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Modification of Support, Custody or Visitation

I realize that agreements made as a result of a divorce or custody agreements sometimes need to be altered. The courts do too – as long as the agreement is fair.

Do You Qualify to Get a Modification of Your Order from the Court?

Sometimes a special financial need, medical conditions, change of residence or other circumstance requires an existing agreement to be modified.

Whatever the reason, if it is valid, Massachusetts family courts can revisit an existing agreement – whether it’s for a modification of your child support, visitation and even custody on the rare occasion.

Any request you make for modification is essentially a lawsuit against the other parent or ex-spouse and should be filed with the courts – with assistance from your attorney. And it’s not just the custodial parent that can seek to have the agreement modified – the non-custodial parent can as well.

The standard that exists for a court to even consider hearing an action for Modification is that there has to be a material or substantial change in circumstances from the last Order or Judgment of the Court.  If there has been no change, and you simply want to change things for its own sake, then your action will be dismissed.  Whoever files a Modification must show there’s a change in either of the parties or the child’s circumstances.

Can you do it yourself?

Many people choose to file for a Modification themselves but do eventually end up hiring a lawyer.  Issues having to do with custody and parenting plans can be complicated and very emotionally charged.  It is better to have a lawyer advise you from the beginning on what you should be doing and how to do it right.  Sometimes a lawyer cannot fix what you have already done wrong in the case and by then, it might be too late.

Reasons for a Modified Agreement

  • The visitation schedule has become unworkable due to employment commitments or change of address.
  • The non-custodial parent is making significantly more money than when the agreement was first put into effect.
  • A sudden medical emergency puts an unfair financial burden on the parent that has custody.
  • The parent that does not have custody – but pays child support – loses their job or has some other significant change in their employment that severely impacts their ability to pay.
  • Or even when the parent that has custody moves out of state and renders an existing visitation agreement worthless.

In Massachusetts, the only part of the agreement you can’t have the court revisit is property distribution.

Have You Spoken with the Other Parent About It?

Nothing makes the relationship between two parents more contentious than getting served with papers from a lawyer or the court.  So before you file, it’s usually a good idea to speak with the other parent about whether or not you two can come together and agree to modify your current parenting arrangement.  If you two can agree, then you can make sure it’s in writing and go through the process to get it approved by the Court.

There are certainly situations when you might not want to confront the other parent first.  One of those reasons could be that the relationship between you two are so strained that you already know you won’t be able to discuss it without the help of a lawyer or going to court.  Another reason could be that you are afraid that the other parent might do something unexpected such as leaving the state or country with the child.

Modification of Support, Custody or Visitation

The entire process of seeking to modify a support, visitation or custody agreement is to make sure the children’s rights and best interests are protected.

It’s really not meant to be used to settle a score with the other parent or address arguments that have existed for some time.

Only rely on the modification process when a significant event has occurred that will have a definite impact on the children.

If you need assistance with modifying an existing agreement in the Boston area, contact me here [mailto][/mailto] or call me at (617) 652-5748.