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Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines: Change Effective January 1, 2009
(provided by Dr. Lynne C. Halem, CMDR)

On November 5, 2008, the new Child Support Guidelines of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts went public with an effective date of January 1, 2009. These new Guidelines represent a substantive change since the interim Guidelines were first issued in 1987. The flurry of activity beginning in November and continuing through the end of 2008 was a demonstrative response by divorcing individuals and their lawyers to the following key questions:

Will I receive more or less before January 1, 2009? Will I pay more or less before January 1, 2009? Should I push for a pre-2009 court date? Should I delay the court hearing to post-2009?

For some couples, the new law did not herald a major change in the child support figures. For others, it most certainly did. Since the new Guidelines are based on a variety of quite different premises about families and each parent's responsibility for his/her child(ren)'s support, there is no quick answer to characterize the impact of these new Guidelines on couples, as individual payors or recipients. Each party needs to compute the formula. Each couple needs to consider whether or not their family presents circumstances which warrant a deviation from the formula. The new formula is, after all, suppose to be viewed by each probate judge as a guideline and, by definition, "a statement of policy", not an immutable absolute.

What, you may ask, in actuality constitutes a new policy? The following are the salient points of change:

a. You may request a modification of support of orders which are three or more years old without demonstrating a change in circumstances.

b. Income definitions include clarification of income from: c. Additional Income Variables: d. Custody and visitation has been relabeled as "parenting time". The formula presumes two-thirds time with the residential parent and one-third time with the other parent.

e. Child care costs, for employment, may be deducted from the income of the parent or parents funding the expense.

f. Age of Children:

There is no support increase related to the age of a child, as in prior Guidelines.

g. Health Insurance: h. Number of Children: Calculation includes percentage increases for up to five children. Increased percentage for more than five children is discretionary but likely.

i. Other Child-Related Expenses: Recognition that major expenses (e.g., camp, extracurricular activities) are not automatically the responsibility of one parent; the Guidelines recognizes that such expenses may be apportioned between parents or attributed to one parent.

Information provided by:
Dr. Lynne C. Halem, CMDR located at

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