The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines change on August 1, 2013. I have asked my colleague, Robin Lynch Nardone, to outline the major changes.
There are significant changes, which help fix some of the unclear areas of the old guidelines.
- The 2013 guidelines calculate each parent’s percentage of total available combined income up to $250,000 per year and a “combined support amount.” This is a new method of looking at support — as a total obligation of both parents.
- The 2013 guidelines clarify what is to occur when the combined income of the parties’ exceeds $250,000 per year. The guidelines are applied on the first $250,000 in the same proportion as the Recipient’s and Payor’s actual income compared to the total combined income. There is now a space on the form to list how much income remains available to either parent above the $250,000 combined total. The child support obligation for the portion of combined available income that exceeds $250,000 is in the discretion of the Court.
- The guidelines themselves now provide that a child support order may be modified if there is an inconsistency between the amount of the existing order and the amount that would result from the application of the new child support guidelines, in keeping with the recent decision in Morales v. Morales. However, if the Department of Revenue is providing benefits to a party and there was an order for child support issued less than three years previously, a material change in circumstances must be shown in addition to an inconsistency with the new guidelines.
- There is now a “deviation form” that must be filled out where there is an upward or downward deviation from the guidelines amount. Circumstances justifying a deviation are expanded and now 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.
- Some, all, or none of income from overtime may be considered by the court in setting support, regardless of whether overtime income was earned prior to the support order.
- For support of children over the age of 18, 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, if there is a contribution to education, it must be considered in setting the weekly support order.
There are other changes, which make it worthwhile for all parents who pay or receive child support to read and understand the new guidelines. Click here to see the new guidelines worksheet. Click here to see the definitions and preamble explaining the new guidelines.