Modifying Your Divorce Agreement
Oftentimes something happens after a divorce is finalized that prompts one spouse to seek a modification of the divorce terms. A modification of a Court Order can occur when there is a substantial change from the time of the original Court Order.
For example, Jeff Ineedajob was earning $80,000.00 per year when he and his wife got divorced, and he was paying child support based on that income. Jeff was laid off six months ago and has been unable to obtain new employment earning anything close to his prior income. Jeff could file a Complaint for Modification seeking a reduction in his weekly child support obligations based on his decrease in earnings. Obviously, Susan, his ex-wife, will have an opportunity to oppose this change. The ultimate decision will rest with the judge. Susan could oppose the modification request for several reasons: she may agree the support should be reduced but by less than Jeff wants, or she may oppose any reduction in the current support because she believes Jeff is not making a good faith effort to obtain new employment commensurate with his prior job. If Jeff's income had increased significantly and Susan's had decreased since the time of the divorce, then Susan could file for a Complaint for Modification seeking an increase in the child support payments.
Court Orders can be modified based on showing a substantial change in circumstances. Custody can also change from one party to the other on a modification request if there is a substantial change in circumstances and it is in the best interest of the child(ren).
A common misconception is that if a person loses their job, then the person will no longer have to pay child support. Child support can take into account your earning capabilities and is not solely based on what you actually earn. Therefore, the judge can attribute an income to you if the judge believes you are not making your best efforts to obtain employment. In order to decrease the amount you pay, you need to petition the Court for a modification of your existing child support order.
Whether you have experienced a change in circumstances or have been served with a Complaint for Modification, you need an attorney to represent you who understands Massachusetts divorce and family law.
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