How to change a judgment or order by agreement

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You do not always need a hearing to change a judgment or temporary order of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. If you and the other party in the case agree about how the judgment or order should be changed, you can

  • file your written agreement
  • file a joint petition or motion and
  • a proposed judgment or temporary order.

You do not need to serve a summons.

You will only have to go to a hearing if the judge orders one.

If the judge does not order a hearing, they will read the agreement and other papers and make a decision.

Get the General Information Sheet and the Checklist of Required Forms from the Probate and Family Court website and the special forms you need:

Important

Do not sign any agreement if you do not understand everything it says.
Do not sign an agreement if you feel the other party is pressuring you.
Do not sign an agreement if you think that the other party is trying to mislead you.

If you do not understand something in an agreement, talk to a lawyer before you sign it.

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What is the difference between a “temporary order” and a “judgment”?

You can ask the court to change both temporary orders and final judgments by agreement.

A "temporary order" is in effect while your case is going on, before the final decision. A "judgment" is the final decision.

For example, in a divorce case a "temporary order" can be about custody, visitation, or parenting time until the judge grants the divorce.

When the judge grants the divorce, they make a final decision about custody, visitation, or parenting time. This final decision, is a "judgment."

You can ask the court to change both temporary orders and judgments by agreement.

Important

You cannot change Chapter 209A Abuse Prevention Orders with a Joint Petition/Motion to Change a Judgment or Temporary Order.

What do we need to file to change a judgment or order by agreement?

All cases that ask the court to change a judgment or order by agreement need 3 forms. Some kinds of cases also need some other forms.

The 3 forms you must file in all cases are:

In some cases you also need to file other papers. You need to file other papers any time you ask the court to change a judgment or order:

  • about financial issues, like alimony or child support; or
  • about care, custody, visitation, or parenting time.
  • Joint Petition/Motion to Change a Judgment or Temporary Order

Use the Joint Petition/Motion To Change a Judgment or Temporary Order to tell the court:

  • who you are;
  • the date of the judgment or temporary order you want to change (line 5);
  • what parts of the judgment or temporary order you want the court to change (line 6); and
  • why you want the court to change the judgment or temporary order (line 7).

At the top of the form put

  • a check in the box for judgment or temporary order;
  • your names where it says “In the Matter of”;
  • the docket number;
  • the name of the division of the Probate and Family Court where you filed. For example, Suffolk or Worcester; and
  • your contact information.

If you ask the court to change anything that affects your children, you must complete lines (1) through (4) as well as the rest of the form.

If you do not ask the court to change anything that affects your children, start with line (4).

Attach a copy of the order or judgment you want the court to change.

Agreement to Change a Judgment or Temporary Order

You can use the Court’s Agreement form but you do not have to.

At the top of the form put in

  • a check in the box for judgment or temporary order;
  • your names where it says “In the Matter of”;
  • the docket number; and
  • the name of the division of the Probate and Family Court where you filed. For example, Suffolk or Worcester.

If the Agreement changes a judgment, both of you must get your signatures notarized.

If the Agreement changes a temporary order, you do not need to have your signatures notarized.

Important

Sign the agreement only if

  • the agreement is fair and reasonable;
  • everything in the agreement that affects your children is what you think is best for them;
  • you showed your finances to the other party fully and accurately;
  • the other party showed you their finances fully and accurately; and
  • you have read it completely.

Do not sign any agreement if you

  • do not understand everything it says;
  • are being forced or pressured; or
  • think that the other party is trying to mislead you.

If you do not understand something in an agreement, talk to a lawyer before you sign it.

If you need an interpreter, only sign the agreement if it has been translated. You do not need to pay for an interpreter. The court provides them.

Put in your contact information in the Agreement. Sign it and date it.

Proposed Judgment/Temporary Order on Petition/Motion to Change

Use the Judgment/Temporary Order on Petition/Motion to Change form to give the judge all the information they need to change the judgment or temporary order.

Put

  • a check in the box for judgment or temporary order;
  • the date you filed the Petition or Motion to Change;
  • the docket number;
  • your names where it says “In the Matter of”;
  • the name of the division of the Probate and Family Court where you filed. For example, Suffolk or Worcester; and
  • the date of your Agreement.

