Modification, Change is Hard

Hi there,

I hope you all are enjoying this gorgeous weather, I love it!  We have been very busy here since March with a number of modification cases, as the new Alimony Law allowed for a large group of payors to file for modification at that time.

Generally, modification occurs as a result of a major change in circumstances; i.e. a new job, a lost job, a need for a custody change or a child reaching emancipation age.  The change is really any change that could be considered a material change in circumstances.  Now the age of the alimony payor and length of the marriage are added to the mix, and can constitute on their own a material change in circumstances.  This new law (which I think has a number of real flaws) has become a touchstone for other states trying to change their alimony structure.

The new alimony law leaves untouched divorce agreements which “survived” as independent contracts.  Without getting too legally obtruse, that was because the parties to those contracts had non-modifiable legal rights that the legislature couldn’t change.  Those agreements can only be modified if countervailing equities are present.  In reality, that generally means one person or the other is about to become a public charge.

In the next couple of posts I will talk about what the modification process in Massachusetts looks like.