Effective August 1, 2013 the trial court in Massachusetts will issue new, revised child support guidelines. These were created following a comprehensive review by the child support guidelines task force, which conducted the review.
The child support guidelines are used by trial court judges in setting temporary, permanent, or final orders for current child support, in deciding whether to approve agreements for child support, and in deciding cases that are before the court to modify existing orders.
The revised child support guidelines are an attempt to account for the economic realities facing families in Massachusetts…in the entire state, and an attempt to ensure the well-being of the children of the Commonwealth.
The 2012 child support guidelines task force recommended a number of clarifications and changes. Some are minor, while others represent new or modified provisions. The most significant include:
- Income from means tested benefits such as SSI, TAFDC, and SNAP are excluded for both parties from the calculation of their support obligations.
- Availability of employment at the attributed income level must be considered in attribution of income cases.
- The text makes clear that all, some, or none of income from secondary jobs or overtime may be considered by the court, regardless of whether this is new income or was historically earned prior to dissolution of the relationship.
- Reference is made to the 2011 Alimony Reform Act. The text does not, however, provide a specific formula or approach for calculating alimony and child support in cases where both may be appropriate.
- Clarification is given as to how child support should be allocated between the parents whose combined income exceeds $250,000.
- A new formula is provided for calculating
support where parenting time and expenditures are less than equal, (50/50,)
but more than the assumed standard split of two thirds/one third.
- Guidance and clarification is given in the area of child support over the age of eighteen where appropriate. While the guidelines apply, the court may consider a child’s living arrangements and post-secondary education. Contribution to post-secondary education may be ordered after consideration of several factors set forth in the guidelines, and such contributions must be considered in setting the weekly support order, if any.
- The standard for modification is clarified to reflect the recent Supreme Judicial Court decision in Morales v. Morales, 464 Mass. 507 (2013).
- 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.
For both payors and or recipients of child support these changes could be significant. Be sure to review your current orders with a family law attorney to ensure you are not affected.
Julie A. Dialessi-Lafley
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