When a couple divorces, they will need to reach an agreement about many different issues before the divorce can be finalized. One of the most contentious of these issues can be that of alimony, or spousal maintenance. Alimony is ordered by a court when one party is financially dependent on the other. There are many different types of alimony in Massachusetts, including general term alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and transitional alimony. 

Sometimes, an order for alimony is reasonable and necessary at the time the order is issued, but circumstances change later on that make the continued payment of alimony seem excessive or unnecessary. When this is the case, one may seek a modification of a spousal maintenance order. Here’s what you should know—

When Alimony Normally Stops

At the time that an alimony order is issued, a time limit on the alimony order will likely be placed. In fact, how long an alimony order lasts usually corresponds to the length of the marriage. For example, a marriage that lasted for 10 years or fewer cannot result in an alimony order that lasts for more than 60 percent of the total number of months of marriage. Alimony will also end when either spouse dies, the party receiving alimony remarries or begins cohabiting with another person, or if the spouse who is paying alimony reaches full retirement age. Alimony can be stopped earlier than that, though, or extended beyond the original order date, when either party seeks a modification.

Grounds for Modification of a Spousal Maintenance Order

In order to seek the modification of a spousal maintenance order, which might include modifying the amount that one is paying or receiving or the duration of the support order, the modification-seeking party must be able to present clear and convincing evidence that there has been a material change in circumstance. Examples of a “material change in circumstance” might include:

  • The maintenance-receiving spouse experiences a substantial increase or reduction in their income;
  • The maintenance-paying spouse experiences a substantial increase or reduction in their income; 
  • There is evidence that the maintenance-receiving spouse is cohabiting; 
  • Other special circumstances have occurred, such as one spouse winning the lottery. 

In some cases, parties to an alimony award may both be in agreement about the modification and can petition the court together. In most cases, though, one party wants a modification and the other party disagrees with the request. In this situation, each party will need to present evidence before the court supporting their position.

Get Help from Our Massachusetts Spousal Support Attorney

At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our Massachusetts spousal support lawyer can support you in seeking a modification of your spousal maintenance award. With years of experience and a strong commitment to her clients, Attorney Heather M. Ward is here to advocate for you. For a consultation or to learn more, please call (617) 903-8955 or send our law firm a message directly.