Site Search:

  Print  |   Email

Changing a Child Support Order

Life may have changed since the court ordered child support for your child and you may need to change the order.

There are 4 things it is important to know about changing a child support order.

  1. The court can only modify the order after 3 kinds of changes:
    • a parent’s income has changed;
    • certain expenses for taking care of your child have changed; or
    • a parent’s health insurance choices have changed.
  2. It does not matter if you pay child support or you get child support. If either parent’s life has changed in any of these 3 ways, you can ask the court to modify the order.
  3. You have a right to get the order changed if:
    • the Child Support Guidelines say the amount of child support should be different from the amount in the order; or
    • a parent’s health insurance choices have changed.
  4. If the court changes the order, the change only goes back to the time you “served” the other parent with the complaint. It is important to file a complaint to modify as soon as you know you need to change the order.

What can I ask the court to change in the order?

You can ask the court to change:

  • the “weekly support amount” – the amount you get from the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet;
  • each parent’s share of routine medical and dental expenses over $250 each year;
  • each parent’s share of unexpected medical and dental expenses;
  • each parent’s share of other child-related expenses like educational or summer camp expense;
  • which parent pays child support;
  • which parent provides health insurance;
  • when the order ends – See Ending a child support order.

When can I get the child support order changed?

You can ask the court to change the child support order if there has been some kind of change in one or both parents’ finances or a change in health insurance choices.

The financial change must be:

  1. the income of one or both parents,
  2. expenses for caring for your child if
    1. your child moves or
    2. your child’s health changes dramatically.
  3. the amount that either parent pays for
    1. child care,
    2. health insurance,
    3. dental insurance, or
    4. vision insurance.

Some of the changes that can cause a parent’s income to go up or down are:

  • losing a job,
  • going on unemployment,
  • going on welfare,
  • getting a job that pays more money,
  • getting fewer hours at work,
  • getting injured or going on disability, or
  • going to prison.

When does the court have to change a child support order?

When you file a complaint to modify a child support order, the court must change the child support order if:

  1. the Child Support Guidelines say the amount of child support should be different from the amount in the order; or
  2. the child needs health insurance, and
    1. one of the parents cannot get health insurance anymore or
    2. one of the parents can now get health insurance.

If the court changes my child support order, how far back does it go?

If the court changes your child support order, the new order only goes back to the date the Complaint for Modification was “served”. The “served” date is the date that the other parent gets the summons and complaint about the case. See Service of Process.

The new order does not go back to the date that your job or health care changed.

You cannot change the amount of money you get or money you owe before the “served” date.

For example

You pay child support but you lose your job on July 12th.
You file a Complaint for Modification on August 20th.
The other parent gets the Summons (official notice) and Complaint on August 24th.
The court changes your child support order on September 18th. The court decides that you should pay less money.
You pay less money starting on August 24th, not on July 12th.

If you and the other parent filed a Joint Petition/Motion to Change a Judgment/Temporary Order, the change goes back to the date you filed.


Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Last updated August 2013


Get Help Now

You may qualify for free legal assistance from your local legal aid program.

If you are seeking a free attorney, Find Legal Aid

 

Do-It-Yourself Court Forms

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm