After much anticipation, discussion, and debate, the revised Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines have been released and became effective as of August 1, 2013. The 2012 Child Support Guidelines Task Force recommended a number of clarifications and changes to the existing Child Support Guidelines. While some changes are seemingly minor, others represent new or modified provisions. The most significant changes to note include:
- 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); and
- 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.
The change in guidelines comes with 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. While information is readily available online for parents and guardians, an experienced divorce lawyer can help individuals understand their rights and how they may be affected by the new guidelines.