Simplified Worksheet and Fixing Bugs Highlight June 2018 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Update
On June 15, 2018, new Massachusetts child support guidelines went into effect. Not quite so new child support guidelines were just released in the Fall of 2017, and the Massachusetts child support guidelines typically follow about a three to four-year update cycle, thus the release of an updated child support worksheet is noteworthy. Federal law mandates that all states review their child support guidelines periodically.
The guidelines published in September of 2017 involved several changes to the child support worksheet, including revised approaches to the cost of medical care and childcare, and a discount factor applied for older children between the ages of 18 and 23 that amounted to a discount factor of 25% if one or all children are over the age of 18. Other adjustment credits are set forth in Table C of the guidelines worksheet, and cover situations where there are children over and under age 18.
The September 2017 guidelines were met with some criticism (just like every release, since you cannot make everyone happy); but a couple of gremlins lurking within the worksheet calculations were the main culprit that necessitated a revised child support worksheet.
For a complete review of the September 2017 guidelines, you can refer to our original review here.
Besides tackling these bugs, the worksheet is much improved and is back to a single page lay-out that will even calculate support for parents sharing parenting time equally without having to run two sets of guidelines. Hooray for that!
The Massachusetts Trial Court leadership adopted many of the amendments proposed after the release of the September 2017 guidelines. The main goal of the revised June 2018 child support guidelines is to eliminate the production of counterintuitive results from the online worksheet. Previously, the worksheet needed to be completed once with one parent as the support recipient and then again with the other parent as the support recipient. This process could sometimes lead to a “double counting” issue related to medical insurance and childcare expenses in some specific circumstances. The worksheet has been overhauled and is more user-friendly in several ways.
Past practice for revising child support guidelines has included a task force created by the Chief Justice of the Probate & Family Court. This task force is comprised of divorce and family law attorneys, state representatives, an economist, and other court personnel. Oftentimes, representatives from other legal organizations are invited to participate, and the court encourages comments from anyone about the guidelines during the process.
The task force appointed for the June 2018 revision took a more administrative, rather than legislative, approach. Their goal, per one member of the task force, was to minimize changes to the September guidelines, so as to not disrupt cases that were approaching settlement. Overall, the task force believes that the revision process went well.
MA Child Support – More Than Just Running the Guidelines
Although the child support guidelines worksheet itself is more user friendly, this does not mean that all child support matters are simply cut and dry. In some instances, accurately completeing the child support guidelines worksheet may suffice. The child support guidelines rely on capturing accurate information, especially as it relates to gross income. In some instances, ascertaining a person’s true income is not as straightforward as it may seem, such as when someone is self-employed or has a complex compensation plan.
Frequently, complicated issues that directly relate to child support exist, and require further analysis. Some examples include:
- Imputed or Attributed Income;
- Contribution to other expenses related to a child or children;
- Payment of college costs;
- Reasons for deviations from the child support guidelines, for example extraordinary expenses incurred by a parent, a child has special needs, or a parent does less than one-third of the parenting time;
- High income families;
- Case where alimony and child support are both present, or possible.
Issues like the above are not addressed through the child support guidelines worksheet, but require a deeper understanding of more complex issues, and the interplay between various factors and specific case facts. Getting good results requires the ability to negotiate with the other side or convince the court to order something different than the straight guidelines. If you have any of these issues in your case, you should meet with an experienced Massachusetts divorce or child support lawyer, or a skilled mediator that can help parents understand these issues and reach a workable resolution.
MA Child Support Lawyers and Mediators
If you need assistance with a child support issue, including a modification or contempt action, please contact Next Phase Legal LLC in Norfolk, MA at (508) 359-4043. Besides court representation, we work with parents to resolve parenting and child support matters through the mediation process and we provide parenting coordination services for parents that experience frequent conflict with each other.
To go to the MA Probate and Family Court website and review the child support guidelines worksheet, please click here.