On March 12, 2013, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a binding opinion setting forth a new standard of review in cases requiring modification of child support. Prior to March 12th, the standard of review was whether there had been a “material and substantial change in circumstances” to warrant said modification. Now, in order to modify a child support obligation, the filing party must prove that the current child support order is “inconsistent” with the application of the Child Support Guidelines. This new standard, referred to as the inconsistency standard, will be applied to child support modification cases moving forward.
However, this standard is in reality not so “new.” The SJC found that the child support statute (M.G.L c. 208, sec. 28) as passed by the legislature, in fact, applies the “inconsistency” standard, whereas the 2009 Child Support Guidelines uses the “material and substantial change in circumstances” standard. In cases where there are such conflicting rules, the statute passed by the legislature must prevail. Only time will tell how this lower standard of review will play out in the court.
For further information see Morales v. Morales, SJC-11104.