In situations where there is a material change in circumstances between the time a judgment of divorce is entered and now, it may be appropriate to seek a modification of the terms of the order.
A common example would be modification of a support order if the parent paying child support has had a significant increase in income. The same would be true if that parent suffered a decrease in income.
The Massachusetts Reform Act classifies post-reform alimony orders into four distinct categories:
1) General Term Alimony ( Only alimony prior to Reform Act)
2) Rehabilatative Alimony – Presumes that at some point the person receiving the alimony will become self suffecient by some determined time.
3) Reimbursement Alimony – Allows one spouse to be paid back for non-economic contributions made to the marriage, if over five years.
4) Transitional Alimony – For marriages under five years, to allow the spouse to relocate or adjust to thier new lifestyle.
If the existing alimony order was entered by the court after trial, then it is modifiable. If, however, the alimony order was part of a separation agreement, then whether the court can modify the alimony depends on the language of the agreement as it can be presumed to be an unconditional legal and binding contract and any challenge would be determined by contract law.
Other durational limits apply for Rehabilitative Alimony, Reimbursement Alimony, and Transactional Alimony.
Modification of Orders Existing Prior to March 1, 2012: Permitted although per 2015 there is still a need, as it was with the past law to justify a change of circumstance.
If there are no other factors present in your circumstances warranting a modification, you may seek a modification as follows:
If married 5 years or less, on or after March 1, 2013;
If married 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, on or after March 1, 2014;
If married 15 years or less, but more than 10 years, on or after March 1, 2015;
If married 20 years or less, but more than 15 years, on or after March 1, 2015;
If any payor has reached full retirement age, or who will reach full retirement age on or before March 1, 2015, on or after March 1, 2013.
The Supreme Court is now hearing and ruling on cases which further interpret the statute as passed by the state legislature. See Here 2015 Court Opinions
To understand how these changes can effect your situation consult with a skilled Family lawyer to understand your rights, options, and obtain advice.