A Brief Overview of Recent Changes to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines

Calculating Child SupportOn August 1, 2013, updated Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines went into effect, and will remain in effect for the next four years.  The child support guidelines provide instruction and guidance to both recipients and payors of child support.  The new guidelines clarify the laws regarding support orders and modifications, and provide guidance to the courts when creating, modifying, and enforcing child support orders and obligations.

Additionally, there exists a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, available online, which parents and courts use to determine the appropriate amount of child support on a case by case basis.  The following is a brief overview of the important changes to the guidelines.

DETERMINING INCOME

  • Income derived from a means-tested public assistance program (for example, TAFDC, SNAP and SSI benefits) shall not be counted as income for either party.
  • Guidelines now give judges discretion to consider income from second jobs and overtime income even if it was earned prior to the entry of the order.
  • When a judge is attributing income to a parent, the availability of employment at the attributed income level must now be considered. This revision accounts for the realities of the job market.

CHANGES TO THE CHILD SUPPORT FORMULA

  • There is a new formula that applies when parenting time is less than equal (each parent has the child 50% of the time) but more than the common split of two thirds to one third. There is now a formula for calculating child support when the non-custodial parent has the child between 1/3 and ½ of the time. This allows for the payor parent to pay less if he or she has the child more than 1/3 of the time, and to pay more if he or she has the child less than 1/3 of the time. This change accounts for the fact that a non-custodial parent may still have the child for a large portion of the week and accounts for the fact that, in some instances, the non-custodial parent has very limited parenting time with the child and may only see the child a few hours per week.
  • Clarification is given as to how child support should be allocated between the parents when their combined income exceeds $250,000.00, including a statement that the guidelines should be applied on the first $250,000.00, and the support obligation for the portion of combined income that exceeds $250,000.00 shall be in the discretion of the court.

DEVIATIONS FROM CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES

  • Circumstances justifying a deviation are expanded to include extraordinary health insurance expenses, child care costs that are disproportionate to income, or when a parent is providing less than one-third parenting time

MODIFICATIONS

  • Regarding modifications, orders may no longer be modified solely because the existing order is at least three years old. Additionally, if the support is going through DOR and the entry of the last order was within the last three years, in order to modify, the requesting party must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances IN ADDITION TO an inconsistency.

Please contact an experienced family law attorney in your area if you believe, based on the modifications to the child support guidelines, your child support order needs to be reexamined for accuracy and appropriateness.

About the Firm.  Vaughn-Martel Law represents parents and children throughout Massachusetts in divorce, child custody, modifications, co-parenting, and all aspects of family creation and family law.  If you have a question about your specific child support orders, or wish to speak to an attorney about a family law matter, we invite you to contact us.

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