Massachusetts Makes Changes to Child Support Guidelines
Last month the state of Massachusetts rolled out new child support guidelines that will affect every parent paying or receiving child support, even if child support orders are already in place. The full content of the new guidelines can be viewed here. Below are four key ways the new structure could affect you.
- New income calculations. The new guidelines call for a slight reduction in the child support formula. The range of percentages is lower across the board, from 15 to 26 percent under the old formula to between 11 and 22 percent. Additionally, the new formula allows income above $250,000 to be included in the calculation. The rules do not clearly indicate how the additional income is to be calculated, however. Third, income from SSI, TAFDC or SNAP is excluded from the formula, and income from overtime or a second job can be included or completely left out. It's up to the judge in each case.
- Updated definitions of parenting time. The old guidelines allowed for just two calculations based on parenting time, one for when one parent had "primary custody," and another for "shared custody." Under the new rules, a third approach has been added. One for a parent that has the child one-third of the time, one for parents having the child one-half of the time, and a third for parents with custody between one-third and one-half of the time. Judges will now also be given the authority to deviate from the standard formula if a parent has less than one-third parenting time.
- Special considerations. Judges will also be able to stray from the standard calculations when extremely high health insurance or child care costs are involved.
- Post-secondary education support. The new rules allow for a potential reduction in child support once the child reaches 18 years old. Living arrangements and post-secondary education will be considered. Judges will determine if a contribution to education is required and what level of support during those years is reasonable.
These changes can potentially affect child support orders for many Massachusetts families. As noted, much discretion is given to the judge. While there are standard formulas, each case is unique and exceptions are made. Contact us for a free consultation to understand how these new guidelines affect you.