Modification of Child Support
In Massachusetts the Family Court allows for the modification of child support. The important terminology and the basis for a successful outcome on a Complaint for Modification is that there must be a “Substantial Change in Circumstance” in order for the court to allow a modification of an existing Child Support Order. Ordinarily, the Court will look at several factors in determining if there is a “substantial change in circumstances. It is the party who is brings the Complaint for Modification who has the burden of proof in establishing the facts supporting a substantial change in circumstance. The Court will look at changes in employment and income, changes in the needs of the supported child. As children grow, so do the costs of raising them. Change in living conditions, health of the parties the employment or underemployment of the parents. The Court may find that a parent is intentional underemployed and impute to the underemployed parent income that may be considered in a Child support order of the Court.
In an action to modify child support, the parties are free to engage in pre-trial discovery which may consist of written questions called interrogatories. Interrogatories are questions set forth in writing which an opposing party must answer, regarding factors that the Court may consider on a wide range of issues that must be proven to succeed on the Complaint to Modify the child support. The parties may also propound Requests for Documents on the relevant issues in the underlying Complaint for Modification. The Document requests may ask for financial records, accounts, or expenses of a party or their employment terms and benefits as well as health care benefits. Again there is no limit to the types of documents that a party may request so long as they are calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence in the pending case. Finally the parties may conduct depositions of witnesses, parties or third parties who may have relevant records or documents.
Once the pre-trial discovery is completed the parties are generally required to attempt to meet and resolve the matter by agreement if possible. If an agreement for modification cannot be reached the parties will be scheduled to attend a pre-trial conference at which time the Court will usually attempt to help with a negotiated settlement. If a resolution cannot be reached then the matter will be scheduled for a contested trial and at the trial the party who brought the Complaint for modification of the child support will have the burden of proof to establish their case for modification. The parties will examine witnesses and the parties, introduce exhibits, and argue their claim in front of a Family Court Judge.
It is the Court who will issue an order on the modification after hearing all of the evidence if the parties are unable to resolve the case short of Trial.