Your divorce was finalized a while back – alimony and child support payments were calculated based on your salary and ability to pay. But circumstances have changed, and you cannot afford the payments you used to make. Are you legally required to carry out these high payments?
Yes…and no. Not paying your support costs is considered civil contempt of court and can lead to jail time. However, the legal system allows you to alter your payments if unforeseen circumstances diminish your ability to pay.
Modifying a divorce agreement
judge’s decision allows you to alter certain aspects of your divorce settlement. Typically, you modify the decision with the same court where you received the settlement.
Modifications are permissible when life circumstances have drastically changed. Severe illness, injury and changes in employment are all reasons to seek a modification.
Modifications may be permanent or temporary. If an injury permanently affects your earning potential, your payments may also permanently change. If you are temporarily unemployed after a round of layoffs, your payments may be temporarily modified until you find a new position that offers your previous salary.
Other circumstances that permit modification
Alimony laws changed in Massachusetts in 2012, altering the duration of alimony payments depending upon factors such as length of marriage. If you filed for divorce before the new law passed, an attorney can help you look into modifying your payments based on the new laws.
Act as soon as possible
It is important to contact an attorney as soon as your circumstances change. You are legally obligated to continue paying alimony and child support at the agreed upon levels until the court officially modifies the payment amount. Therefore, if it takes you six months change your payments, you are responsible for the full payments for all six months, even if you cannot afford to make them.
If you have questions about modifying your settlement payments, consider contacting an experienced attorney who can walk you through your options and get you financially back on track.