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Post-divorce relief: how to change a court’s ruling

Getting divorced can be a contentious process. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, a family court judge can step in to resolve the issues. One problem with letting the judge make the decisions for you and your spouse is that one or both of you may walk away unhappy. The good news is that if you are unhappy with the outcome of a divorce proceeding, you have options. You can either request the court to modify its orders or appeal the court’s decision.

In Massachusetts, a “final” divorce judgment is not necessarily final. By filing an appropriate motion with the court, you can request the court to modify certain portions of its ruling, such as property division, child support, spousal support, and visitation schedules. 

Keep in mind that a court will modify its orders only in certain circumstances. In other words, just because you are unhappy with the result does not mean that there are grounds for modification. You must be able to show that the court made some error in its ruling or that circumstances have changed to warrant modification of the order. For example, if the court ordered you to pay your ex-spouse child support each month but you lost your job since the divorce became final, this may warrant modification of the child support order.

Another option you have is to appeal the judge’s decision. This means that you ask a higher court, which is called an appellate or appeals court, to overturn the family court’s decision. In general, new evidence cannot be introduced in an appeal, and you cannot argue issues of fact. Rather, to be successful on an appeal, you must be able to show that the family court failed to apply the law correctly. For this reason, appeals can be complicated.

Are you unhappy with the terms of your divorce? An experienced family law attorney can help you better understand your options.

Source: Mass.gov, “Law about Modifications,” Accessed June 15, 2015

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