There are some big changes surrounding child support in Massachusetts and it may impact people in a variety of ways. It does make sense to re-calculate child support now versus at the time of any order. The new calculations can be used to change or modify by agreement or contested.

The updates impact new cases. It is always hard to determine how individual judges will address the changes and how it will be applied. A few of the highlights include:

1. Parenting time calculation.
A controversial part of the new rules eliminates the “parenting time to reduce child support” calculation. The 33% to 50% parenting time has been removed to reduce litigation. The “hybrid” order is no longer presumed but parties may still argue the need to deviate from the guidelines. Shared physical custody still is used and the appeals courts in the past have allowed as little as 43% of overnight parenting time to count as shared physical custody.

2. Minimum weekly support.
The minimum weekly child support order is now $25 a week, up from $18.46 a week. Although still very low, it does gesture that the minimum should keep up with inflation, at least.

3. Health and child care costs.
The new guidelines attempt to more fairly factor in significant out of pocket child care and health insurance costs using a capped adjustment of 15% of the total order. However, this appears to be case specific in terms of how much a change it will be as there are caps that do not allow a dollar for dollar change.

4. Reduced support for children between 18-23.
This 25% reduction in support still depends on circumstances. Exceptions include whether the child is still in high school and whether the child lives at home full time and commutes to college. This reduction is only for a child between 18-23. For example, if one child is 18 and and another is 12 then a full 25% reduction does not apply, but the there still is a reduction. This provision may lead to significant new complaints for modification.

5. Presumptive cap on College Expense Contribution.
There is now a guideline but it is not an automatic and unclear how Court will use it but there is language stating that contributions could be capped at 50% of in-state resident costs of UMASS Amherst including living on campus. For some families, this may be unrealistic as too expensive and other families much lower than might be ordered depending on their financial situation. Further, if college contribution is ordered in addition to child support the combined amount will be considered by the court but no formula is provided.

6. Imputed Income.
There are also ways to impute “unreported” income of the parties. The court may reasonably impute unreported or undocumented income and also factor in benefits such as personal expenses paid by the employer such as housing or transportation costs subsidized by the employer.

7. Unallocated family support.
More of an emphasis on using “unallocated family support “in child support/alimony cases. This allows the interplay with alimony and taxes to be factored in. The parties need to provide the court the tax consequences of any proposed order.

There are additional changes and it may impact people in a variety of ways. It does make sense to re-calculate child support now versus at the time of any order. I am going to break down several of the areas in subsequent blogs with more details if you wish to subscribe or visit my website.