Filing For Taxes...And a Child Support Order Modification?

gavel on top of dollar bills
Tax season is upon us. During this busy time of year, we are all reviewing and evaluating our finances. How has your financial situation changed in the past year? Have you changed careers or taken up part-time work? Have you opened a business? For those paying or receiving child support, these are important considerations for both you and your former partner or spouse.   


When reviewing your finances for tax purposes, you may want to take a moment to consider your current receipt or payment of child support. If there has been a change in your or your spouse’s finances, consider filing a complaint for modification on your child support order with the Probate & Family Court. Regarding the prevalence of child support order modifications during this time of year, Attorney Phelps shared, “This is a common issue for our clients. Sometimes, the language of their separation agreement calls for the parties to exchange tax returns each year. The parties could then use the tax returns to recalculate the child support to calculate the new guideline support.”  


To file a successful complaint for modification of a support order, there must be an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from application of the child support guidelines. Some of the common reasons clients seek child support order recalculations are: 
  • Job loss 
  • Decrease or increase in pay at a current job 
  • Picking up a part-time job or overtime pay 
  • Opening or closing a business 
  • Changes in health insurance 
  • Receiving unemployment income 
  • A change in the child’s living arrangements or other new needs of the child 
  • A change in the child support guidelines  
    • This occurs every four years in Massachusetts. 
  • When a child emancipates  
    • There is a common misconception with emancipation that support orders are proportional to each child. However, it should be likened to the law of diminishing returns. The recipient parent receives the most support for their first child and progressively less support for each additional child. 


Another tax-related inquiry our office encounters with our clients is tax exemptions. You may need to revisit your married exemptions and change them to single tax status, to avoid the unpleasant surprise of unpaid taxes at the end of the year. Additionally, our attorneys recommend that parents with children entering college revisit their tax dependency exemptions to maximize the child’s eligibility to receive scholarships.  


If you are filing a modification, you should do so sooner rather than later. Attorney Phelps advises, “It is important to realize that you may only receive retroactive relief back to the date that the complaint for modification is served upon the Defendant. Therefore, if you are entitled to a recalculation of support, it behooves you to file immediately or risk losing several weeks or months of increased or decreased support.”  


Please contact our office to book a consultation to speak with Attorney Phelps or one of our other attorneys to pursue or contest a child support order modification. At Ryder & Phelps, we understand that finances change. We are committed to guiding you through the most efficient method of modifying your existing child support order. You may also reference the state resources on changing child support here
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