Skip to main content

New Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines will Reduce Support for Many

On Thursday, June 20, 2013 Chief Justice of the Trial Court, Robert A. Mulligan, announced via Press Release the latest revisions to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines which will become effective on August 1, 2013.  Federal rules require that the court review the guidelines every four years, and the current guidelines were enacted in January of 2009.

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.
For more information and the new worksheet visit the court's website.


  1. Would the income or a new spouse for the custodial parent be calculated in the household income or would only the income of the custodial parent be considered?

    Can you explain the 50/50 guideline? If the not custodial parent spends close to 50% of time with their kids does support go up or down?

    1. The income definition does not include income from a new spouse of the custodial parent.

      In the event that parties share parenting time and financial responsibility approximately equal (50/50), the child support guidelines are run twice, with each parent as the custodial parent, and the higher earning spouse pays the difference (i.e. support goes down).

  2. What about this:

    Cooper v. Cooper, 43 Mass. App. Ct. 51, 55 (Mass. App. Ct. 1997) (internal citations omitted.) It is legal error not to admit evidence of the second spouse’s income. As explained in the Sylvia court:
    The husband also argues that the judge should not have admitted evidence as to his present wife's income. The admission was proper. Although a second marriage does not relieve a spouse of marital and parental obligations, O'Brien v. O'Brien, 325 Mass. 573, 576 (1950); Pemberton v. Pemberton, 9, 13 (1980), and although a second husband or wife does not share the duty to obey a support order directed toward the other spouse, see Krokyn v. Krokyn, 378 Mass. 206, 215 (1979), the income and assets of second spouses are part of the circumstances relevant to the ability of parents to use their own resources to contribute to the support of their children.

    Silvia v. Silvia, 9 Mass. App. Ct. 339, 342 (Mass. App. Ct. 1980)

    1. The Child Support Guidelines do not use household income to calculate presumptive support amounts. Thus the income of a new spouse would not be included in the calculation under the guidelines. The Silva case opens the door for the income of the new spouse to be considered as to the circumstances relevant to the ability of parents to use their own resources to support their children. Since child support is typically paid from income, and not resources, this issue usually only arises when a payor fails to make payments (as was the case regarding alimony in Cooper) or when a payor seeks to reduce their support (as was the case in Silva). However, the Silva and the Cooper case both predate the Alimony Reform Act (which specifically excludes new spouse income from consideration) and the current Child Support Guidelines. The Trial Court would have considerable discretion in how to apply these rulings given the law changes in the mean-time.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What is the purpose of the Divorce Nisi waiting period?

In Massachusetts the statutory waiting period after a Judgment of Divorce and before the divorce becomes final (or absolute) is called the Nisi period. After a divorce case settles or goes to trial, a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This waiting period serves the purpose of allowing parties to change their mind before the divorce becomes final. If the Judgment of Divorce Nisi has issued but not become final yet, and you and your spouse decide you don't want to get divorced, then you can file a Motion to Dismiss and the Judgment will be undone. Although many of my clients who are getting divorced think the idea of getting back together with their ex sounds crazy, I have had cases where this happened. In addition to offering a grace period to change your mind, the Nisi period has three other legal effects: 1. The most obvious effect of the waiting period is that you cannot remarry during the Nisi period, be

Does a Criminal Record affect Child Custody?

If one of the parents in a custody case has a criminal record, the types of crimes on their record could have an effect on their chances of obtaining custody. In custody cases the issue is always going to come down to whether or not the best interests of the child might be affected. In the most extreme case, in which one parent has been convicted of first degree murder of the other parent, the law specifically prohibits visitation with the children until they are of a suitable age to assent. Similarly, but to a less serious degree, in making custody and visitation determinations the court will consider crimes that would cause one to question the fitness of a parent. These types of crimes would obviously include any violent crime convictions which could call into question whether the children would be in danger around a parent who has shown themselves to resort to violence when faced with conflict. In addition, drug and alcohol abuse offenses would call into question a parent&#

What happens after my Divorce Agreement is approved by a Judge?

If you filed a Joint Petition for Divorce in Massachusetts then you will participate in an uncontested divorce hearing and the Judge will then issue Findings of Fact the day of the hearing.  A Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue after thirty (30) days, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Joint Petition for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 120 days after the divorce hearing date. If you filed a Complaint for Divorce  then your case will end either with a trial (if you don't settle) or an uncontested divorce hearing (if you settle).  If you reach an Agreement, then a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and be effective as of the date of the uncontested divorce hearing, and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This means that if you file a Complaint for Divorce you are not legally and officially divorced until 90 days after the divorce hearing date. Therefore, for 90 - 120 day