Rising costs are hurting many Americans. The average costs of goods and services increased by 8.2% in September 2022 over September 2021. Food, shelter, and medical care contributed the most to the increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Massachusetts is following the national trend.
For those parents receiving child support, they have undoubtedly noticed that the monthly payment does not go as far these days. With the buying power of your child support decreasing, you might wonder if you can petition for a child support modification because of inflation.
Massachusetts does not offer cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for child support based on inflation alone.
Grounds for Child Support Modification in Massachusetts
Rising inflation is not grounds to file a complaint for modification, but there are established grounds that can necessitate a change (up or down) in child support:
- One of the parents involuntarily loses their sources of income
- The child needs elevated medical care because of a serious illness or injury
- One of the parents becomes disabled through illness or injury
- A significant change in health insurance costs for the child
- Previously ordered health care coverage is no longer available
- A material change that causes the child support order to violate the child support guidelines
In a child support modification hearing, the judge will examine the current child support order and listen to the arguments presented by both parties. Financial documents and other supporting evidence are reviewed as well as the current child support guidelines in the state. The judge may also look at available health insurance options for both parents. A court-ordered change can be retroactive only to the date of service of the complaint.
COLA Clauses in Child Support Agreements
Not all child support obligations are mandated by the court. Many times, the parents with the help of an attorney iron out a child support agreement that is brought before a judge for approval.
No one can predict the future needs of a child or how economic circumstances could change for a parent. Parents can be proactive by putting a cost-of-living-adjustment clause in their negotiated child support agreement. COLAs are typically determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines CPI as “a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.”
For example, a COLA clause could require the paying parent to increase their support obligation in line with the inflation rate in the state in which the custodial parent resides. The clause can include a minimum threshold that must be met before a change is initiated as well as a maximum increase. Anything above the stated maximum would either need to be renegotiated (or taken to court if the change is substantial enough).
Get Legal Help for Child Support Modification
If the current child support order no longer meets the needs of your children, contact the Percy Law Group, PC about your options. We can also help parents fight efforts to increase child support payments.
Lean on our more than 30 years of experience in complex child support and other family law matters.We are open for in-person, phone, and video consultations to discuss your case. Contact us online or call (508) 206-9900 to schedule an appointment