As our kids start heading back to school, it may be a good time for parents to reacquaint themselves with their child support plans. Think about it: kids are starting new schools and new activities; parents are readjusting to a more rigid custody schedule than they may have had during the summer; we are all starting to look ahead to the rest of the year. This can be an excellent opportunity to assess child support orders and make sure they are still appropriate.
If you are like many parents, you might find that your plan needs some updating. In these situations, you can seek a modification to your existing plan. However, there are some things you need to know.
First, child support modifications are not granted easily in Massachusetts. A court must be convinced that the modification is necessary based on significant changes that make an existing plan no longer representative of your circumstances. Some situations that might be grounds for modification include:
- Loss of job
- Incarceration of the paying parent
- The child’s medical and/or educational needs change
- A parent’s financial resources change dramatically
- Child custody schedules have changed considerably
If one of these conditions in place, the courts can consider modification. They will recalculate support using the same guidelines used to create the original plan and take the new information into account, so it will be critical that you have adequate documentation regarding your current financial situation.
Finally, you must understand that unless and until a plan is modified and approved by the courts, you will still be expected to comply with the current orders for support. Should you or the other parent fall behind, there can still be consequences for delinquency.
If you believe that it might be time to update your child support orders, you can discuss the legal process and your options with an experienced family law attorney. Taking the time to do this now when there are other life changes happening already could save you money, time and energy in the future.