Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All Your Children under the New Child Support Guidelines

The Duggar Family (from examiner.com)
The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines recognize that families with multiple children have increased expenses (although those expenses are not simply doubled with each additional child). The 2009 guidelines included a multiplier for each additional child (up to 5, sorry Duggars).  This multiplier directly increases the amount of child support owed by a specific percentage.  In the 2013 guidelines these percentages were increased, though due to the reduction in the base rates for support the impact on prior orders may simply cancel each other out.

The increase in rates is shown below:

Obviously from the chart there is not a suggested multiplier for families like the Duggars or Octomom, but the guidelines do at least address these situations by setting a minimum presumption:
"The guidelines formula applies to families with 1-5 children. For more than five children, the order should be at least the amount ordered for five children."
Of course, things get even more complicated when divorced or unwed parents start second families. The increases described above only apply to children in the same case of the same parents.  When one parent has multiple children by separate parents, the guidelines are built to address this scenario as well (with certain limitations addressed below).  The 2009 guidelines specifically indicate that in creating a child support order, the court should consider the financial cost of a child from another relationship (whether there is a support order or not).  In modifying orders a subsequent new child cannot be used to reduce an existing order, but can be used to defend an increase.

While this language was clarified and the emphasis rearranged in the 2013 guidelines, the message essentially stays the same.  The guidelines take into account prior support orders and obligations when calculating new orders.

However, since the existing order only reduces the gross income available to calculate the new order, the addition of subsequent child support orders can eat away at a payor's income quickly.  Using the guidelines, without deviation, leaves most parents with no net income left to pay support after the fifth child by different parents.  While this is an unusual situation, it does occur and the guidelines do not fit these situations practically.  When the serial parent, like this man with 22 kids from 14 different women, is not lucky enough to hit the lottery or be an NFL star, those children are likely to be left with little to no support from that parent regardless of the what the guidelines require.

This is just one example, though, of where the guidelines might not account for a families unique circumstances.  Ultimately, the guidelines are a one-size fits all solution.  The Task Force every four years does their best to update the guidelines to fit as many possible scenarios as reasonably as they can.  In the end, though, if you can settle your case through mediation, collaborative law or settlement, you're much more likely to feel that your support solution fits your families unique situation better than the 2009 or the 2013 guidelines.

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