Divorce & Family Law: January 2020 Archives

Is a Court Required to Consider Past Abuse in a Child Custody Modification Action?

Recently in Malachi M. v. Quintina Q., the SJC held that: [P]ursuant to G.L. c. 208, § 31A, the judge at a modification proceeding must consider evidence of both past and present abuse, including evidence of domestic abuse that occurred prior to the entry of the divorce judgment, and must address the applicability of the rebuttable presumption, even in the absence of evidence of abuse occurring after the divorce judgment.

A Court May Modify A Merged Provision in a Separation Agreement Regarding Children's Expenses Only When There Has Been A Material Change in Circumstances

Divorce litigants in Massachusetts may not clearly understand the distinction between those provisions in a Separation Agreement regarding child support and those provisions regarding the payment of the child(ren)'s expenses. Both types of provisions are merged into the Judgment of Divorce, meaning that the court can modify them in appropriate cases. Generally speaking, the standard for modifying a child support order is that there must be "an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the Massachusetts child support guidelines." M. G. L. c. 208, § 28. In contrast, the standard for modifying any provisions about payment of a child's expenses is that there must have been a "material change in circumstances" since the entry of the judgment that is being modified. 

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