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Massachusetts Law About Modifications of Divorce, Child Support and other Family Law Judgments and Orders

Best Bet

Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants, 2d ed., 2008. Mass. Legal Services. Chapter 16 addresses modification proceedings. Online version of great book includes checklists, sample agreements and forms and so much more. Despite the title, those in all income brackets will find it useful. Best online source.

Massachusetts Laws

Court Rules


Note: If you are a parent, earn less than $75,000, and want to modify (change) an existing child support order, you can use a free automated system that will ask you questions and then create the necessary court forms for you: See Changing a Child Support Order to get started.

Selected Massachusetts Cases

Ardizoni v. Raymond, 40 Mass.App.Ct. 734 (1996) : The standard for modification of child custody/visitation is a material and substantial change of circumstances since the prior judgment was entered and the desired change of child custody/visitation is in the child's best interest.

Cabot v. Cabot, 55 Mass.App.Ct. 756 (2002) : If an incorporated separation agreement or a divorce judgment fails to provide for a child's education, a modification complaint may be brought on the ground that the educational costs are a material and substantial change of circumstances. 

Morales v. Morales, 464 Mass. 507 (2013): " We conclude that the trial judge ... erred in applying a standard requiring a material and substantial change in circumstances (material and substantial change standard) rather than the standard set forth in G. L. c. 208, § 28... which provides that a child support order shall be modified 'if there is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from application of the child support guidelines'. (inconsistency standard)."

Other Web Sources

Changing a Judgment or Order by Agreement. MassLegalHelp, November, 2013. Includes forms and information needed to pursue a Joint Petition for Modification.

Modify Your Court Order, Mass. Dept. of Revenue. " If you are a Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR) customer and your youngest child is under the age of 17 ½ , we can assist you in going to court to ask for a modification of your child support order." Site discusses how to modify and gives instructions on how to fill out the form, offers a sample, and provides the DOR copy of the Modification form. 

Print Sources

Massachusetts Divorce Law Practice Manual, 3d ed., MCLE, 2012 with supplement.  Chapter 20: Modification.

Massachusetts Practice v.1-3 (Family Law and Practice), 4th ed., Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement. Chapters 8, 50 and 90.

Modification & Contempt Proceedings in Divorce Cases, MCLE, 2012.