When parents divorce, the court determines a child support arrangement based on the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines take a variety of factors into account, including ongoing needs and wellbeing of shared children, the income of both spouses and which parent will have primary custody.

However, from changes in employment or access to health insurance to evolving medical or educational childcare needs, either parent may find that the original support order no longer reflects financial facts.

1. When is support modification warranted?

In general, the court may modify a child support agreement if there is a significant inconsistency between the amount of the standing order and the amount that the court would deem appropriate under current state guidelines.

2. What are common reasons for changing a support order?

In addition to job loss or an ongoing decrease in income, either parent may request modification if he or she no longer has access to previously ordered health insurance coverage or if that coverage is no longer available at a reasonable cost.

Additionally, a parent receiving support may petition for higher payments if the other ex-spouse’s income has significantly increased or if the other parent now has health care coverage access not available at the time of divorce.

Other common reasons for modifying a support agreement include a change in custody or parenting time, changing educational needs,  extraordinary medical needs or other necessary expenses.

3. Does changing a support order require litigation?

The court must approve a modification to support payments for that change to be lawful and enforceable. However, when parents can agree on the need to modify a support agreement, a divorce mediator may be able to help draft a new arrangement that provides for the best interest of shared children without putting undue burden on either partner.