How Could Your Obligation or Support Be Impacted by the New Child Support Guidelines?
In Massachusetts, child support is calculated according to a structured formula that considers the income of both parents and number of children, which is then offset by the costs of each parent’s other child support obligations, health insurance costs, and childcare costs. The child support amount calculated by the formula serves as a presumptive figure for a child support order. This formula also assumes that the primary-custodial parent has the child(ren) 66% of the time and that the other parent has the child(ren) 33% of the time.
The courts can order child support slightly higher or lower depending on various other factors. Since families and their respective needs are constantly evolving, there is a task force that is responsible for reviewing the guidelines every four years. Accordingly, on September 15, 2017, new guidelines went into effect that could significantly change your child support order.
Here Are 7 Things You Need to Know:
- Minimum Child Support has been raised from $18 per week to $25 per week to be more consistent with the cost of living in Massachusetts.
- It has been recommended that Alimony or Separate Maintenance be considered by the court and ideally excluded from income considered for child support as the tax implications can put one parent in an exceptionally disparate position and the other in favorable position.
- The provision for the obligor parent with More Than One-Third, But Less Than One-Half of parenting time has been removed and replaced with increased judicial discretion to order equitable child support depending on circumstances and parent contributions. The task force recognized that the driving force in parenting plans should be the child’s best interests and not child support.
- The guidelines now distinguish between Imputed Income and Attributed Income.
- Imputed income refers to a finding by the court that a parent has undocumented or unreported income based on evidence such as ownership and maintenance of assets, lifestyle, expenses, and spending patterns. In this situation, the court has the discretion to adjust the income upward taking into account that said income is not being reported on taxes.
- Income may also be attributed to a parent where the court finds that the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. The court can attribute a higher income than actually earned to a parent after taking into consideration factors that impact earning potential. This change is particularly relevant to self-employed parents who show a high debt/expense to income ratio.
- Adjustment for Health Care and Child Care Costs is Capped at 15%.
- Where appropriate, based on health and childcare costs, a child support order can be increased or decreased by up to 15%.
- For Children Between the Ages of 18 and 23 child support is still permitted (not necessarily required), but with a presumptive reduction by 25% of the child support order. However, child support orders will be calculated at the full amount for children who have turned 18 but are still in high school.
- An order for a parent’s Contribution to Post-Secondary Educational Expenses may not exceed 50% of the undergraduate, in-state resident costs (including all fees, tuition, room and board) of University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
- This section applies regardless of where the child attends school. Importantly, this is the only change that grandfathers already existing orders under the old Guidelines for children who are already enrolled in a college or university.
The new Child Support Guidelines supersede previous Guidelines. Accordingly, it is not necessary to show “a material change in circumstances” to recalculate a child support order. Contact our office at 617-764-4001 if you think you could benefit from a recalculation of your child support order or to learn more.