The judge puts in

  • the date they considered your case;
  • the date the Agreement becomes effective; and
  • their signature if they approve the Agreement.

Important

The judge does not have to approve the Agreement. They can check the box that says “After review and consideration, the Joint Petition/Motion is hereby denied and the action dismissed.

What else do we have to file to change a judgment or order that deals with children?

If you file an agreement to change care, custody, visitation, or parenting time, file:

If you are filing an agreement to change child support, see What else do we have to file to change a judgment or order that deals with financial issues?

What else do we have to file to change a judgment or order that deals with financial issues?

Financial issues include alimony, property division, life insurance for former spouse, and health insurance for former spouse, and child support.

If you file an agreement to change a judgment or order about financial issues, file:

In all cases that involve:

  • child support,
  • medical insurance,
  • dental insurance,
  • vision insurance,
  • ending child support when a child turns 18, or
  • changing the amount of child support to an amount that is different from the Worksheet amount

you must file a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

Important

If:

  • either of you owes the state past due child support, or
  • either of you gets public assistance, or
  • your child gets public assistance,

you must get the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR/CSE) to agree with the change in writing.

DOR/CSE says that it agrees at the bottom of page 2 of the Joint Petition/Motion To Change a Judgment or Temporary Order form. They sign below Assent of the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division.

Changing child support to an amount that is different from the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet amount

The judge can order a different amount of child support from the amount on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. This is called “deviation.” If you ask the judge to deviate from the amount on the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, use the court form Findings and Determinations for Child Support and Post-Secondary Education. Fill out page 3, Deviation - Section IV. of the 2021 Child Support Guidelines. File the page with your agreement.

See Can the judge order a different amount of child support

Ending child support at age 18

If you and the other parent agree to end child support when your child turns 18, say so in your agreement. You can write something like, “Child support ends when our child turns 18.” Where it says “our child” you can put your child’s name.

You must write into your Agreement a sentence that says:

“The parts of General Laws, chapter 208, section 28 and chapter 209C, section 9 about children over 18 and under 23 do not apply.”

What is this sentence about?

These laws say the court can make orders for

  • support, maintenance, and education for children between 18 and 21, if they live with their parent and are mainly dependent on that parent for their maintenance; and
  • 21- and 22-year-olds if they live with one of their parents. They must also be mainly dependent on that parent for their maintenance and be in school or college.

Chapter 208, section 28 applies to the children of parents who are or were married to each other. Chapter 209C, section 9 applies to the children of parents who were never married to each other.

How much does it cost to file an agreement to change a judgment or temporary order?

The fees are different for each kind of case

There is no filing fee if you ask the court to change a temporary order.

The filing fee is $50 if you ask the court to change a judgment concerning child support, custody, or parenting time.

The filing fee is $150 if you ask the court to change a judgment concerning anything not about children. For example, changing a judgment about alimony.

What if I cannot afford the fees?

If both you and the person you are making an agreement with:

(A) are on public assistance,

(B) have an income after taxes of less than 125% of the poverty level, or

(C) paying the fees would make it so that you could not pay for your basic necessities

you can ask the court not to make you pay filing fees.

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

What happens after we file our agreement to change an order or a judgment?

The judge will look at your papers and decide if it is necessary to have a hearing.

The judge may schedule a hearing

The judge will schedule a hearing if

  • the forms are not filled out correctly;
  • the forms are not signed;
  • the Agreement changes a judgment and your signatures are not notarized;
  • the judge has questions about the agreement; or
  • the judge needs more information.

If the judge decides a hearing is necessary, the court will notify you of the time and date of the hearing. You should get this notice within 21 days of filing your Joint Petition/Motion to Change a Judgment or Temporary Order. Both of you will have to attend the hearing.

The judge may decide a hearing is not necessary

If the judge decides a hearing is not necessary, they will approve or dismiss your case within 30 days of when you filed.

Where do we file our agreement to change an order or a judgment?

File your packet of forms at the same Probate and Family Court that made the judgment or temporary order you want to change.

You can file your forms:

  • in person at the Registry of Probate office, or
  • by mailing them to the Probate and Family Court.

The Probate and Family Court website has the address of each courthouse. Click the name of the court to get the address.

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