A common mistake that many parents make in child support cases is failing to address a recalculation of child support when their incomes change. This can, and likely will, result in arrears or you making payments that exceed your legal obligation. Accruing arrears can result in legal consequences that can interrupt your life and/or cause you major inconveniences. Some of these consequences can include: (1) loss of your driver's license; (2) jail time; (3) an order to pay amount(s) that you may not be financially prepared, or able, to pay; or (4) interception of your tax returns by the Department of Revenue, etc.
Many people mistakenly believe that child support arrears will disappear or be reduced once they finally go before a judge and explain their circumstances. This may be true depending on when you properly requested a modification with the Court. Delaying to request a modification with the Court without a legitimate reason, however, will likely result in you paying your arrears in whole regardless of the reasonableness of your non-payment.
Under M.G.L. c. 208, § 28, M.G.L. c. 209C, §§20 and 37, after a judgment for child support has been entered, it may be modified if (1) there is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines; (2) previously ordered health care coverage is no longer available; (3) previously ordered health care coverage is still available but no longer at a reasonable cost or without undue hardship; (4) access to health care coverage not previously available to a parent has become available; and (5) there is any other material and substantial change in circumstances.
Reasons parents should seek to modify child support sooner rather than later include: (1) loss of employment; (2) change in income (either a promotion or new employment); (3) change in custody or parenting time; or (4) change in financial obligations, which necessitate a recalculation (e.g., new or increased daycare costs, change in health care coverage), etc.
There is no benefit in delaying to file a Complaint for Modification if you are entitled to a recalculation by law. To avoid arrears—and the consequences of accruing arrears—pursue a modification as soon as your circumstances change.
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