Going through a divorce was probably one of the most difficult times of your life. Arriving at the final child custody and support agreement likely involved a great deal of emotion and time, so you may be reluctant to request a modification. It can feel like picking the scab off a wound that is finally healing. 

However, many people find that changing the original agreement is necessary. Massachusetts law specifies that you may seek a modification if there has been “a significant change in circumstances” that results in “the best interests of the children [not] being met by the current arrangement.” If you feel your situation warrants a modification take the following steps: 

  1. Read the original court order and take notes on relevant parts to make sure you understand specifics. Legal language can be confusing, so consult an attorney if you have any questions. 
  2. Determine whether there has been a significant change in circumstances that is truly interfering with the children’s best interests. For example, the remarriage of a parent may not justify altering the order, but parental involvement in illegal activities may trigger a change. 
  3. Ask the other parent if he or she will agree to modification. You may expect resistance, but do not assume anything. Your child’s other parent may realize a change is for the best even if he or she has not mentioned the idea to you. If the two of you reach an agreement, you can file together for a joint modification. You should hear within 30 days if the court approves the new agreement. 

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, you may still request a change, but the process is a bit different from the joint request. In this instance, you start by filing a Motion for Temporary Order. Then you offer a proposal that specifies what you would like included in the new order and sign an affidavit stating what events or facts support the need for a change. A hearing should follow promptly.