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Modification of Alimony Obligations

A case of first impression, Lalchandani v. Roddy, was heard by the Supreme Judicial Court to determine whether under the Alimony Reform Act of 2011, a payor spouse who has reached full Social Security retirement is entitled to modification of his alimony obligation, where that obligation stems from a separation agreement that survived entry of the divorce judgment.

A provision in a separation agreement to "survive" means that the agreement retains independent significance as a contract and cannot be modified in a later Complaint for Modification.

If a provision in the agreement does not "survive," but "merges" either party may seek a modification if a material change in circumstances occurs.

In this case, the parties divorced in 1992 and their separation agreement provided that the husband shall pay alimony to the wife and this provision was to "survive." 

In its holding, the court stated that Section 4(c) of the Alimony Reform Act explicitly precludes modification of a surviving alimony obligation and that the Legislature did not intend to alter the already established legal principle that surviving alimony obligations are not subject to modification.

Thus, the husband was not entitled to seek modification of his alimony obligation.

Whether you are already involved in a divorce proceedings or are contemplating a divorce, it is important to seek an attorney who will take the time making sure her clients have a thorough understanding of the separation agreement before signing.

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