Child support guidelines change in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts child support guidelines have been thoroughly revised for 2009. That means that anyone who gets divorced in 2009 or after will have the amount of their child support payments calculated under new rules.

If you have a child support order from a divorce that occurred before 2009, your payments won’t change. And you can’t go to court and get a new order just because there are new guidelines.

However, if you have a significant change in your circumstances and you go to court in 2009 or after and modify your award because of the change, your new award will be based on the new guidelines.

One major change in the guidelines is that they now consider all income from both parties. Previously, the first $20,000 of the recipient’s income wasn’t taken into account.

Another change is that the guidelines will apply to more affluent people. Previously, the guidelines applied only to couples with a combined income under $135,000. Now they apply to couples with a combined income up to $250,000.

The new guidelines clarify many things that were unclear under the old rules, including how to treat income from overtime, second jobs and self-employment; how payments should be adjusted if there is joint physical custody; whether the amount of support should change as the children get older; how to calculate health-care costs; and what happens if someone paying child support already has a child support order from a previous marriage or has additional children in a subsequent marriage.

The new guidelines also specify a number of situations in which judges are encouraged to ignore them. For instance, judges might not have to apply the guidelines if there is a tremendous difference in income between the two parents, or if a child has special needs.