ordered separation, or are deceased. Additionally, if the parents never married, are living apart, and there is a court judgment acknowledging parentage, grandparents can file for visitation rights. Maternal grandparents can also request visitation if the parents were never married, and the father is not recognized as a legal parent.

Visitation may be granted if the grandparents can show it is in the child/children’s best interest, have a prior relationship with the child/children, and denying visitation may be harmful to the child/children’s health, safety, or welfare.

When petitioning the Probate and Family Court for visitation, grandparents are instructed to include a written affidavit. This statement is used to outline the grandparent-grandchild relationship and describe why contact has been changed. The affidavit is also where grandparents can convey to the court how a child’s health, safety, or welfare may be at risk if visitation is not granted.

Getting Custody

Any grandparent who feels the safety and well-being of their grandchildren is at risk has the right to petition for custody. Depending on the status of the parents, there are two different routes for filing a custody request.

Temporary guardianship or permanent custody may be requested through the Probate and Family Court when custody is necessary for a child’s safety. In the event children are orphaned due to the death of their biological parents, the Department of Children and Families steps in to arrange care. Grandparents can present their case to argue they are suitable guardians.

Financial Aid

For grandparents on strict budgets, financial programs offer relief when acting as surrogate parents for their grandchildren. Some options include:

  • food assistance through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for children age five and under.
  • grantee relative benefits at the Department of Transitional Assistance.
  • survivor benefits from Social Security if one or both of the parents are deceased.
  • MassHealth insurance, which also assists in childcare.

If you are struggling with visitation or custody rights as a grandparent, you need a knowledgeable family law attorney to exercise your rights and help you navigate tricky Massachusetts laws. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

Out of State Child Support Modification

Child Support and Out-of-State Issues

Whether one parent is living just over the Massachusetts border in New Hampshire but still commutes to Boston every day, or whether the one parent is living on the West Coast while the children live with the other on the South Shore, issues of state jurisdiction may come into play when seeking to modify a Massachusetts child support agreement.

Changing Circumstances, Modifying Orders

In Massachusetts, child support is governed either by temporary orders or by final judgements. Temporary orders govern the terms of child support while there is still open legal action in process to establish a final judgement.

The term “final judgement” is something of a misnomer. “Final” does not mean that the judgement can never be altered again. A child support final judgement may be renegotiated in the future. This can be done with the agreement of both parents, or one parent may file a complaint for modification if certain conditions are met. [Read more…]

My ex is refusing to pay court-ordered support. What can I do?

When a divorce is finalized, a divorce decree outlines essential information about the court’s decision. A divorce decree is an enforceable order by the court that both parties are legally mandated to follow.

Items outlined can include payment of child support or spousal support, a transfer of property, or specific visitation schedules. Unfortunately, too often, parties neglect or elect to ignore the outlined orders. This can greatly harm the spouse, who is dependent on support. While the penalties to the offending party for these transgressions can be severe, the spouse being affected is required to file a claim to make the court aware of the transgression. [Read more…]

Divorcing During COVID-19

When your relationship is already strained, living under quarantine conditions can quickly shed light on a troubled marriage. Whether you’ve been contemplating divorce for a while or the stress of recent events has become the straw to break the camel’s back, so to speak, our attorneys can help you understand the divorce process and your options.

During these unprecedented times, we are all taking a look at our lives and examining our relationships. Perhaps the tiny cracks in your relationship have turned into irreparable gaping holes. With a newfound outlook on how we see our futures, some couples may decide to part ways.

If you’re among those wondering if you can file for divorce during the covid crisis, the answer is yes. While we do not know when the Court will reopen to petition your divorce officially, we can get the ball rolling. [Read more…]

Don’t Fall Victim to Hidden Assets During Divorce

When it comes to divorce in Massachusetts, everything related to finances must be fully disclosed. This includes every single asset, purchased together or otherwise, as well as all accumulated debts. Each spouse is instructed to report known findings through a financial affidavit.

It is against the law to purposely hide, understate, or overstate assets, as well as any marital property, debt, income, or expense. In extreme cases, this can potentially lead to the withholding party being sentenced to serve time in jail.

If you suspect your spouse of attempting to hide assets, it’s imperative to retain a divorce lawyer who has significant experience discovering hidden or undervalued assets. A top-notch Massachusetts divorce lawyer will know the tricks used to hide assets and work with forensic accountants, investigators, and other experts to uncover these attempts to mislead the system. [Read more…]

Protecting Assets in a Divorce

Divorce is as much a financial blow as it is an emotional one. Alimony and child support may take a large, even unreasonable amount out of your monthly paycheck. Conversely, if your income is much smaller than your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s, or if you stayed at home to look after the family, you might find yourself in dire financial straits if you are not awarded a just settlement.

You deserve a divorce settlement that takes into account your circumstances and your contributions to the marriage— and financial, logistical, or emotional. In this article, you will find three steps to follow to protect your assets in divorce and reach the settlement that is best for you. [Read more…]

What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?

Courts primarily base their decision on what is in the child’s best interest, using the Child’s Best Interest Standard. Factors vary from state to state, but the overall goal is to make a decision that promotes the health and wellbeing of the child.

Parents are encouraged to come to an agreement on matters of child custody and visitation to submit to the court. However, if the judge finds the settlement agreement is not in the child’s best interest, it can be rejected.

Courts will generally determine the stability of each parent’s home environment and their interest and commitment to caring for the child. Other factors include the health of each parent, both physical and mental; the special needs of the child, if any; the child’s own wishes if they are old enough to say so; whether there is evidence of illicit drug use, or drug/alcohol abuse; and adjustment to the community, such as where they go to school, proximity to other caretakers, etc. [Read more…]

Altering Your Child Custody Agreement

  • My ex-spouse has asked to pick up our children, of whom we share custody, at a different time from that stated in our custody agreement. I’m fine with the change. Do we need to alter the agreement, or is a verbal agreement enough?

The is almost always going to be “get it in writing.” While you may have the most amicable divorce in the world, you never know what the future may hold. Contracts fill the gaps left when human trust fails.

If this is a one-time, or two-time situation, a verbal agreement might suffice. Of course, without putting it in writing, if you agree to a “quick change,” you may find yourself agreeing to a years-long arrangement without intending to. [Read more…]

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