The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has issued new Child Support Guidelines effective October 4, 2021. These Guidelines, replacing the formula of 2018, introduce significant changes to the calculation of child support. Parents who have been negotiating support terms based on the 2018 Guidelines may, in effect, have to return to the “drawing board” to revisit the impact of the revised formula on their pending agreement. For couples whose agreements include terms for child support and alimony, increases in child support will necessitate revisiting the calculation of family support with a fresh view to the interdependence of spousal and child support. Clearly couples, whose agreements are based on child support awards, will need to analyze the key elements of the formula that will affect them in the future as well as in the present.
Change is always unsettling, even when welcomed. In general, child support will be higher on October 4, 2021 than it was on October 3, 2021. The Guidelines will be praised as a fresh and comprehensive appraisal of the economic changes affecting families in the Commonwealth, recognition of the support needs of children in separated and divorced families, as well as intact homes. The objective of the Guideline Task Force was to fashion a formula for the financial support of children that was both efficient in its implementation as it was equitable to the population it serviced. Time will tell if these goals have been achieved.
The new Guidelines have enacted five major changes to the 2018 formula:
Alternatively, it is worth noting, that especially for couples that mediate their separation or divorce, higher child support orders may be fashioned in the interest of equity and fairness. Or the parents may agree to use income over the ceiling for other support purposes, such as for an alimony order and /or for payment of child-related expenses, including postsecondary education and the like.
For families with more than one child, support orders will be increased and, in some cases, child support will be significantly higher than under the 2018 Guidelines. In one-child families, 2021 Guideline support has not been impacted unless the family’s combined incomes exceed $250,000 or due to high childcare costs.