Under Massachusetts Law, the Child Support Guidelines must be reviewed every four (4) years by a task force to determine whether any revisions are required to usher in a fairer way of apportioning family expenses, including but not limited to child care, health care and college.
Here is a summary of some of the most significant changes to the 2017 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines which will take effect on September 15, 2017:
1) Reduction in Child Support for Adult Children Ages 18-23
The 2017 Guidelines addresses the confusion surrounding college expenses and child support for adult children (Ages 18-23) in Massachusetts. The 2017 guidelines provides for a twenty-five (25%) reduction in child support for adult children (Ages 18-23) across Massachusetts. The 25% reduction does not apply to 18-year-old children in high school but takes effect after adult children graduate from high school. The new rule imposes a presumptive cap on child support at 75% of a standard guidelines order, however, judges still have the authority to exercise discretion for ordering child support for adult children.
2) Presumptive Cap on College Contribution: 50% of the cost of UMass Amherst
The 2017 Guidelines places a presumptive cap on each parent's college contribution at 50% of the annual cost of tuition, room, board and fees at the University of Massachusetts ("UMass") Amherst. The new rule does not require parents to contribute to their adult children's college expenses. Instead, the rule provides that if parents are ordered to contribute to college, then said contributions should not exceed 50% of the annual cost of UMass Amherst unless the Court enters findings supporting a deviation.
3) Eliminating the "In Between" Category for Parents with 33-50% Parenting Time
The 2017 Guidelines removes the "in-between" category for parents sharing parenting time equally or approximately equally (i.e. 33-50%). The prior 2013 Guidelines previously provided for a deviation when a payor had less than one-third (1/3) of the time and an average calculation for cases where parenting time was between 33% and 50% of the time. The 2017 Guidelines address concerns that prior guidelines increased litigation and shifted the focus from a parenting plan that was in the best interests of the children to a contest about the parenting time to decrease child support. The 2017 guidelines attempts to clarify the deviation factor and highlight the importance of the appropriate use of judge's discretion to deviate from the guidelines based on the unique circumstances of a particular family.
4) Capped Adjustment for Child Support Calculation for Health Care Costs and Child Care insurance and child care
The 2017 Guidelines takes a "share the burden" approach which places a presumptive cap on medical insurance and child care deductions at 15% of the total order. This provides for appropriate adjustments for health care and child care deductions under the new formula for parents struggling to pay out-of-pocket for these expenses. The 2017 guidelines do not provide a "dollar-for-dollar" credit but will make appropriate adjustments to avoid these health care and child care expenses overtaking or eliminating the support order.
5) Self-Employment: Imputation of Income and Attribution of Income
The 2017 Guidelines provides a new approach to dealing with income that parents fail to report for tax purposes and it clarifies how to handle cases involving self-employed parents in which unreported income (often in the form of personal expenses paid by a business) are common. Imputed income is income that a parent actually receives but does not appear on tax documents (i.e. housing benefits, automobile expenses, or other personal living expenses paid by the business). Attributed income results from a finding that either parent is capable of working and is unemployed or underemployed. The emphasis of most of the changes is on including additional income when appropriate, such as self-employment income, undocumented income and clarifying will draw a clear distinction between "imputed" income and "attributed" income.
6) Alimony and Unallocated Support
The 2017 Guidelines encourages the Court and the parties to consider the tax-effect of support when choosing between child support, alimony and unallocated support.
7) Raising the Minimum Amount of Child Support to $25 per week
The 2017 Guidelines raises the minimum presumptive child support order from $18.46/week to $25/week.
For additional information or if you have any questions about the application of the 2017 Child Support Guidelines, call the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.