Where Do the Guidelines Come From?
Every four years the Massachusetts Child Support Task Force reviews the Child Support guidelines and and releases a new version. As of September 15, 2017, the latest version of the guidelines will take effect. The new guidelines are substantially similar to the previous version, with some notable changes. Here are a few that I would like to highlight.
The 2012 guidelines promulgated three different methods for calculating the weekly support amount. The first with the child spending the majority of the time with one parent, and about one-third of the time with the other; a second where the parents split time with the child equally; and a third method, where the child spends more than one-third, but less than one-half of the time with one parent.
The new guidelines do away with the third method. The reasoning behind this deletion is that by incorporating the intermediate method, the Task Force undermined their goal of creating uniform support orders. More importantly (in this lawyer's mind), it fostered disputes between parents who tried to minimize their child support obligations at the expense of a parenting plan that was in the best interest of the child. The new, simplified, plan hopes to bring parents to the table to implement a parenting plan that works for both parties, and is in the best interest of the child. Only then, will they take their plan to the judge to implement a support order.
Many self-employed workers or business owners take advantage of numerous Federal and State deductions to reduce their tax liability. With regard to child support, the new guidelines recognize that a judge must look at these deductions to see if they are “reasonable and necessary to the production of income.” Where they are not income producing deductions, a judge may apply those amounts to the available combined gross income for the purposes of calculating the child support amount.
Weighing the plight of low-income parents against the responsibility for each parent to provide for the child, the guidelines historically provided a minimum weekly support amount. Since 2002, the minimum weekly support was $18.46. The new guideline raise this weekly support amount to $25 per week, based on an individual that has a combined gross weekly income of $115 per week.
What does this mean?
This is just a snapshot of the changes. The principal purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that both parents are fulfilling their obligation to support their child, and to promote parental behavior that is in the child's best interest. I think these changes are a step in the right direction. For a closer look at the guidelines follow this link: http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/child-support/2017-child-support-guidelines.pdf.
If you have questions about a child support issue, please feel free to contact this office.