What you need to know about Massachusetts’ new child support guidelines

What you need to know about Massachusetts’ new child support guidelines

Massachusetts courts are attempting to make child support determinations in the state more transparent. The changes were the result of a task force that was appointed by Chief Justice of the Trial Court Robert A. Mulligan. The Chief Justice noted the adjustments to the guidelines were a reflection of “economic realities facing families” in a recent press release. These changes will impact the application of family law matters regarding child support determinations throughout the state.

The guidelines were officially effective as of August 1, 2013. They were designed to set a formula based on the parents’ incomes to help determine how much child support is appropriate for each situation. Some key changes include:

  • Time with children. A new formula is provided for situations where the child spends an unequal amount of time with each parent. Although a previous formula was available, it provided limited options. The new guideline is more extensive.
  • Deviations. The ability for a judge to deviate from a required formula is expanded. Circumstances of extraordinary health insurance expenses and child care costs are now included.

The attention surrounding the changes provides an opportunity to review some of the basics of how child support is determined in Massachusetts.

Basics of child support in Massachusetts

Child support is designed to help ensure children are financially provided for. The court issues an order requiring payment for either a permanent or temporary period of time. When making its determination, the court takes a variety of factors into consideration, including:

  • Parental involvement. These orders are designed in part to help parents take responsibility, at least financially, for their children.
  • Standard of living. The court attempts to maintain the child’s standard of living.
  • Beyond money. It is important to note that these determinations review more than just finances. In addition to considering each parent’s income, the court also takes into consideration the amount of time each parent spends with the child.

Although the court reviews more than just the parent’s finances, financial considerations play a dominant role in child support determinations. When reviewing an individual’s income during these determinations, the court essentially looks at money received from any source, including salaries, overtime pay, royalties, commission, dividends, lottery winnings and trust payments.

Whether in the initial stages of a child support determination or attempting to receive a modification, the guidelines can be confusing. As a result, it is wise to contact an experienced Massachusetts family law lawyer to help better ensure you receive the child support payments you and your child are legally entitled to.