Too much, too little: Modifying Child Support Orders In Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, most parents are unsatisfied with their current child support order.  It is widely believed that non-custodial parents pay too much, while custodial parents receive too little.  Therefore, the question often becomes:  How do I change my child support order in Massachusetts?

There are certain factors to consider when thinking about changing your Massachusetts Child Support order.  Here are the steps everyone should take when considering a request to change their current child support order in Massachusetts:

(1) Before pursuing litigation — Use the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines to estimate what your current child support order should be.

All too often people assume that their child support payment is too high or too low.  They run into court and ask for a change.   However, the parties have not completed an updated Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and are entirely unprepared to make their request.  In fact, the parties generally have no idea what their child support order should be, other than it should be changed.  This is a huge mistake.  Decisions made on emotion and intangible factors are not going to assist one in making sure their best interests are met.

The Massachusetts Child Support Guideline Worksheet is relatively easy to complete, and will give any party a very good idea of what to expect at a court hearing.  Speak to an experienced child support attorney at the Rao Law Offices to assist as you as you prepare to modify your current child support order.

(2) Determine what has changed since the most recent order.

One cannot go back into Court and ask for a change in child support just because they want an increase or a decrease.   Under Massachusetts law,  one may only seek a modification of their current child support order if there has been a significant change in circumstance.  For example, if the non-custodial parent has been laid-off from work since the order entered, this would be a viable reason to go into court and ask for a reduction in child support.  Also, the custodial parent could go back into court and ask for an increase if the custodial parent’s income has substantially decreased.  There are many reasons as to why one’s current child support order should change.  Contact Attorney Rao today at 617-953-0836 to discuss your options.

Finally, there is one exception to the “change in circumstance” standard.  Under Massachusetts Child Support Law, one is entitled to go back into court every three years to have their child support reviewed by the court.  Therefore, even if there has been no “change in circumstance” the child support order may still be changed if the order is three-years or older.

(3) Determine if the Last Court Order Was a “Judgment” or a “Temporary Order”

In most instances, your last court order is going to be a Judgment.  This means that the initial matter (whether it be a Divorce, Modification, or a Support Complaint) has been finalized.  In this instance, you would need to file a “Complaint for Modification.”  In order to file a new “Complaint” one must file the Complaint and have the Complaint served by a Constable or Sheriff.

However, in some instances, a Temporary Order will still exist in your case.  In this instance, you may already have an upcoming court hearing to address all of the underlying issues in your case.  Further, there are certain circumstances where the Court never entered a “Judgment” in your case, but for whatever reason, did not order a review.  In this instance, you can simply draft a “Motion.”  This does require service by a Constable or Sheriff.  Rather, you must send the Motion via certified mail to the other party.

(4) Be Proactive — You are not entitled to a Retroactive Modification

One must be proactive in their pursuit for a modification of their current child support.  I have handled hundreds of child support cases where the non-custodial parent had been laid-off for years, but failed to go into court and ask for a reduction in child support.  The end result is the non-custodial parent owes thousands and thousands of dollars in back child support without the ability to pay.  The lesson here is an easy one: you cannot sit back and wait for the “system” to come to you.  You must take action as soon as your situation changes.  You must be proactive.  Under Massachusetts Law, one is not entitled to a retroactive modification.

If you are thinking about a modification of your current child support contact an attorney at Rao Law Offices at 617-953-0836.

 

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