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Important Changes to Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines
On September 15, 2017, important changes were made to the Massachusetts child support guidlelines. The state has implemented a Task Force that is required to review the child support guidelines every four years. The Task Force is chaired by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Angela M. Ordoñez.
The child support guidelines are used by Probate and Family Court Trial Court judges when they are setting orders for child support, deciding whether to approve agreements for child support, and in deciding cases that are before the Court to modify existing orders.
The Task Force recommended several clarifications and changes to the previous guidelines. While some of the changes were minor, a few represent new or modified provisions. The most significant changes include:
Increasing the minimum support order to $25 per week
The prior minimum weekly amount of child support was $18.46 per week and had not been changed since 2002. The Task Force believes that the new amount of $25.00 per week is more consistent with the increased in the overall cost of living since 2002.
Removing the parenting time/child support calculation that was inserted into the 2013 guidelines
The 2012 Task Force had previously incorporated changes with regard to when parenting time was more than one-third but less than fifty percent. The 2017 Task Force eliminated this provision because it believes that it caused increased litigation about how much time was spent with the child and took the focus away from the best interest of the child.
Including a capped adjustment in the child support calculation for child care and health care costs
The Task Force determined that a dollar for dollar calculation for child care and health care costs could skew the child support calculation. The Task Force agreed to cap the adjustment at fifteen percent of the order.
Addressing child support for children between the ages of 18 and 23; and
The Task Force agreed that children between the ages of 18 and 23 should be dealt with separately than those children under 18 years of age. The Task Force found that these children are generally either enrolled in college and not living at home one hundred percent of the time; or they may be working and contributing to the household. The Task Force agreed that a twenty-five percent reduction in child support payments is appropriate for children that fall into this age group.
Including provisions related to parental contribution to post-secondary educational expenses
The court has discretion when ordering a parent to pay for post-secondary educational expenses. The Task Force took into account the exceedingly expensive costs for post-secondary educational expenses. The Task Force decided to use the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as the benchmark college when determining parental contribution to post-secondary educational expenses. The Task Force determined that no parent would be required to pay more than half of the in-state resident cost of Umass Amherst unless the court makes a determination that the parent can afford to pay more.