The Chief Justice, with the assistance of a task force he appointed in 2012, reviewed the guidelines with the hope of "producing guidelines based on the current economic climate for families raising children in Massachusetts."
Since August 1 is pretty close, we at Kelsey & Trask, P.C. want to help everyone understand these new guidelines and how they affect current divorce, paternity and child support modification cases. Over the next few days we will be posting multiple blogs regarding the changes these new child support guidelines will implement, and providing an updated user-friendly calculator to assist with completing the new worksheet.
For now, let's make some basic comparisons. Below you will find a chart displaying the comparison of child support totals for 1 child vs. household income (before multiplying the child support by proportion of income). As this chart shows, the new guidelines will result in a typical reduction of between 10 and 15% for most cases.
Because the multiplier for additional children increases in the new guidelines, as shown below, the impact of this reduction will be felt less in cases with multiple children:
Other changes to the guidelines may also suggest that child support orders should be lower or higher than the current orders. A summary of the other changes is provided below, direct from the court's press release:
- 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 where their 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 contribution 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.