How to change (modify) or end a child support order in court

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Only a court can change (modify) a chid support order, or end a child support order early. You must follow the child support order until a judge changes or ends it.

This "how to" explains the steps you must take if you want to start a case to change or end a child support order in court.

Not ready to start a case yet? Learn more about when you might want to change a child support order.

Also learn more about when you might want to go to court to end a child support order.

What court papers should I file?

If you and the other parent agree on what the change to the child support order should be, you can file a a Joint Petition/Motion to Change a Judgment/Temporary Order.

If you and the other parent don't agree, you can file a Complaint for Modification.

Can anyone help me file the court papers?

A lawyer

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.  See Find A Lawyer.


You can ask the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement (DOR/CSE) to file a Complaint for Modification for you. Call DOR at 1-800-332-2733 or  apply for DOR Child Support Enforcement services online.

The DOR will give 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.

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.

Even if you ask DOR to change something about your child support order, this change will not take effect until a court orders the change.

File the papers on your own

You can file the papers and go to court on your own.  You can ask the Court Service Center or a Lawyer for the Day at a Probate Court for help filling out the papers.  You can download the forms from the Probate Court website or get them from a court. Look at the instructions below to learn more about what is involved in filling out a joint petition or complaint for modification.

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. There is also a $5 fee for the summons, which must be served on the other party.

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. See Affidavit of Indigency if you can't afford court costs.

How to ask the Probate and Family Court to modify or end a child support order:

Go to the court that made the child support order.

Find addresses and contact information for Probate Courts in Massachusetts on the court's website.

Fill out a complaint for modification form.

Get the form online or 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.

Note: A Joint Petiton 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 before you schedule a court date.

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, they give the original summons back to you.  The sheriff or constable fills out the section of the summons called “Proof of Service.” Learn more at How to serve a defendant.

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.

Check with the court clerk on how to do this.

Fill out a financial statement form.

See How to fill out a financial statement. 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. See How to fill out the child support guidelines worksheet.

Go to court on the scheduled date of your hearing.

Bring all your paperwork with you.

Resource Boxes
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Get help filling out forms
Child Support: Get help filling out forms

The Court Service Centers can help you fill out court forms related to child support, by Zoom or in person.

Some Probate Courts have Lawyer for the Day programs. Contact the court directly to see if your court has one.

Learn more about finding a lawyer.

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