September 17, 2013
By Deanna Marchand and Alan Cooke, Co-Chairs, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Massachusetts
You may seek a modification in your existing Massachusetts child support order if it is inconsistent with the new 2013 Guidelines. Presumably, this will apply to all or almost all existing child support orders given the overall reductions that have been made.
Consider seeking a modification if any of the following factors may impact your child support.
- Support guidelines were reduced, resulting in an average 11% decrease for one-child families and a 6% decrease for two child families.
- A new formula was established for calculating support where parenting time is higher than the norm.
- The court must now consider “availability of employment at the attributed income level.”
- Orders for education costs for adult dependent children are not presumptive.
- Modifications may be sought — now — where an existing order is inconsistent with the 2013 Guidelines, effective August 1, 2013.
This is only the second time the Guidelines have been reduced. Both times, National Parents Organization was the only voice speaking for Massachusetts children by seeking reasonable child support guidelines.
Congratulations to all who testified at the child support guidelines hearings; who presented written testimony; or who wrote letters, as requested, to Governor Deval Patrick, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray. Thank you for standing up for the children of Massachusetts!
Child Support to Age 23
In addition to the amount of child support ordered, many of our members are concerned with Massachusetts and Hawaii being the only two states that can order child support to age 23. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Task Force clarified this issue. According to the following family courts have discretion in ordering child support and/or college contribution.
National Parents Organization will address the legislation behind this in 2014.From the Task Force’s Report:
“Age of Children
“Recommendation: The Task Force recommends amending this section to clarify that (1) payment of child support for children over the age of 18 is established by statute; and (2) orders for education costs for adult dependent children are not presumptive and any order for education costs must be considered by the court if any additional support is ordered.
“Rationale: In Massachusetts the court’s authority to issue orders for support and/or education costs for an adult dependent child is provided by statute. The Guidelines themselves do not provide the source of authority nor can the Guidelines change this provision.
“Under current law, the court may make orders of support and education for any child who is 18 years old and less than 21 years old if the child is domiciled with a parent and the child is dependent on that parent for his or her support. The court may also make orders of support and education for any child who is 21 years old and less than 23 years old if the child is domiciled with a parent and also principally dependent on that parent for support because of enrollment in an educational program (excluding a program beyond the undergraduate level).
“As a result of public misunderstanding regarding the statutory basis for the court’s authority, the Task Force felt that clarification was necessary and added the statutory reference by way of a footnote. The Task Force also added language to provide instruction to the court that if a party is ordered to contribute to an adult dependent child’s educational costs, the court must consider this ﬁnancial contribution if any additional child support is ordered.”
New Language in the Guidelines follows:
“F. Age of the Children
These guidelines create a rebuttable presumption that the dollar amount provided for under the guidelines shall apply in all to cases establishing or modifying a child support order involving children entitled to support from ages 0-18 and children over 18 who are still attending high school. Payment of child support for children over the age of 18 is established by statute. In establishing support orders for children over age 18, to the extent permitted by law, the Court shall exercise its discretion in ordering support and/or college contribution. The Court shall consider the reason for the continued residence with and dependence on the Recipient, the child’s academic circumstances, living situation, the available resources of the parents, the costs of post-secondary education for the child, the availability of financial aid and the allocation of those costs, if any, between the parents. Contribution to college costs is not presumptive, but is based upon the above factors. If a specific college contribution is ordered, this contribution shall be considered by the Court in setting the weekly support order, if any, and the availability of financial aid.“
Please see our full report and analysis of the new child support guidelines. This includes the economic report the Task Force used and National Parents Organization official response to the guidelines.