Child support spelt out in plastic letters


Attorney Paul J. Sweeney Nov. 19, 2021

Due to federal mandate, the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court revisits the Child Support Guidelines every four years. Through the utilization of a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice, the court is able to discuss and make any necessary changes to the existing Guidelines. These guidelines, though imperfect, are imperative in ensuring that children are financially cared for by their parents.

The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (CSGW) uses a formula, based primarily on income, to determine how much each parent should contribute. These results are then reviewed by a Judge, who makes the final decision on what the order of support should be.

As of October 4th, 2021, a new CSGW will be in effect. This not only impacts cases filed after October 4th, but any existing child support orders that may be amended due to the changes made. We advise that you seek out counsel, if you believe that a modification is applicable to your current child support order.

To view the new CGSW and calculate support for yourself, use this link: https://courtforms.jud.state.ma.us/publicforms/PFC0001_2021

To view the Child Support Guidelines, us this link: https://www.mass.gov/law-library/2021-child-support-guidelines

We’ve listed some major changes to the guidelines below:

Minimum Support:

The minimum child support order has been decreased, as the prior minimum order of $25 has resulted in payors inability to support themselves.

Now, for payors with a gross income up to $210, the minimum weekly order is $12. For a gross income ranging from less than $211 to $249 per week, the new minimum order amount has changed to anywhere between $12 to $20 per week. Anything above $249, the calculations remain the same.

Maximum Income:

The new maximum combined gross income covered by the CSGW is now up to $400,000 (or $7,692 per week). The maximum income level has not been changed since 2009. This means that families with an income above $250,000 will now be able to use the worksheet to calculate support.

This increase was determined by evaluating the maximum income levels in other states’ Guidelines and the higher levels of income and costs in Massachusetts relative to other states.

Multiple Children:

The new Guidelines also provide for incremental increases in the amount of support based upon the number of children. So, if you have two or more children, then under the 2021 guidelines, you will receive more child support than under the 2017 guidelines.

The new guidelines did not change with regard to attributable income or deviation. When calculating child support, the Court can “attribute” income to a party who is underemployed or earning less than what they are capable of earning, and then calculate support at a higher rate. In order to have income attributed to a party, you must be able to prove one of the following:

  1. That they are not working enough hours during the week (for example, only working part-time when full-time employment is available to them); or

  2. That they are capable of earning a higher salary/wage, based on past employment history.

For example, if a person historically earned $65,000 per year from their employment, and voluntarily left that employment for a lower paying job, the Court has the authority to attribute income to them and base the child support calculation on the $65,000 per year income, and not the parties’ actual income.

Additionally, the Court can deviate from the guidelines amount if circumstances warrant a deviation. For example, if a paying party has significant travel expenses for parenting time because they reside out of state, support can lowered to account for those expenses. Another reason to deviate from the guidelines amount would be if a parent is contributing to college education expenses.

If you need assistance in collecting child support, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue can assist you and provide you with an attorney, free of charge, to file the appropriate complaint with the court to obtain child support. The Child Support Enforcement Division of the Mass DOR has the resources not only to assist you in obtaining an order of support, but also can assist you with enforcing the order once it is in place. The payor must send the weekly payments to DOR, who then pays them to you. They keep track of payments on your behalf and will take the necessary steps to ensure payments are made, including intercepting income tax refunds for overdue payors, and suspension of licenses. To apply for DOR child support collection services, use this link: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-child-support-services