Richard C. Bardi & Associates LLC

Big changes in Massachusetts child support guidelines

Determining child support can be a tricky part of the divorce process.  With a recent change in the child support guidelines in Massachusetts last year, the process seems even more daunting.  The main goal of the changes was to make the calculation simpler and more equal, but how will those changes affect how much you pay?

If you’re in the process of determining child support, they will have a big impact on that calculation.   If you’re already paying child support, these changes could drastically change the amount that you pay.

Here's an overview of a few of the biggest changes.

Limit on college contributions

The task force responsible for drafting the guidelines came up with a standard for determining college contributions for divorced parents. Rather than looking at the college the child plans to attend, the guidelines have created a presumptive cap and based it on the cost for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. According to the guidelines, the court will not require a parent to pay more than 50 percent of that cost.

While this is the set maximum that a parent would be required to pay, it is worth noting that this is still not a presumed cost. Whether a parent must pay for college will be up to the judge.

Change in support for adult children

In Massachusetts, child support does not stop when the child turns 18. The only definitive time when it stops is when the adult child turns 23. Between 18-23, however, there is some grey area. With the change in the guidelines, child support costs go down by a blanket 25 percent when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. Whether that support continues past that mark will be something for the judge to determine.

Changes for imputing "unreported" income

This will be a big change for parents who have income that may not show up on a tax return. Previously the courts simply looked to tax returns to determine income. With this change in place, courts will look at things like housing benefits that would reduce a parent's regular expenses and allow them to contribute in other areas.

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