Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Significant fiscal change may validate child support modification

Many Massachusetts people find that high levels of stress and emotion go hand in hand with the divorce process. It is not uncommon for parties in a divorce to agree to anything in an attempt to get it over and done with. However, this may come back to bite them, as once a marital agreement is signed, it may not be easy to change it. One should try to push emotions aside when important decisions like child support, custody and spousal support are discussed.

Divorced parents have been known to realize too late that they were not completely happy with the terms of the marital agreement they signed. Such an agreement is regarded as a legal contract and has to be challenged as such. If one party experiences a significant change in their financial situation after some time, a claim for modification may be lodged with the family court.

An example is a case where a man alleged that his income had dropped by about 50 percent, while his ex-wife went back to work full time after being a stay-at-home mother before the divorce. This was about four years after the divorce, and the husband alleged that his ex-spouse no longer needed the full amount of child support as agreed to in the marital agreement. The court ruled for the father in this case, because it was established that the changes could not have been anticipated at the time that the contract was signed. Furthermore, the court acknowledged that the change in his circumstances was substantial, permanent and involuntary.

Other conditions under which a marital agreement may be subject to modification include cases where a party was coerced into signing the agreement or when one party concealed assets. The court also expects both parties to have legal representation when such agreements are signed. Parents in Massachusetts who are unable to comply with child support orders as per their marital agreement are free to make use of the available help to explore the possibilities of applying for a modification.

Source:, "It's The Law: Hard to change marital settlement agreement", William Morris, May 7, 2014

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