Updated Child Support Guidelines in Massachusetts

Our focus has been on family law and mediation and we always want to keep our clients and community current on important updates to family law in Massachusetts. Recently new guidelines were created regarding child support which will take effect on October 4th, 2021. The guidelines will be applied to all child support orders and judgments beginning October 4th. In this article, we will briefly cover where these new guidelines are coming from and what changes are being made. Deirdre Healy’s law office provides services to help couples modify existing orders. For more information please contact our office in Worcester. If you would like clarity on any of the new changes to child support guidelines especially in regards to how it might affect your family, consider reaching out to our office.

Introduction To 2021 Child Support Guidelines

In the summer of 2020, a Child Support Guidelines Task Force was convened as part of the routine review of Massachusetts guidelines related to child support. This review happens routinely every 4 years. This task force exists to make recommendations to child support that reflect on the incremental costs of raising a child. Throughout the process, the Task Force reviewed submissions from members of the public, family law attorneys, judges, and court staff in order to make recommendations on these guidelines. These recommendations affected the current guidelines and the new guidelines will become effective in October of this year.

What Child Support Guidelines Have Changed in MA?

The task force made the following recommendations that are now being integrated into Child Support Guidelines in October of this year.

  • The task force recommended adding language to clarify how Social Security payments are factored into income when calculating child support. This also includes changes to the guidelines worksheet that should make it easier for parties to calculate child support in situations where Social Security dependency benefits are involved in the case.
  • The task force recommended adding new text that highlights a recent decision made by the Appeals Court that is related to how alimony payments affect child support payments. (Calvin C. v Amelia A., 99 Mass. App. Ct. 714 2021).  In this case, the Appeals Court’s decision reflects that there are some occasions where alimony payments should be included as income to the recipient and deducted from the payor when child support is calculated.
  • Based on the 2021 U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines, the task force recommended creating two tranches at the minimum level in Table A of the guidelines worksheet for payors with income up to $249 per week. The presumptive orders will range from $12 to $20 a week. However, the task force did emphasize that courts can still deviate to either a higher or lower order based on a situation. This includes entering a child support order of $0.
  • The maximum level of combined available income has been raised to $400,000. This level had not been raised since 2009, which is why the recommendation was made. In addition, the task force recommended six tranches between $250 and $7,692 in weekly combined income. This combined with the two tranches for payors with income up to $249 includes a total of eight tranches.
  • The task force recommended that both parents share the actual costs of child care in proportion to their individual income. This goes up to a benchmark of $355 per child per week. This could significantly increase child support orders. Judges are advised to consider deviation when appropriate, especially when the overall support order is more than 40% of a payor’s income.
  • Based on many statutory changes to health care coverage the occurred in 2019, the task force recommended removing the 15 percent cap from Section II. H. which refers to health care credit. Parties will no longer receive credit for health care costs paid but will be able to deduct certain health care costs.
  • For parents with more than one child, the task force recommended increasing the adjustment factors related to multiple children. Based on policy considerations and recent economic data, the additional cost for each additional child was increased to 40% for two children, 30% for three children, 10% for four children, and 5% for five children.
  • In situations where the overall current child support order is more than 40% of the payor’s available income, the task force recommended a rebuttable presumption of substantial hardship that would justify a deviation.

Mediation Services For Child Support in Worcester

You may be wondering what this might mean for your individual situation. The short answer is these changes can greatly impact how much child support payors might need to pay starting in October. Obviously, each individual case is unique. If you need help with your specific situation, we highly encourage you to contact our office in Worcester. Deirdre Healy practices family law and mediation. Her mediation services can be used when modifying existing child support orders. Contact our office to discuss your case and get help navigating these recent changes.