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Can an alimony order be changed?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September 2021

Some kinds of alimony orders cannot be changed. Reimbursement alimony and transitional alimony cannot be changed.

You need to show there has been a “material change of circumstances” or “compelling circumstances” to change rehabilitative alimony. 

The judge can only change general term alimony if there is no written agreement that says the alimony cannot be changed. 

Changing an alimony order or written agreement about alimony made before March 1, 2012 depends on the order or agreement.

When can general term or rehabilitative alimony be changed?

You might think you can change general term or rehabilitative a­­limony because:


The judge cannot change general term or rehabilitative alimony just because the spouse who pays alimony remarries.[1] The judge cannot count the new spouse’s income and assets.

If the spouse who gets general term or rehabilitative alimony remarries, the alimony ends.

2nd Job or overtime

Usually the judge cannot increase the alimony if the spouse who pays it gets a second job or overtime.[i]

Usually the judge will not count the income from a 2nd job or overtime if:

  • the payor already has a full-time job, and
  • the payor began the 2nd job or getting overtime after the original alimony order.

Other reasons

If you need to change general term alimony or the amount of rehabilitative alimony, you have to show the judge there has been a “material change of circumstances” since the order was made.  “Material change of circumstances” means something very important has changed.

If the spouse who gets rehabilitative alimony needs an “extension.” You need to show “compelling circumstances.” “Compelling circumstances” are very good reasons.

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