By Robin S. Fleischer, Esq.
Fleischer Law Solutions, PLLC
Are you ready for some good news about child support payments in Massachusetts? That’s right, for once an attorney is sharing something positive about one of the most emotionally and financially minefield ridden parts of divorce – paying for the kids.
Drumroll please…On September 15, 2017, four major changes will take effect that offer relief and balance for both parents. As with all legal changes, the language is written in legalese, but I have summarized the highlights below.
The Big Four Custody Payment Issues
- An increase in the minimum amount paid for one child from $18.00 per week to $25.00 per week
- The payor parent now receives a twenty-five percent reduction in child support for children over age eighteen
- A cap on a parent’s court-ordered contribution to college costs at fifty percent of the undergraduate, in-state resident cost of UMass Amherst
- Parents will be able to receive a credit for the high cost of child care and health care by either parent receiving a credit to offset the above costs, capped at fifteen percent of the child support amount before the credit.
Further Applause to the Task Force
The new guidelines have done away with the confusion associated with hybrid parenting plans, where parenting time was unequal, often resulting in one parent deciding custody and parenting time based on the amount of child support to be paid or received. Now the figure is based on a rebuttable presumption that the children are living with the custodial parent approximately two-thirds of the time and the other parent one-third of the time. If the parents share equal time, the support order is calculated twice, once with one parent as the recipient and the second with the other parent as the recipient. The difference in the calculation becomes the weekly support amount.
There’s wiggle room too! Not all orders need to be calculated by the Guidelines Worksheet
The Task Force was mindful that all families are different. The Courts still have wide discretion to deviate from the guideline using factors based on the individual circumstances of each party and the children. Page 3, Deviation, Section IV, of the form “Findings and Determinations of Child Support and Post-Secondary Education Form” list appropriate reasons to deviate from the calculated child support figure.
What to Do about Orders Issued Prior to September 15, 2017?
Contact your attorney to discuss whether a modification of any past child support is warranted as a result of the new changes and to discuss the effect on current or future support orders.
The Task Force has recommended that parties consider agreeing to unallocated support in situations where alimony and child support are both at issue. I will discuss this in more detail in future blog articles.
To read the full text of the Guidelines as well as the Task Force Report and Economic Report, visit www.mass.gov/courts/selfhelp/family/child-support-guidelines.html.
I am optimistic that these changes will result in a more equitable support order in line with the increased cost child and health care as well as taking into consideration each parent’s personal economic abilities.
Here’s to more future good news!