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What are the New Child Support Guidelines in Massachusetts?

Effective August 1, 2013, Massachusetts will begin applying new Child Support Guidelines.  The newest set of guidelines represent some major changes from the guidelines current in force (which have been in place since 2009).  So what are the most important changes?

  1. The amount of a base support order for the child(ren) has been decreased, but the amount this base is multiplied by for each additional child has been increased.  Upon review, Massachusetts discovered that its child support orders were well above the national average and took action to bring its order in line with national averages.
  2. The minimum support order of $18.46/week or $80.00 per month now applies to payor’s with a weekly income of up to $150.00/week, where it had previously only applied to payor’s with a weekly income of up to $100.00/week.
  3. The guidelines now clarify how to calculate child support for families with a combined income in excess of $250,000.00/year or more than five children.
  4. The guidelines clarify how they should be applied to different parenting plans with specific instructions for how they should be applied to 3 categories of parenting plans: 1) parenting plans where the nonresidential parent has the child(ren) for less than 1/3 of the time; 2) parenting plans where the nonresidential parent has the child(ren) between 1/3 of the time and roughly 1/2 of the time, and; 3) parenting plans where the parents enjoy equal or roughly equal parenting time.
  5. Per the recent Morales v. Morales decision, the grounds for seeking a modification have been modified to allow for an order to be modified whenever the amount ordered and the amount that would be owed under the existing guidelines differ from one another.

Perhaps the most interesting of these changes is point 4, which mirrors a recent but major change in the way Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts view parenting plans (formerly known as “custody and visitation plans”).  This change acknowledges the shift away from a sharp divide between the residential (formerly “custodial”) parent and the nonresidential parent in favor of a more fluid view of modern family structures.

If you currently pay or receive child support in the Commonwealth, it may be time to review your order to determine whether a modification is in the best interest of you and your family.