The new 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines go into effect on October 4, 2021. Mass child support guidelines are revised every three years, and are the result of work by the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Task Force, which is comprised of Massachusetts divorce attorneys and judges, and is tasked with undertaking the review of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. Read more about how the task force came to the 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, here.
If you currently pay or receive child support per the Massachusetts guidelines, these new guidelines may result in a different child support obligation. A few basics you should know about the child support guidelines:
- There is a rebuttable presumption that the MA Child Support Guidelines apply in all cases relating to child support- whether that be establishing child support, or modifying an existing child support order. The fact that the parents may be married or unmarried does not change things, nor does the fact of whether the order is temporary or final.
What’s a “rebuttable presumption” you ask? A rebuttable presumption (in Latin, for all of our Latin nerds out there: praesumptio iuris tantum) is an assumption made by a court that is taken to be true unless proven otherwise.
- There is a rebuttable presumption that the dollar amount of the child support calculated under the MA guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support to be paid.
- Current and existing child support orders are not automatically changed when the new guidelines go into effect unless the parties specifically agreed within their Agreement that child support should automatically be recalculated.
- In order to modify child support post judgment, a modification action must be initiated.
- If you are involved in a current action where child support is of issue, you may re-calculate support using the new guidelines to determine the impact on support.
What are some of the changes contained in the 2021 guidelines?
The definition of income
The definition of income (with respect to calculating child support) now includes income from stock options and other similar incentives. This change is intended to emphasize that a divorcing spouse cannot avoid paying child support by choosing to be compensated with stock options. “Income” may now also include alimony.
Minimum child support order has increased
The 2018 MA Child Support Guidelines required a minimum of $25 per week. The 2021 guidelines, on the other hand, provide for a minimum order of $12 per week, and preserve the Court’s authority to set the appropriate level of support - which could be $0
Big changes here! The 2018 MA Child Support Guidelines applied to the first $250,000 of combined annual household income of the parties. The 2021 guidelines use maximum combined income of the parties of $400,000 gross income per year. This is a significant increase! In situations where household income exceeds the $400,000, threshold, the task force has recommended to the Court that it consider the award of support at the $400,000 level as the minimum order. The financial obligation for any available income that exceeds the $400,000 “cap” is made at the discretion of the Court.
Child care costs
Child care costs of up to $355 per week, per child are now to be shared in proportion to the parties’ incomes. This change could have a significant impact on the amount of child support paid.
Julia Rodgers, Esq. is an attorney with Mavrides Law. She understands the unique issues clients face and ensures that they feel comfortable with strategy and process before moving forward and throughout the duration of their case. She focuses her practice on divorce and prenuptial agreements. To read her bio, click here.
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