Should You Modify Your Child Support Order?

 In Massachusetts, child support payments are calculated using a mathematical formula which takes into count various information such as the number of children, the ages of the children, the income of the parties, who pays for health insurance and if there are any day care expenses.  This information is plugged into a formula which then produces what the child support payment should be according to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.

 It is important to know that once a child support order is set, it can only be modified by a Judge.  Even if the other parent agrees to accept a different amount of support, you must file with the court to protect yourself (in the event the other parent files a Complaint for Contempt alleging that you are not paying the court ordered amount of support). 

 It is also important to keep in mind that child support orders can be modified only if there has been a material change in circumstances.  This typically means that there has been a change in income, up or down, of at least one of the parties, though issues such as a change in health insurance and/or day care costs can sometimes warrant a modification of an existing child support order. 

 If you are a parent who is obligated to pay child support and your income has gone down since the order was issued (due to becoming unemployed, a lower amount of income received from a self-employed business, or an inconsistent amount income received from a seasonal job), you may qualify to have your child support order reduced.  Additionally, if the other parent’s income has gone up, you may also qualify to have your child support payments lowered. 

 If you are a parent who receives child support payments and the other parent’s income has increased (or your income decreased) since the order was issued, you may qualify to have you child support order increased.  Of course, if your income has increased that will have an impact on how much the order changes. 

 Regardless of the situation, if you are seeking to modify your child support order, you must petition the court for a reduction.  The good news is that the court can modify your child support order retroactively.  However, it can only go as far back as the date the other party was served with the summons and complaint for modification.  So it is important to file the paperwork with the court as soon as possible after there has been a change in circumstances.

 Finally, we recommend that parties getting divorced include a clause in their separation agreement that provides for the yearly exchange of all W-2 and other income related tax forms.  This allows both parties to know down the road whether or not the other’s income has changed in a manner sufficient to warrant an adjustment of the current child support order.

 If you have any questions or would like more information about this topic please contact one of us at Landry & Landry, P.C. by calling 508-802-5880.