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Modifying an existing alimony plan in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, divorced spouses who pay or receive alimony may ask for changes in the alimony amount or payment period. An alimony modification can be requested by one or both spouses, and the filing should be done in the same family court that presided over the divorce proceedings.

Filing a petition to change alimony can be done if either spouse has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances. A significant change may be the death or remarriage of the spouse who received alimony. A petition can also be filed if the alimony was awarded before 2012, because alimony law was changed that year. People who pay alimony under the older law are required to pay for a longer time period. But, according to the most recent law, the tenure of a marriage is an important consideration for deciding alimony amount and duration. The new law also presents a list of time limits within which a spouse can apply for a modification of an alimony plan.

The filing fee for an individual petition is $115, or $150 for a joint petition. Once a petition is filed, the court issues a summons form to notify the other party. If the other party objects to the modification, the objection can be noted on the summons and returned to a county constable or sheriff for resubmission to the court. The defendant usually gets a period of 20 days to answer. If that doesn't happen, the plaintiff may seek additional time and another date and if the filer receives no reply after a second serving, the petitioner may ask for an uncontested trial.

The court scrutinizes documents submitted for material changes in financial circumstances of both parties and then decides if modification is necessary. No significant change should be anticipated until the court issues a new order. Until a ruling, the previous amount should be paid under all circumstances.

Source: Mass.gov, "Changing Your Alimony," accessed on Apr. 24, 2015

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