Gabrielle Clemens, JD, LLM, is a Managing Director, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and Wealth Advisor at RBC Wealth Management—U.S. Clemens joined the financial services industry after working as both a divorce and estate planning attorney with an emphasis on tax. Her practice is dedicated to working with individuals who are navigating through the short and long-term financial challenges that accompany divorce.
I was divorced three years ago. I lost my job and now need to request an increase in support from my ex. What is the process for changing my agreement? —SL, Sandwich, MA
If you and your ex agree to the change in support that you are requesting, you may submit a signed modification to the family court in your county. The judge will review the change and, if amenable, will approve it. If you and your ex do not agree to the request to change support, you will need to file a Complaint for Modification and convince the court that there was a material change of circumstances since the entry of the original judgement.
Can I change my name before the divorce is final? —HR, Newburyport
You can change your name at any time through a separate court proceeding even before your final divorce is final. If you want to resume a name you have legally had in the past, you can ask to resume this former name in your Complaint for divorce, Joint Petition for Divorce form, or Counterclaim for Divorce. Once your divorce is final you may use the final divorce decree/order to document your name change at the DMV, Social Security Office, and Passport.
I have been married for 15 years. My spouse filed for divorce last month. Am I entitled to alimony? For how long? —SB, Plymouth
In order to qualify for alimony, you must demonstrate a need for financial support and that your spouse has the ability to pay. The judge will also consider the following factors when deciding the type, duration, and amount of support:
• The length of the marriage
• Each spouse’s age
• Each spouse’s health
• Each spouse’s income and employment history
• Both spouse’s employability, including through reasonable effort and additional training, if necessary
• Economic and non-economic contributions by both parties during the marriage
• The marital lifestyle
• Each spouse’s ability to maintain the marital lifestyle after the divorce
• Whether either spouse sacrificed economic opportunity as a result of the marriage
• Any other factor the court considers relevant. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208 § 53 (2018).)
The duration of general term alimony depends on the length of your marriage. Since your marriage lasted less than 20 years, the court will set the following limits:
• For marriages lasting less than five years, alimony will last no more than 1⁄2 the length of the marriage
• For marriages that lasted between five and 10 years, alimony can’t exceed more than 60% of the length of the marriage
• If the marriage lasted more than 10 years, but less than 15, then alimony can’t exceed more than 70% of the length of the marriage
• For marriages lasting more than 15 years, but less than 20 years, then alimony will last no more than 80% of the length of the marriage, and if the marriage lasted more than 20 years, the court might award permanent or lifetime alimony. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208 § 49 (2018).)