Since its amendment in 2013, Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 412 has provided litigants/parties with the ability to jointly request that the Court modify an existing judgment or order administratively and without the need for a formal hearing. While such administrative modifications can cover a myriad of provisions, including child support, actions pending under M.G.L. 209A (abuse prevention orders) are specifically excluded from the modification procedures set forth in Rule 412.
To take advantage of an administrative modification process, parties should pay close attention to the detailed, uniform procedure outlined in Rule 412, which requires parties to make the following written submissions to the Court:
(i) a Joint Petition to modify a judgment or Joint Motion to modify an order (on the Probate and Family Court form;
(ii) a copy of the existing judgment or order that the parties are seeking to modify;
(iii) the parties’ signed/notarized agreement that specifies all agreed-upon changes to provisions of the prior judgment or order, which the parties are seeking to modify. Parties should be careful to note Rule 412’s specific requirements for such agreements. For example, if parties are seeking to modify custody provisions or a child’s principal residence, their agreement must identify whether the terms relating to child support, health, dental, vision or life insurance set forth in the prior order or judgment will be modified, as well. In addition, parties would also be required to submit an Affidavit Disclosing Care of Custody Proceeding. If parties are seeking to modify a payor’s child support obligation in an amount that is different from what the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines call for, then their agreement must contain specific facts to warrant a deviation from the Guidelines calculation. In addition, parties would also be required to submit a Child Support Findings form;
(iv) If the requested modification pertains to a financial issue (such as child support), Rule 412 requires that parties file additional documents, including (a) current, complete and accurate, signed financial statement forms for each party, with attached W-2s and 1099 forms, (b) a current, complete and accurate Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (if child support or medical insurance are at issue), and (c) a written assent from the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division in matters involving a party or dependent child who is a current recipient of public assistance, or who owes past-due child support that has been assigned to the Commonwealth;
(v) any assent or document that is required by an applicable MA statute or court rule; and
(vi) a proposed judgment or order for modification.
While Rule 412 provides that neither party may mark a joint petition to modify a judgment or order for a hearing, the Court retains the discretion to schedule a hearing when it would be helpful or when the parties’ submissions to the Court are deficient or incomplete. If the Court does not schedule a hearing, then parties should expect that the matter will be decided on the papers within thirty (30) days of filing.
A Checklist of Required Forms for Changing A Judgment Or Temporary Order By Agreement can be found here.