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Post-Divorce Modifications

Adjustments to child custody, child support and more

A divorce is intended to be final, but our lives are always changing. Children grow older. People relocate or change jobs. New relationships form. Yet your life is still governed in part by a judge's order that was put in place at the moment your divorce was finalized.

The only way to make a change is to go back to court and make a modification. This can be an exceptionally difficult process, especially if your former spouse doesn't cooperate. Springfield divorce attorney Brittany J. Smith and her team can help.

Modifications of child support

In Massachusetts, child support is set using a mathematical formula that takes into account the income of each spouse, insurance costs, the age and number of children and the amount of parenting time. However, even when those underlying factors change, the child support obligation remains constant. Apart from the eventual emancipation of the children, the only thing that can modify your child support is a judge's order.

Some reasons you may need to modify your child support include:

  • Promotion, raise or other change in income
  • Loss of a job or other source of income
  • Illness or injury
  • Emancipation of a child
  • Disability
  • Bankruptcy

Whether you are the parent paying or receiving child support, it is essential to file for a modification as soon as possible when those circumstances change. A judge can only retroactively modify your child support obligation to the date a modification was filed and then he or she can only change the amount going forward from that date. If you are paying child support, you do not want to get stuck with payments you cannot afford; likewise, if you are receiving child support, you need a timely modification to make sure you are still getting everything you need to support your children.

Modifications of child custody

Of all the aspects of divorce, child custody is arguably the most contentious for many couples, and because children grow and change, it is common for one or both parents to become unhappy with the custody arrangement over time. Some changes in circumstances that might require a change of custody arrangements include:

  • Change in a child's school schedule, extracurricular activities or other circumstances in the child's life
  • Change of jobs, which may affect one parent's schedule
  • One parent moves to a significantly more distant location
  • Change of schedule makes one parent significantly more available than at the time of the divorce
  • One parent becomes unfit, for example due to drug use, criminal activity or allegations of abuse
  • Age of the child

Under some circumstances, you may be able to amicably work out a change of custody arrangements with the other parent, but even then, you need to file a motion to have the custody situation formally changed. And of course, if the other parent is uncooperative or unfit, you need an attorney to help you advocate for your and your children's interests in court.

Other post-divorce modifications

Apart from child support and custody, there are many factors that may need to be modified over time. Some aspects of a divorce that may require a court order to modify include:

  • Spousal support/alimony (for example, because one spouse's income has changed)
  • Changes in visitation schedules (parenting time)
  • Transportation arrangements
  • Insurance benefits, such as health insurance

How Massachusetts courts handle modifications

When making a motion for modification, you need to provide evidence of a substantial change in circumstances that necessitates modification. Courts use the same standards when making modifications as when issuing judgments of divorce in the first place. For example, if you are seeking a modification of child custody, the court will use the "best interests of the child" standard to determine whether the proposed modification is or is not acceptable.

Typically, if both spouses agree on a modification, the court will approve it as long as it meets the relevant legal standard. However, even in those cases, it is still important to get an attorney's help to make sure that the modification is fair to both parties and is presented to the court in a manner that will receive a judge's approval.

If you and your ex-spouse disagree, it is even more important to have a capable divorce attorney on your side. The Law Office of Brittany J. Smith has extensive experience helping clients pursue post-divorce modifications against uncooperative spouses as well as defending clients against attempts by their ex-spouses to seek unfavorable modifications. Let attorney Brittany J. Smith guide you through the process and be your advocate in negotiations, mediation and when necessary, litigation.

Take control of your divorce with an experienced lawyer

After a difficult divorce process, the last thing you may want to do is go back to court, even years later, but you don't have to go through this process alone. Contact us online or call (413) 781-7170 to get attorney Brittany J. Smith and her experienced legal team on your side.