Massachusetts Modification Lawyers and Contempt Attorneys
Representing Clients Seeking to Enforce or Modify Probate & Family Court Orders
From Jason's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com.
For more than 25 years, the attorneys of Lynch & Owens have represented Massachusetts client seeking to enforce orders pertaining to a divorce judgment, child support, alimony, or child custody through a Complaint for Contempt. Our attorneys also have more than 120 years of combined experience representing clients seeking to modify divorce and domestic support orders in Massachusetts. Finally, our attorneys have decades of experience defending clients who are facing actions for contempt and/or modification brought by an opposing party.
Complaints for Contempt: Enforcement of Divorce, Custody and Support Orders
Parents and former spouses in Massachusetts can file a Complaint for Contempt to seek enforcement of any order or judgment entered in a domestic relations case, including:
- Temporary orders and stipulations
- Orders set forth in a separation agreement
- Or judgment orders entered by a judgment after trial.
The plaintiff in a contempt action must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the opposing party disobeyed a clear and unambiguous order. Judgments of contempt (i.e. when a judge finds that a party violated an order) are reversed more frequently than other Probate & Family Court orders because of the clear and convincing evidence standard, a numerous nuances in the law surrounding contempt actions.
Divorced spouses may file a Complaint for Contempt if their former spouse is failing to comply with the property division provisions set forth in a Separation Agreement, such as an obligation to transfer property. When a party is found in contempt for failing to obey a financial order, including child support or alimony, Massachusetts law provides a presumptive requirement that the defendant pay the reasonable legal fees of the plaintiff (although judges have several methods to avoid ordering the payment of legal fees).
Contempt actions for violations of child custody, visitation and parenting orders do not include a presumptive requirement for the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees, but Massachusetts judges have broad discretion to order defendants to the plaintiff’s legal fees as the judge sees fit. Moreover, a finding of contempt against a parent for violations of custody orders can result in significant (negative) changes in the parental rights of the parent found in contempt.
Parties who are defending themselves in a contempt action should take the Complaint for Contempt extremely seriously. In addition to ordering financial penalties, Massachusetts judges have the power to modify court orders to remedy or punish one party’s non-compliance and/or to prevent future non-compliance.
From James' interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com.
Complaints for Modification: When Circumstances Change in Custody, Child Support and Alimony Cases
On the Lynch & Owens blog, our attorneys have taken dozens of deep dives into the complex law surrounding the modification of domestic relations orders in Massachusetts, including child custody (including relocation/removal of children out of state), alimony and child support.
Massachusetts Probate & Family Court judges have the authority to modify judgment orders pertaining to the following issues:
- Child custody and parenting time
- Child support and college expenses
- Merging alimony orders (Alimony orders that “survive” are generally not modifiable, except in very unusual circumstances)
Modification actions vary in complexity based on the subject matter at hand. When parents earn W2 income, modifying a child support order based an increase/decrease in one parent’s earnings can be relatively straight-forward. However, modifying alimony and child support orders becomes significantly more complex if a parent is self-employed or receives complex forms of compensation, such as RSUs or stock options.
Modification of child custody orders often require the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to interview the parents and children. Modifications pertaining to alimony are impacted by the complexities of the Massachusetts Alimony Statute.
In general, the party seeking to modify a judgment must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances to justify the modification. However, parties can modify child support by simply showing that the current child support is not consistent with the Child Support Guidelines based on the parties’ gross incomes and certain expenses.
Special challenges exist for modifications in which a parent seeks:
- Relocation with a child out of state (i.e., so-called “removal” cases)
- Modifications of college payment provisions,
- So-called surviving alimony orders
Parties that are seeking a modification – or have been served with an opposing party’s Complaint for Modification – frequently require legal representation. For more than 25 years, the attorneys of Lynch & Owens have been representing clients in modification cases throughout Massachusetts. Together, our attorneys have more than 120 years of combined experience litigating, settling and mediating modification cases.
Mediating Modification and Contempt Cases
Litigation may not be the best solution for your modification or contempt cases. Mediation provides a less expensive, amicable and creative alternative for parents and former spouses seeking to resolve their legal concerns outside of court. Through South Shore Divorce Mediation, Lynch & Owens provides Massachusetts clients with mediation services to resolve modification and contempt issues without the costs and stress of litigation.
Call (781) 253-2049 to Consult with an Attorney or Schedule a Mediation
We will help you navigate your legal issue with care, diligence and strong, cost-effective client service. A Massachusetts attorney from our office will evaluate your claim during a one-hour consultation.
If you need legal representation in a modification or contempt case or are seeking a mediatorto resolve your legal issues outside of court, please do not hesitate to call us at (781) 253-2049or contact us online.
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