When circumstances change, support modification can be necessary

Did you know that parents pay child support for roughly one in five children in the United States? This statistic represents millions of individuals whose lives are affected by child support payments.

Considering how many people pay support and the duration of these responsibilities, it is crucial to know about support modification. If you are one of the millions of parents paying or receiving child support, you should know what happens when circumstances change – and for most people, they have in the past year – thanks to COVID-19.

Grounds to modify a custody order

To modify a custody order in Massachusetts, parents must show that there has been a material change in circumstances or that applying the guidelines to calculate support would result in an amount different from what is in the original order. 

Some examples of events that might trigger modification include:

  • Job loss or promotion
  • Loss of health insurance coverage
  • Significant increase in the cost of health insurance
  • Changes in a child’s medical condition and needs
  • Shifts in parenting time or custodial rights
  • Parental incarceration
  • Parental illness

These represent some of the material or substantial changes that can affect how much a parent can and should pay in child support. Thus, requesting modification can ensure an order continues to be fair.

Seeking modification properly

Too often, parents modify their child support order informally. They might agree that a parent will pay more or less and assume that will suffice. However, courts cannot enforce these informal arrangements, which means if a parent violates the terms, there may be little or no recourse for the non-violating party.

As such, parents should request a modification from the court. If you already know what you want, you still must have the court approve the change to ensure it is fair and lawful.

Improper modifications or failing to request a change when it is appropriate can put unnecessary strain on parents. It can also adversely affect a child who may not be getting the full support to which they are entitled.

If you are struggling to keep up with payments or suspect you should be receiving more than you currently are, you can talk to an attorney  in our Family Law Practice Group about requesting a review and possible modification of your existing order.