Changing or ending child support obligations in Massachusetts

Few things in life are forever stable. Massachusetts family law courts recognize this fact. While a parent must always support a minor child, a job loss, reduced hours, or increased medical bills can mean that an original child support order is no longer appropriate.

Some parents may choose to support a child financially throughout life. Others may feel it better for children to support themselves as soon as possible.­­ Some parents may be financially able to support their children initially, but then fall on hard times.

As one can imagine, therefore, child support obligations can vary widely over the course of years and depending on individual circumstances.

Modification

In order to obtain a modification, the parent seeking to change a support order must prove to the court that a change in circumstances has occurred that warrants a modification. Such a change must involve:

  • One parent's income
  • The cost of providing for a child
  • Health insurance for either the parent or child

Massachusetts has child support guidelines that give objective child support obligations depending on the income of the parents and the needs of the child. If a change in circumstances has occurred and the child support guidelines show a different amount, then the court must change the order to reflect the change in circumstances.

Massachusetts allows both the recipient and the payor of child support to change the order amount. Importantly, any change in child support only applies from the time the complaint to modify was "served" to the other parent. It is therefore important to file a complaint as soon as possible after a financial change of circumstances. Until the order is changed, child support must still be paid in full and on time.

Ending child support payments

Child support orders continue at least until the child reaches the age of 18. In many cases, it can extend past age 18. Recently, for example, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled on a case determining whether one parent had to continue child support payments for a 23 year-old son. In Massachusetts, child support for children aged 18 to 23 depends upon individual circumstances, which include higher education costs.

In Vaida v. Vaida, decided on November 6, 2014, the court determined that Massachusetts law did not require child support for a child who had finished his higher education but suffered from a physical disability. Under state law, the court held that the child did not meet the statutory definition of "incapacity" and was capable of handling his own life and finances. Therefore, the father did not need to continue paying child support. If the child had been ruled as incapacitated, child support payments could have continued indefinitely.

Get legal help

There are many instances when a court will determine when a child support order is modifiable or no longer required by law. Parents with questions regarding modifying a child support order should not delay in speaking to an experienced family law attorney at The Law Offices of Judith A. Wayne & Associates to understand their legal options and begin the process of modification if appropriate.