Federal IV-D regulations require uniform child support guidelines of every state, and 45 C.F.R. § 302.56 further requires that each state review those guidelines every four years. The Massachusetts Trial Court’s revised Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, effective August 1, 2013, were recently announced and are available online at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s website, as well as the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. They are also available on my website: Guidelines and Worksheet.

According to the Massachusetts Trial Court’s press release dated June 20, 2013, Chief Justice of the Trial Court Robert A. Mulligan stated that the revised Child Support Guidelines were based on the comprehensive review by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force he appointed in 2012. Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey chaired the Task Force that conducted the review. Trial Court judges use the Child Support Guidelines “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.”

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:
While the 2012 Child Support Guidelines Task Force recommended a number of both minor and new or modified provisions, the most significant changes include the following items (list quoted from the Trail Court press release):

  • 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.

Questions concerning these changes or any provisions of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines should be discussed with an experience divorce attorney.