Sunday, June 30, 2013

Revised Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines take effect on August 1, 2013

Massachusetts has revised the ChildSupport Guidelines with the new guidelines scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2013. The guidelines adjust the formula for child support and fills in some gaps.  A summary of some of the changes follows:

As a general matter, the new Guidelines lower the amount of money paid in support for one child and increase the amount for more than one child. It is impossible to state that for all people the result will be the same because the formula is based on many factors including the income of both parents. However, it appears that some payers will pay 10% to 15% less if there is only one child. As the number of children increases, the amount to be paid will increase as the Guidelines increase the amount paid with more children.

The Guidelines eliminate from the definition of income now excludes certain government benefit programs such as Social Security Income and SNAP (welfare) benefits.

The Guidelines give Judges discretion to consider income from secondary jobs and overtime. This will require Judges to either incorporate the income from these sources in the Guideline calculations or explain why the money is excluded. I expect that in most cases, the income will be included.

The Guidelines make it clear that child support calculations should not stop if the combined income reaches $250,000.00. When the income exceeds this amount, the Guidelines no longer provide a formula but the Judge should make an order for additional support to be paid or explain why additional support should not be paid.

The Guidelines are based on the assumption that custody is shared by the parents on a 2/3rd – 1/3rd basis. This is the situation when the non-primary parent has the child every other weekend and one evening a week. If the non-primary parent is with the child less than 1/3rd, the parent should pay more. If the parent is with the child more than 1/3rd, the parent should pay less. The former Guidelines had a formula for a 50 – 50 split of custody. This formula remains. What is new is that there is now a formula for calculating child support when the non-primary parent has the child between 1/3rd and ½ of the time. What is missing from the Guidelines is rules on how to calculate time with the child. Do you count nights? Do you count hours? How do you calculate time when the child is in school? Over time the Courts will adjust to these issues.

The Guidelines have language to give additional guidance for Judges when the child is over 18 years old. The Guidelines do not give a formula for Judges in this instance.

Probate Court has a web site which provides the new Guidelines and forms. http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/index.html. The new forms included a revised worksheet to calculate child support and a form for Judges to use when they decide to enter an order that is not in strict compliance with the Guidelines.

Parents may find the new guidelines confusing and difficult to understand. An experienced divorce lawyer can help people understand their rights under the new guidelines.

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