New Child Support Modification Guidelines

Fresh from the desk of the Supreme Judicial Court comes the case of Morales v. Morales, the standard for modifying a child support order is now simply an “inconsistency” between the current child support order and the child support guidelines. This is huge as it lowers the standard considerably from a “material change in circumstances” which is a much higher burden to meet.

To parse out the issue a bit more, it is important to know the foundation of why this is such a key decision. In a case involving children, the spouse that maintains physical custody is entitled to child support. Child support is governed statutorily through a guidelines worksheet. Once the guidelines are established, and an order of the court entered, they can subsequently be modified if the financial information that calculated the guidelines changes.

In practical terms this is almost always job related wherein a person loses a job, gets a promotion, changes salary, etc. as such monetary gains or losses changes a persons’ income. This in turn changes the calculations used for the child support guidelines. Though either party in a child support arrangement can file a modification due to the changes in financial circumstances, the modification required the court to find a “material change in circumstances.” Logically, though a large financial change like losing a job should qualify as a material change in a circumstances, judges often would not grant such a change as the threshold was too high.

Now, under this new decision, all that is required is an “inconsistency” between the what is current child support amount being paid and what the guidelines say should be paid. This is a much lower burden to prove and could well open up a floodgate of modification cases to the court.