Massachusetts has, arguably, the most progressive laws relating to the process of providing child support in the nation. The family courts have significant discretion in support decisions. Traditionally, child support payments are a parental requirement until the child turns 18. A few states extend support until the age of 21, based on the circumstances.
In Massachusetts, if the child is enrolled in college, lives with and is supported by the parent being paid child support, the support payment eligibility extends to age 23. This state allows judges to deviate from the formula-based calculation if it is determined to be in the child’s best interest.
Child Support Modification Law
Only the court may enter a modification to an existing order of child support. There are three usual reasons why the required amount of support is modified:
- A change in parental income occurs
- The child’s custody order has changed
- A change has occurred relating to health insurance
In considering whether to make changes to a support order the court generally reviews parental income, the ages and number of children, and the parent’s means of providing health insurance. The state has a Guideline Worksheet available on their website which can generate estimates of support obligations, but ultimately, the court will consider the child’s best interest and determine the final amount.
Requests for modification to child support must usually be supported by written documentation or testimony. Examples of documentation that may be requested include:
- Orders from the military
- Financial documents including paystubs, bank account statements, or tax returns
- Statement of medical insurance coverage
- Benefit award statements such as unemployment, workers compensation, or VA benefits
Recent Federal Child Support Change
In 2016, the Health & Human Services Administration ordered states to heighten their efforts in verifying that orders of support are accurate based on the circumstances of the family. Specifically, to be certain that the noncustodial parent’s requirement accurately reflects his or her income and ability to pay. It sought to increase the number of parents paying support and reflect a fair and more realistic set of expectations.
One key provision requires states to consider lowering the support payment requirements for those who are incarcerated for greater than a period of six months.
At DiBella Law Offices, P.C., we represent those obliged to pay child support, as well as those eligible to receive it. With over a decade of experience in Massachusetts family court law, we realize that legal family matters may be emotional for all involved. We now have conveniently located offices in Boston, Burlington, and Methuen and encourage you to call (978) 327-5140 for a consultation.