Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines -- Changes for 2017
Massachusetts has updated its Child Support Guidelines, effective September 15, 2017. Here is a quick look at some of the new changes.
Changes Based on Children's AgesThe 2017 Child Support Guidelines (CSG) will now apply a discount formula when there are one or more children over the age of 18 but who are still unemancipated. This "discounted" formula varies, based on the total number of children, and the number who are over 18. For example, if the child support base amount is $100.00 per week for one child, under the current CSG, having two children would apply at 125% formula, making support $125.00, no matter the age of the unemancipated children. Under the 2017 CSG, that same family, with a base of $100, will have the same 125% formula applied only if both children are under 18. If one child is age 18 or over (and the other younger than 18), the formula will be 109%, so the resulting support will be $109.00 per week. If both children are over 18 (but still unemancipated), the child support formula will be 94%, or $94.00 per week. Once the new formula has been applied, the support is apportioned between the parents (as it is under the current Guidelines too) based on the parties' income. Thus, the over 18 discount applies proportionally between the parents, and it is not just a simple % off the existing child support amount.
Changes Based on Health Insurance CostsWhile the last version of the CSG deducted the cost of health insurance from the income of the parent who pays for the insurance, the 2017 Guidelines not only deducts it from the income of the paying parent, but then also apportions the cost between the parties based on their incomes. So for example, if the Child Support Payor has income of $1,000 per week, and pays health insurance costs of $150 per week for the family, that Payor's income is reduced to $850.00 for purposes of the income available for child support. The 2017 CSG then apportions the $150.00 cost of health insurance between the parents so that in effect, each parent is paying a share of the health insurance in proportion to their income. Using the same example above where the Payor has income of $1,000.00 (minus $150.00 for the health insurance), if the Child Support Recipient has income of $600.00 per week, the Recipient would in effect, "pay" 41% of the health insurance costs, or $62.00 (.41 x $150 = $62). This "payment" happens by way of a discount to the Child Support Payor. One final note, however: there is a limit of 15% on the discount that will be applied to the Payor's support, and in this example, the limit would be $27.00 (and not $62). In some cases, the entire health care cost adjustment will be less that the maximum 15%, and in some it will be higher. The CSG adjustment will be the lower of the two.
Changes Based On Child Care CostsSimilar to the apportionment and adjustment for health care (see section above), there is also an apportionment and adjustment to support for the cost of child care. In our example (CS payor at $1,000, and the Recipient at $600 per week of income), if the Recipient pays for child care at a rate of $150.00 per week, the Recipient deducts the cost from income ($600-$150) before the base support is calculated. Then we apply a formula based on the parent's proportion of the total income. In this case, because the Recipient's income has decreased, his/her percentage of income is now 31% (instead of 41% as in the prior section), so the child care costs are apportioned at 31% for the Recipient, and 69% for the Payor. Thus the Payor's support would be adjusted upward to include the share of child care costs. Once again, however, there is a limit of 15%, so the lower of the two would be applied, resulting in additional support of $32.00 per week in this case.
SummaryIt is usually best to seek the advice of experienced counsel if there are any concerns that your child support could or should be modified. The examples given here are simplistic, and the facts of everyone's case are unique and (usually) more complicated. There are other factors that the Court will also consider in fashioning a support order -- too many to include here -- but alimony and the cost of college are two that occur frequently in cases.