Every four years, the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts task force re-evaluates the child support guidelines to determine their effectiveness and what changes need to be made. Last fall, the court launched new guidelines which made the 2018 version extinct. Some of the notable changes can lead to a significant change for both the payor and the payee:
1. The minimum order has decreased from $25 per week to between $12-20 per week. While the change may not seem significant, the relatively small difference can be profound for a parent who is already receiving such a minimal amount and trying to feed and clothe a child.
2. By contrast, the maximum threshold for combined gross income to be used for calculations has increased from $250,000 to $400,000 per year. Depending on income level, the child support order can actually go up or down under the new guidelines even if the income used hasn’t changed.
3. Guidelines now allow for an order up to 40% of payors income under circumstances. In cases where the guidelines suggest an order in excess of 40%, then there is an opportunity for court approved deviation from those guidelines.
4. Orders which cover more than one child are generally higher than they would have been under the previous guidelines.
5. Child care expenses are now more proportional based on the parents’ ability to pay for the first $355 per week per child.
6. Social security benefits are now more defined. Under the 2021 guidelines, social security benefits and SSDI are now considered, especially if one of the parents are receiving benefits for one or more of the children.
7. Additional income can now be used in calculation of child support. Generally speaking, the parties can now include any stock benefit, incentives and overtime when determining a party’s income. We expect that the courts will continue to look at three (3) years of history to determine if that income is an expectation or a one time event.