No matter how carefully Massachusetts residents try to prepare, sometimes unexpected life events can negatively affect the best-laid plans. Changes such as sudden injury or illness or job loss may, in turn, alter a family's income, which may then affect child support. In such cases, child support modification may be possible, but there are certain steps that must be followed, whether an individual is hoping to receive larger child support payments or lower the payments he or she is required to make.
When hoping to lower payment amounts, the most important aspect is to act quickly, as unpaid child support will still be due in arrears and cannot be discharged. As soon as circumstances change, it's best to begin taking action toward modification as early as possible. Individuals may want to discuss the change in circumstances with the co-parent. Often, reaching an agreement may prove difficult, but it's a good starting point.
Next, it's best to document as fully as possible how circumstances have significantly changed since the existing child support order went into effect. Whether it's a new medical disability, an altered income due to job loss or career change, or something else, individuals will need to accurately outline their household income in detail to demonstrate the need for a modification. The next step is to file the child support modification request with the court that issued the existing order already in place. Whether one parent is submitting the modification request, or even if both parents agree, a new child support order will still need to be issued for it to take effect.
In the meantime, it's important for the parent paying child support to continue making those payments to the best of his or her ability. Until the modification request is ordered by the court and a new child support amount is legally stipulated, the previous existing order remains in effect and unpaid child support will continue to add up. While the steps necessary for modification can feel overwhelming -- especially for individuals already dealing with job loss, unexpected expenses or other unforeseen financial difficulty -- a Massachusetts family law attorney can offer assistance throughout the process.
Source: family.findlaw.com, "Child Support Modification Tips", Accessed on Jan. 26, 2018