Prior to the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 there was no statute in MA to guide lawyers, judges and litigants on who was entitled to alimony, who could be ordered to pay, how much and for what period of time. As a result it was up to the lawyers and parties to try and negotiate and it would be up to the individual judges to decide on a case by case basis if the parties could not agree. However, today, Massachusetts has enacted legistalion, which provides lawyers, judges and litigants with a clear guide for who can be entitled to receive alimony, who may be obligated to pay it, the potential term of an alimony award as well as the potential amount. In order to investigate your rights relative to alimony in Massachusetts you should seek the skillful analysis of a lawyer who is well versed in family law and the alimony statute. There are many reasons why you may need to modify an alimony award in your original divorce judgment.
Remarriage or Cohabitation
In most cases, if the spouse who is receiving the support marries or even cohabitates with someone else for a period of three months or more before the alimony period ends, the support should immediately end. However, it is often up to the payor to take the other party to court, by filing a Complaint for Modification, to put an end to the support officially through the courts. This reason is one of the easiest to prove, eliminating the support payments from the date of the filing of the Complaint.
Failure to Pay
Not everyone will readily pay the amount of money ordered by the court. If your ex has been ordered to pay you spousal support and those payments have fallen behind, it may be time to talk to a lawyer and file a Complaint for Contempt. While you are not likely to gain more money from taking your former spouse back to court over the missed payments, the judge can increase the amount your ex has to pay each month. Garnishment may also be an option to help you obtain the money you are entitled to.
In today’s economy, financial hardships are more common. People may lose their job and be forced to accept a lower-paying job. Illnesses and other unexpected emergencies can place a financial strain on the person who is ordered to pay alimony. In these situations, it may be appropriate to file a Complaint for Modification and request a judge to lower the support obligation to prevent even greater hardships.
Other Changes in Circumstances
To modify any support order, it is important to have a change in circumstances. This can mean many things. Perhaps you have a new support obligation, such as to a child you did not previously know about. Other changes in circumstances can include loss of employment, your former spouse earning substantially more, changes to spousal support laws and a new disability. If you have experienced any material change in circumstances, talk to a lawyer to find out if you qualify for a modification.