If you pay child support in Massachusetts, you have probably been hearing a lot about the new child support guidelines that took effect on August 1, 2013. You may have also heard that this new reform means that child support payments have been lowered. This change is due to the fact that recent evidence has suggested that high child support rates are ultimately more harmful to children than beneficial. The following quote from Parents National Organization describes what has changed in these new child support guidelines, as well as outlines the reasons behind this change.
- Support guidelines were reduced, resulting in an average 11% decrease for one-child families and a 6% decrease for two child families. This moderates the impact of the large increases we saw when the 2009 Guidelines were released. This is only the second occasion, that we are aware of, where the Guidelines have been reduced.
- The Task Force explicitly recognized the need for balance that is fair to both parents. National Parents Organization wants to emphasize that this is essential to the best interests of our children. Too much court-ordered child support is also harmful to children. Shared parenting is the arrangement that children most desire and in which they do best, so Guidelines that incentivize battles for sole custody harm children. For low income parents, the negative impact can be even more profound when excessive child support orders cause non-custodial parents to live in poverty or near-poverty. Lowering the guidelines makes it more feasible for people, particularly those with lower incomes, to meet their obligations.
- The Task Force sought the advice of respected experts – Mark Sarro and Mark Rogers – to provide a detailed economic review of the guidelines. This included a benchmarking against neighboring states, an approach that National Parents Organization used in our submissions to the Task Force last September. This highlighted the disparity that exists, and likely was a major factor in the support guideline reductions.
- A new formula was established for calculating support where parenting time is higher than the norm. We believe this is an implicit recognition of the goal of many parents – particularly so-called non-custodial parents – to enter into shared parenting arrangements.
- Modifications may now be sought where an existing order is inconsistent with the 2013 Guidelines. Presumably this will apply to all or almost all existing orders given the overall reductions that have been made.
- The court must now consider “availability of employment at the attributed income level.” The new language makes clear that although a person might be highly skilled, and although they may have once earned substantial sums, the court, in making a child support order, must consider whether jobs actually exist at the pay rate alleged.
The main goals of these new child support guidelines are to promote the well-being of children and ensure that parents are able to make their payments. For lower income families, these reduced support rates could mean an ease on their financial situation. The ultimate goal is to ultimately improve the current economy.
If you need assistance with the new child support guidelines, feel free to contact us at Revelli & Luzzo. We will be happy to provide you with the child support consultation that your family deserves.
How do you feel about the new child support guidelines? What do these new child support guidelines mean for you and your family?