DOR initated modifications



Modifications for Parties Receiving DOR/CSE child support services 



Individuals receiving services (including wage assignment services) from the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, or the same type of child support collection and enforcement services from another state, are entitled to DOR’s modification services for child support orders (including orders for health care coverage) regardless of whether the child receives any type of public assistance. G.L. c. 119A, § 2. The agency may charge a fee for these services.



The law requires DOR to use one or more of the three following methods for review and modification, and to apply the same rule to all cases; DOR cannot pick and choose methods on a case-by-case basis. Either parent in a family who receives DOR assistance (and also DOR itself if there is an assignment to the state) may request DOR to review or modify the child support amount at least once every three years. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(a). DOR then has to take one of the three actions discussed below, taking into account the best interest of the child involved.



Method One


If the amount of support provided by the current child support order differs from the amount of child support that would result from applying the Child Support Guidelines, DOR will prepare a proposed stipulation to modify the order in accordance with the Guidelines.



Method Two


DOR can also choose to prepare a proposed stipulation to modify the order by using a specified cost-of-living adjustment to the order if the amount of support provided by the current child support order differs from the amount of child support that would result from applying the Child Support Guidelines.



Method Three


If such a discrepancy arises, DOR can also use automated methods, including comparisons with wage or state income tax data, to identify orders eligible for review. It will then conduct a review, identify orders eligible for modification, and, if appropriate, prepare a proposed stipulation to modify an order. The law does not specify whether DOR must use the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, a cost-of-living adjustment standard, or some other adjustment standard in reviewing orders by this method.



Obtaining the Modification



If DOR prepares a proposed stipulation to modify the order, it will mail a notice of intent to modify the order as well as the proposed stipulation to each parent. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(b). The notice must



• state the reason for the modification; and



• identify the sources of the parties’ financial information used to calculate the amount of support in the proposed stipulation. Sources of this information include tax and wage information. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(f).



DOR may prepare a proposed stipulation for modification of child support for the parties to sign. The proposed modification may reflect a cost-of-living increase or may reflect application of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(a). If both parents sign and return the proposed stipulation to DOR within thirty days of the date of mailing, then DOR will file the signed stipulation with a complaint for modification, and the court will modify the order without a hearing. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(b). If either parent opposes the modification, DOR may still file a complaint to modify the order. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(b).




Where Will DOR File a Modification Complaint?



If a Massachusetts Probate and Family Court issued the child support order that is subject to a modification complaint, then DOR will file in that court. Otherwise, DOR will file the modification complaint in the Probate and Family Court in the county where the child resides. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(c). When DOR files a modification complaint within its regular cycle (probably no longer than three years), it does not have to prove a change in circumstances to have the court modify a child support order. If DOR has already provided modification services relating to a child support order during a cycle, then the party requesting a review must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances before DOR will file a modification complaint. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(g). DOR must mail a copy of the modified order to each of the parties. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(c). At least once every three years, DOR must notify both parties of their right to request DOR to review, and, if appropriate, their right to seek modification of the order. G.L. c. 119A, § 3B(h).





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