Child support is one of the critical issues in divorce or paternity actions in the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts. After an Order has been entered, it is quite common that one party will seek a child support modification. Modifying child support is a two-step process. A Motion for Modification of child support needs to be filed. Then a child support modification hearing will be held. A judge has great discretion when considering child support modifications. You should know your rights and be prepared.
How can I change a child support order in Massachusetts?
A modification of child support requires a showing of two things:
- a material and substantial change in circumstances; and,
- the proposed change is in the child’s best interest.
Both factors must be proven before a child support modification will be issued.
Material and substantial change in circumstances
Courts don’t like to make changes to existing orders. They want to keep things consistent. That’s why the first hurdle to a child support modification is that there must be a substantial and material change in circumstances since the last child support order was issued. A small change is not enough. The change must be significant enough to make the existing child support order invalid. Generally, you should do a child support payment review using the child support guidelines to see where you stand.
In the child’s best interest
Everything in the Probate and Family Court revolves around the best interest of the child. Even if you can show a material and substantial change in circumstances, your proposed change must be in your child’s best interest. Child support is for the child, not the other parent. Therefore, courts are reluctant to decrease money that will go to the child unless there is a good reason. On the other hand, if a judge is convinced that more support is available to the child from the non-custodial parent, it’s likely they will increase the order.
What are some reasons to modify child support in Massachusetts?
There are many reasons to increase child support, or lower it. Common reasons include:
- An change in income for either parent;
- Health insurance is no longer available to a parent;
- Health insurance becomes available to a parent; and
- The needs of the child have changed.
Keep in mind that any change must be significant. Courts don’t want to modify orders over small changes.
Can child support be raised without going to court in Massachusetts?
Modifying child support is not something you can do without the court. Even if you have worked out an informal agreement with your ex, a judge still has to sign off on it for it to be enforceable. Parents often get into trouble when they agree between themselves that an order will be modified. Even though you have made other arrangements, from a legal point of view, the original order is still in place. For example, if your ex agrees to accept less in child support, they can turn around later and come after you for the full amount you should have paid under the order. It’s best to file a Motion to Modify Child Support and have a child support modification hearing before a judge.
Does remarriage affect child support in Massachusetts?
A child has the benefit of financial support from both parents. That obligation does not extend to new spouses of the parents. A child support order will not be modified simply because one or both of the parents gets remarried. However, the overall household incomes of the parents can play a part in modifying child support. For instance, if the non-custodial parent marries someone with a lot of money, their household income obviously increases. With another person to help pay the household bills, the paying spouse has more disposable income. A judge may find that the parent can contribute more to child support.
Danger in filing for child support modification in Massachusetts
There is a danger in filing to modify child support in Massachusetts. When you file a Motion to Modify Child Support, you must provide your financial information. Your ex must do so as well. If you’re asking to lower the child support the court may agree and lower your payments. It’s also possible that the court can increase those payments. Further, it’s common that once you file a Motion to Modify an order, your ex will file a Counterclaim seeking to change another part of the order such as child custody. You must consider your options carefully and weigh the risks.
Both parents are financially responsible for their children. When splitting up, a Child Support Order will be put in place. Many changes can take place in the parents’ income and resources over the course of time. Those changes may be grounds to modify the child support order. To change that order, you must file a motion and have a hearing before a judge. The judge can raise or lower the child support based on the Child Support Guidelines and factors unique to your case. Child support modification cases are extremely important to you and your children. You should consult with an experienced child support modification attorney to protect your rights. Call us today for a free telephone consultation and see if you qualify for our reduced rates. At Afford Law, we’re making justice affordable.