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How can I get my child support order modified?

If you pay or receive child support through the Massachusetts Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division, the agency may be able to assist you with modifying your child support order.

In order to qualify for this assistance, the following must apply:

-- The youngest child for whom you are receiving or paying support is younger than 17½ years old.

-- You're seeking to modify a valid child support order, either to decrease or increase it or add an order to provide health care coverage for your kids.

-- The modification request only involves medical or child support for your minor children and does not address visitation or custody issues.

If all of the above are met, there still must be a legitimate reason to modify the child support order currently in place. Some potentially appropriate reasons to seek a modified order are:

-- Changes in the parent's health care coverage, such as if the parent who was under the court order to provide support through his or her employee benefits gets laid off from the job that offered the coverage.

-- There are significant changes in the parent's income. If they qualify for public assistance, disability benefits or become unemployed or go to jail, they may no longer be able to afford to pay the original sum ordered by the judge.

Sometimes the reverse occurs, and a parent who had only been paying a small monthly sum accepts a position where they are making a much higher salary or hourly wage. The parent who receives the support on behalf of the child can petition the court for a modified order that reflects these circumstances.

Simply petitioning for a modification doesn't guarantee that it will be altered, however. Sometimes other extenuating circumstances may prevent changes from being made.

Even if the DOR can't assist you with modifying your child support order, it may be possible to do so by retaining a family law attorney to petition the court on your behalf.

Source: mass.gov, "How to Make Changes to Your Court Order," accessed Sep. 30, 2016

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