Friday, November 7, 2008

New & Improved Child Support Guidelines To Go Into Effect on January 1

New child support guidelines have just been promulgated, and they will go into effect in Massachusetts on January 1, 2009. See the Massachusetts Court System Press Release - November 5, 2008. I am one of the many attorneys, litigants, and other concerned citizens, who have long complained before that our current guidelines are not appropriate for our times, particularly as they are not precise and comprehensive enough to cover enough of our families.

The new guidelines, for the first time, will address some of the longstanding concerns many of us have had. For one, I see the task force has for the first time made it clear how to determine child support when there is joint physical custody. It is good to see that the task force this time included Fathers and Families founder Ned Holstein, as well as many of the usual participants (attorneys and judges and other family law establishment people). After I have time to give it a complete review, I will post my analysis. But right away, after a quick scan, I can already say it is a wonderful improvement over the guidelines that are currently in effect. Have a read for yourself and tell me what you think: http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/guidelines.pdf.

Excerpt from Press Release of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court:

Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan today announced the promulgation of revised Child Support Guidelines to be effective on January 1, 2009, based on a comprehensive review of the guidelines by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force he appointed in 2006. The 12-member Task Force was chaired by Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.

The report recommended significant, broad-based changes intended to make the guidelines more simple, clear, comprehensive and consistent with economic and societal changes of the last two decades. The report of the Task Force, available at www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport, explains the rationale behind the guidelines to assist attorneys and litigants in understanding and using them.

The recommendations include provisions that place greater value and emphasis on the involvement of both parents in the lives of children; consider the increase in health insurance costs and the requirement of mandatory health insurance in Massachusetts; provide greater guidance relative to when a child support order should be modified; and set forth specific deviation factors for deviation from the guidelines. These guidelines will apply to the circumstances of many more families in the Commonwealth.

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For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

17 comments:

Ned Holstein, MD, MS said...

Thank you for calling attention to the work of Fathers & Families. We are dismayed by many aspects of the new Guidelines, and believe that many divorced children and parents will be harmed by them. I urge readers to look at the Minority Report, which is the third appendix to the main report of the Task Force. http://www.mass.gov/courts/childsupport/minority-report.pdf

Ned Holstein, MD, MS
Executive Director
Fathers & Families
Boston

Steven Ballard said...

Thank you for calling attention to the fact that there is a Minority Report, and that there are many aspects of the new guidelines which are not so good. I will definitely read the Minority Report before I post my own analysis here. I have a strong suspicion, however, that the new guidelines would have been far worse without your participation and input. Thanks for all that you and your organization do, have done, and will continue to do, on behalf of families in this Commonwealth.

Steve said...

New guidelines do not make any sense. In many instances they will lead to inability of NC parent (usually father) to have children for visits since there will be no money left for that.

Responsible NC parents will have to pay 150-200% more and as a result would not be able to save for kids education.

I do not believe that the guidelines are well supported mathematically, small changes in relative incomes or time spent with the child lead to huge jumps in child support numbers.

Less than two months before implementation, there is absolutely no guidenance to the courts on application of the guidelines. This is especially true if one parent provides more than third but less than half of the support and time with the kids.

Because of the huge monetary differences (compared to the old guidelines) and because of elimination of 20% requirement for modification, the courts will immediately see increase in custody and child support modification battles.

Anonymous said...

My husband went to court today and a new oder based off the new guidelines will be put in effect 1/2/09. This new order will give his ex over $500.00 a month more and a take home pay of $138.00 a week (he is a police office). Thanks to the new guidelines we will be selling our home and moving our 2 small children to some apartment ...god knows where. Thanks to this new guideline children of second families have no chance. My husbands ex will now take home $57,000 and my husband will bring home $38,000. Father's have ALWAYS been treated unfair and now it's out of control!!

Anonymous said...

2009 Child support guidelines are Ridiculous!! It's unfair to father's and children of a "second family". I'm a mother of 2 small children of a "second family" and I will be protesting out side the Hampshire county Probate and Family court Monday 11/24/08 in Northampton, Ma. Would anyone care to join?

Anonymous said...

The current Child Support laws and the proposed laws that will become effective in January of 09 are not even "practiced" in a just manner.

My youngest son will be 20 two months after these new laws are in place. My X-Wifes income whose is twice that of my own, not only seeks more support than I currently pay and is just under the maximum child support calculated with the current guideline figures additionally wants 1/2 of his college tuition paid as well. I have demonstrated that my income will not allow me to pay "both" the Child Support and College expenses yet this case is scheduled for Trial next year. Under current Massachusetts law I am responsible for Child support payments until age 23 (that's adult support)in my opion. I am perfectly willing to pay the current support amount until age 23, but I simply cannot afford both, add to that the attorney fees etc. and it should be easy to see just how unfair and unreasonable this system is.

