Changes to Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Coming in October
New guidelines will make substantial alterations to how Massachusetts courts calculate how much child support is owed, effective in October. After a decade of steadily decreasing child support requirements in Massachusetts, it seems that pressure by public advocacy groups has reversed this trend. The new guidelines, which go into effect on Monday, October 4, 2021 seek to address the depreciative impact of rising medical, childcare, and other living expenses on child support payments.
The guidelines have three major impacts: a significant increase in child support payments to parents with multiple children, the elimination of the parental cost-sharing ‘cap’ on childcare, and the inclusion of the first $400, 000 in combined parental income when calculating child support payments.
Until October 4, the 2018 child support guidelines remain in effect.
Increased Support for Parents Caring for Multiple Children
According to child-support advocates who had pushed so hard for changes to the Massachusetts child support guidelines, the Commonwealth lagged far behind other U.S. states in allocating proportional payments for families with more than one child. With the 2021 changes to the child support guidelines, multi-child families will receive the following increases to base support: 40% for families with two children; 68% for those with three children; 85% for families with four children; and 94% for families with five children.
For those with only one child, there are unlikely to be major changes to one’s base payment owed.
The End of the Fifteen-Percent Childcare Cap
Another major change to the child support guidelines is the elimination of the 15% cap on childcare cost-sharing. Previously, the parent paying child support could contribute a maximum of 15% towards childcare and health insurance costs. While the cap remains in effect for health insurance costs, parents will now share childcare costs—of up to $355 a week, per child—in a way proportional to their income. If one parent earns 75% of the parties’ combined income, that parent will pay 75% of childcare costs and the other will pay 25%.
Increase in Combined Income for Base Payments
Previous to the 2021 changes, the combined income of both parents assessed in calculating child support payments was limited to the first $250, 000, even if one or both parents made significantly more than that. Effective October 4, the courts will assess the first $400, 000 of combined income. This change will be significant for high-earning families.
The Uncertainties of Change
While these are the most impactful, and most prominent, changes to the child support guidelines, there are numerous smaller changes. Among these is the decrease of minimal child support payments from $25 to $12 dollars a week. Additionally, there are some changes to how self-employment income is factored into child support.
The changes to the Massachusetts child support guidelines are complex. Individuals need to consult a skilled family law attorney who has helped clients weather changes to the child support guidelines before. Our firm has the skills and experience to address your family’s particular situation and needs. Call our office today to discuss your child support concerns ahead of the October change.