Trial Court Issues New Child Support Guidelines Effective August 1st
Chief Justice of the Trial Court Robert A. Mulligan today announced the promulgation of revised Child Support Guidelines to be effective on August 1, 2013, based on a comprehensive review by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force he appointed in 2012. The Task Force that conducted the review, which is required every four years, was chaired by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.
The Child Support Guidelines are used by Trial Court judges in setting temporary, permanent or final orders for current child support, in deciding whether to approve agreements for child support, and in deciding cases that are before the court to modify existing orders.
“The Task Force has worked diligently to develop guidelines that account for the economic realities facing families,” said Chief Justice Mulligan. “I greatly appreciate their commitment to ensuring the well-being of children across the state.”
“These guidelines provide Trial Court judges with tools to determine child support in a way that is transparent and economically sound,” said Chief Justice Carey, who also chaired the Task Force four years ago. “This Task Force has invested tremendous energy in analyzing the data and producing guidelines based on the current economic climate for families raising children in Massachusetts.”
Key changes made to the guidelines are summarized on the next page. The review process included input from the public and the bar, and reviewed case files, economic analysis, as well as judicial and staff commentary. The Trial Court also retained the consulting services of Dr. Mark Sarro of Watermark Economics and Mark Rogers of Rogers Economics as consultants to gather information and provide an analysis of cost of living data relative to raising a child in Massachusetts. They focused on differences between current cost data and that used for the Guidelines promulgated in 2009.
In addition to Chief Justice Carey, the 2012 Task Force included Hon. Anthony R. Nesi, First Justice of the Bristol Probate and Family Court, John Johnson, Chief Probation Officer of the Hampden Probate and Family Court and Evelyn J. Patsos, Esq., Family Law Facilitator and Deputy Assistant Register of the Worcester Probate and Family Court. The Task Force was assisted by Trial Court attorneys Ann Archer and Christine Yurgelun.
Additional information on the quadrennial review of the state's Child Support Guidelines can be found at http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/index.html.
Summary of Key Changes to the Existing Guidelines
The 2012 Child Support Guidelines Task Force recommended a number of clarifications and changes. Some are minor, while others represent new or modified provisions. The most significant 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).
- 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.