Modification of Existing Orders or Judgments

If you or your child(ren) are subject to a judgment of divorce or other family court order that may no longer be working for you or your family, you may benefit from filing a Complaint for Modification based on the current needs and resources available to all parties.

It is not uncommon for judgments of divorce or other family court orders to determine the following:

  • child support
  • alimony or spousal support
  • parenting or visitation schedules including holiday schedules
  • legal or physical custody of a child including which parent makes medical and educational decisions
  • which parent claims child tax credits
  • which parent or former spouse pays for health, vision, and dental insurance coverage for a former spouse and/or child(ren)
  • how much each parent must contribute for uninsured medical, vision, and dental expenses
  • how much each parent must contribute for extracurricular activities

A party or parent seeking to change their judgment or orders must file a Complaint for Modification. If the parties or parents are in full agreement, they may file a Joint Petition for Modification to obtain court approval. Few people keep the same home, job, work schedule, salary, overtime hours or benefits. Children’s needs and schedules also change over time. If you or your former spouse or co-parent have experienced one or more of these changes, modification of your existing judgment of divorce or other family court order may be appropriate or beneficial.

You cannot seek to change the judgment of divorce or family court order just because you do not agree with it, and you cannot modify the division of marital assets and liabilities unless there has been fraud. There must be a change in circumstances to warrant modification. For example, child support is calculated based on the time the child(ren) are with each parent, income, and the cost of health insurance and day care. For example, if one parent receives a promotion and significant pay raise, this may affect both their income and availability to parent. Other examples include job loss and serious injury or other major medical issues that affect a party’s ability to work or parent. When these changes in circumstances occur, parties must go back to court to have the visitation schedule changed and/or child support or alimony payments increased, decreased or suspended.

You may not retroactively modify a judgment. This means that if you wish to have your child support or alimony increased or decreased, you must file a Complaint for Modification to begin the change. The change cannot go into effect until the other party has received the necessary procedural notice of your Complaint for Modification. If you have experienced sudden job loss or have suffered a serious injury preventing you from work and can no longer afford to make child support or alimony payments, it is recommended that you immediately file a Complaint for Modification to protect your rights. Otherwise, you risk incurring significant arrearages.

If you wish to learn more about obtaining a modification of your judgment of divorce or other family court order in Massachusetts or have been served with a summons and complaint, please contact us at 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation today.