New child support guidelines take effect in Massachusetts on October 4, 2021. The new standards will apply to every child support order and judgment entered starting on that date and going forward.
What do the new guidelines include? How could they affect your situation? Here’s a brief overview of the changes.
Why the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines are So Important
The child support guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court are critical for a number of reasons. First, all Trial Court justices are supposed to apply them. Second, there is an expectation that the guidelines will apply in all cases and that the amounts calculated using the guidelines will be appropriate in every case.
These expectations—legally known as presumptions—are “rebuttable.” This means a parent can present evidence to show why the guidelines should not be applied in their situation or why the amount calculated under the guidelines should be adjusted. Parents who wish to establish or modify a child support arrangement that does not fit the guidelines could bear a substantial burden to make that showing.
Anyone who currently pays or receives child support may want to consider making calculations with the new guidelines to see whether they might provide the basis for changing support obligations. If the amount differs from what’s paid currently, a child support attorney could assist with seeking modification or help make the case to show why the amounts should remain unchanged despite the new guidelines.
Changes in the New Guidelines Regarding Parents’ Income
The updated guidelines apply to a much greater amount of income than in the past and they also expand the definition of income to a certain extent. While the previous guidelines applied to the first $250,000 of the parents’ combined incomes per year, the new child support guidelines apply to the first $400,000 in annual income. Support obligations for any combined income in excess of $400,000 is currently left to the discretion of the Court, although limits do apply.
In the new guidelines, the laundry list of sources treated as income for purposes of calculating child support obligations now includes money derived from stock options and other incentives. This prevents parents from decreasing their support obligations by requesting compensation in the form of options and similar incentives. The guidelines now also include alimony as income in certain situations to make the rules consistent with recent court decisions.
Other Key Changes in the New Massachusetts Guidelines
One of the most significant changes for many parents could be the provisions for sharing of childcare costs. While the earlier guidelines gave the parent paying for care a 15% credit, now the “reasonable” costs of childcare are supposed to be shared based on the parents’ income ratio. Reasonable costs should not exceed $355 per week for each child.
Additional changes raise the minimum guideline amount per week from $12 to $25 and provide for greater incremental increases in support for more than one child.
Work with an Experienced Massachusetts Child Support Attorney
The new guidelines might encourage you to seek changes in existing support orders. Alternatively, the changes could have you concerned that another parent may try to take advantage of the changes to put undue pressure on your resources.
In either case, it is wise to consult a knowledgeable Massachusetts child support attorney who could represent your interests to the court and build a solid case to support your position. For a confidential consultation to learn how the experienced legal team at Koiles Pratt Family Law Group could help protect your interests and your family, contact us today.