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In uncertain economic times like these, Massachusetts residents often struggle to pay monthly bills. If you have lost your job, experienced a reduction in hours or otherwise cannot keep up with your child support obligations, you should know when it is appropriate to seek a modification of your support order.

Judges in the Bay State have jurisdiction to adjust existing child support orders. If you have a final order, though, a judge cannot retroactively modify your payment amount. Therefore, if you cannot pay, it is important to act quickly. Here are five grounds for modifying a child support order in Massachusetts.

  1. Inconsistency between the support order and the guidelines

When ordering child support, judges must consider the commonwealth’s child support guidelines. If the judge deviates considerably from these guidelines, you may be able to modify your support order.

  1. Unavailability of ordered health care coverage

In your initial support order, a judge may have used health care coverage as a reason to order child support. If that coverage is no longer available or has dropped in price, you may not have to pay so much in child support every month.

  1. Availability of new health care coverage

Having health insurance is essential to any child’s overall well-being. If your child previously had no insurance, a judge may order a modification of child support to pay for newly available coverage.

  1. Increasing cost of existing health care coverage

Health care coverage can be almost unconscionably expensive. If the cost of your child’s existing insurance plan has increased, a judge may rework your support order.

  1. A material change in circumstances

Massachusetts law has a catchall provision that allows parents to seek a modification of an existing child support order. Specifically, if you can show there is a substantial and material change in circumstances, such as your income level, a judge may agree to change your support obligation.

Few things have the potential to be more stressful than the inability to keep up with child support payments. By understanding when to seek a modification, you can better plan your monthly budget.