One of the most common questions parents ask is “What is needed in order to modify an existing child support order?” In Massachusetts, the standard to modify child support is much lower than in New Hampshire. New Hampshire requires a parent to establish a substantial change in circumstances if the child support order is less than three years old. Upon the three-year anniversary of a child support order, New Hampshire will calculate child support based upon the then existing income when requested by one of the parents.
In Massachusetts, the standard for reviewing child support is much easier than in New Hampshire. Massachusetts law requires that there be only an inconsistency in the amount of an existing order and the amount that will result from recalculating the child support guidelines. Under this standard even small changes in the amount of child support are subject to modification in Massachusetts. Further, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines also address the issue of an existing order which is lower than the guideline amount due to the court ordering a reduced amount. Under the law, a judge may deviate and issue a lower child support amount than in prescribed under the Guideline calculations. Upon modification, the Guidelines state that the full Guidelines must be ordered on modifications unless the circumstances which justified the deviation earlier still apply, the deviation continues to be in the child’s best interest and the Guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances.
When deciding whether to pursue a modification, it is wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney before proceeding.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.