There are three ways to change a child support order.
You can ask the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement (DOR/CSE) to file a Complaint for Modification for you.
DOR/CSE has an application form for you to use to apply for their help.
You can ask the DOR to file a complaint for you if you do not understand how to file a complaint or if you do not feel safe. If you want to keep your address secret, tell them this.
Remember that the DOR:
- can take a long time to process your paperwork;
- cannot file a complaint for you if your child is more than17 ½ years old; and
- is not your lawyer. The DOR may not handle your case the way you would like.
You can file court papers on your own, either
- a Complaint for Modification or
- a Joint Petition for Modification of Child Support Judgment.
You do not need the Department of Revenue to file a complaint for you. You can ask the “Lawyer for the Day” at the courthouse to help you fill out the forms.
A lawyer can prepare and file your court papers.
A lawyer can prepare and file your court papers. A lawyer can also represent you in court. You might choose to get a lawyer if you think that the lawyer will do a better job than you in court. Since DOR is not your lawyer when they handle your case, you might decide to get your own lawyer for that reason.
If you want the DOR to file your Complaint for Modification, call 1-800-332-2733. You can also go to the DOR Child Support Enforcement website.
The DOR gives you forms and instructions. Fill out the forms and send them back to the DOR. The DOR looks at your financial information and the other parent’s financial information. The DOR puts the paperwork together and files your complaint.
If you feel unsafe or want your address to be a secret, you must tell the DOR/CSE.
- pick up the forms you need at any Probate and Family Court,
- download the forms from the Probate and Family Court website, or
- if you are a parent, you can use our Do-It-Yourself online interactive forms assembly interview.
To ask the Probate and Family Court to modify a child support order:
- Go into the court that made the child support order.
Fill out a Complaint for Modification form. You can also get the Complaint form at the court.
Check the box on the Complaint for Modification that says, “there is now a difference between the amount of the existing child support order and the amount that would result from application of the Child Support Guidelines issued by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management.”
Check the box that says: “the following change(s) in circumstance have occurred:” and write down the changes in your or the other parent’s financial situation since the last child support order.
Make copies for your records.
- Take the form to the court Clerk. You will get a “Summons” from the Clerk. A Summons is an official court paper that tells the other parent you have filed a Complaint for Modification of the child support order.
- Serve the Complaint and Summons. Take the papers to a deputy sheriff or constable. The sheriff or constable delivers the papers to the other parent. Wait for them to return the summons to you. After the deputy sheriff or constable serves the papers, he or she gives the original summons back to you. The sheriff or constable fills out the section of the summons called “Proof of Service.”
- Make “return of service”. Take all the papers to the court clerk. This is called making “return of service.” Make a copy of the signed original summons for your records.
- Schedule a court date for the hearing.
- Fill out a Financial Statement form and send a copy to the other parent. Make sure your Financial Statement is on pink paper.
- Send a blank Financial Statement form to the other parent. Include a letter that asks the other parent to fill out the statement and give you a copy. Fill out a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet .
- Go to court on the scheduled date of your hearing. Bring all your paperwork with you.
A Joint Petition does not have to be served. This means that you follow all the steps listed above for a complaint, but you do not have to get and serve a Summons (steps 3-5) before you schedule a court date.
Do I have to pay to file and serve the forms?
If you file on your own, it costs $50 to file a Complaint for Modification.
If the Department of Revenue files the case, there is no filing fee.
Serving the complaint and summons costs $35.00-$45.00. The deputy sheriff or constable charges this fee.
But if your income is low, you can ask the state to pay the fees. You fill out a form called an Affidavit of Indigency. You include information about your income. What you write down must be true. Take the form to the court clerk. Ask the clerk to approve the Affidavit. If the Affidavit is approved, make sure you give a copy to the person who serves the papers on the other parent. Keep a copy of the Affidavit for your records.
Who can help me change a child support order?
Some Probate and Family Courts have lawyers who can help you. If your income is low, the lawyers help you for free. These lawyers are called “Lawyers for the Day." If you want to find a Lawyer for the Day, call your county’s Probate and Family Court.
If you talk to a "Lawyer for the Day," ask for help with the Affidavit of Indigency.
The DOR can help you
The Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE) also can help you modify a child support order. Contact the DOR/CSE.You can get information by calling DOR/CSE's Customer Service line, 1-800-332-2733.
Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp Last updated May 2013