Anonymous said...

How is this new support fair? Who is the rich moron with no children of their own, and no money hungry ex chasing after every penny, who created these guidelines? What happens to my current children? As long as my first is well off, my second must live in poverty. I am one of those fathers who visit child as much as possible, Make sure he is taken care of above support payments, and am involved in their life, yet I am punished for the dead beats who don't. This will only turn out in three ways, a rise in dead beat parents, the noncustodial parent claiming bankrupcy, or custody battles rising above normal. Why does Massachusetts hate fathers so much?

Anonymous said...

These things are nuts. I was just getting by paying my support but with the new numbers, there goes the house, any chance of saving for college, weekends at the movies with my daughter, or any other activities I would enjoy with my daughter but the numbers infavor of the ex will be paying a mortgage for her.
I don't understand this system. I am the one who takes my daughter to all sorts of activities now I don't think I will be able to do any of these things.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how a loophole in the MA laws allows many people (generally women) to dodge their tax liability and to collect child support when they, in fact, should be paying! In some cases, these people are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, through family businesses and the like, but by not declaring the funds as income, they are elligible for support. In many cases, the income appears on bank statements, but the law allows them to claim they have no income! The guidelines need to be changed so that any large "gifts" or undocumented "loans" are, in fact, considered as income and factored into the support equation. The current system penalizes honest parents, hurts children, diminishes state and federal tax revenues, and rewards liars and tax cheats!

patrick said...

Follow the money. Who benefits from a change in Child support? Besides the obvious, which are the recipients?
The people that change the law have generated a huge amount of business for themselves in a down economy. Lawyers need to work too.
Seems like pretty simple and shady business to me.

kgladding said...

As the custodial parent of two children, I for one am grateful for the new child support guidelines. As the parent who has the children 90% of the time, I am the one who was expected to pay the $8000/year for toddler childcare with no financial help from my ex. I was the one who had to pay $400/week for summer camp for two children so that I could work. Again with no financial help from my ex.

Due to these expenses that I was expected to bear alone, I had to "save" my house from impending foreclosure three times over the last eight years.

Since I have the children 90% of the time, it is I who must maintain a three bedroom home for my son and daughter. I calculate that it costs $600/month for the larger home than it would cost if I had a one bedroom apartment. And then I have to heat the place! Is it unreasonable to expect that the children's other parent pay for part of that additional expense?

The new guidelines are not perfect. No guidelines will ever be. (Personally, I believe that if parents share custody 50/50 no one should have to pay child support.) However, at least now the assumptions behind the calculations are spelled out and the reasons for deviation from a basic order are clear.

While others have complained that paying child support has prevented them from saving for college, let me say that as a custodial parent, I have not been able to save a dime for my children's college. (The child support that I receive does not come close to covering half of the expenses of raising two children.) And I am sure that I will be the one that the colleges will expect to pay for their education. At last with the new guidelines, I may be able to start saving for that day!

Anonymous said...

@kgladding,

I am sorry to hear your ex does not do his part but for those of us who do, this is BS. Our current numbers allows for my daughter to have two houses, private preschool, and the ability to do things with both parents. The new guidelines will create a situation that my ex takes home twice as much as I and my house will be in risk. How is this a good thing for my daughter to see her father loose his house when she really is fine. We split the fees, I pay health insurance and we pay for our own houses. My support is not small but instead of going down this year because my ex now makes more money, it will go up 48%. There is no reason for this and to try and defend against it to prove it will cause an un-even balance is going to be exspensive. These people are idiots who did not go after the real problem. The non payers.
BS.

Anonymous said...

I am a firm believer in child support. However, I never really understood all the hoopla until I married my husband who currently pays child support payments. My first husband and I are divorced and we have 2 children together. Neither one of us pay child support because it's a 50/50 custodial split. However, my current husband who only has 1 child pays a hefty amount of support, plus insurance. The increase is pretty scary. The increase in child support payments will force us to move out of our current home into something smaller and cheaper. We have only been married for a short time (2 years), but everytime we try to make our lives better, his ex takes him to court to see if she can get more $$$....Now, she has ammunition and there's nothing that can be done and we will be the ones in the poor house. I'm not sure how that is fair. Child support was put into place so that the "child" would be able to live at the means he/she was accustomed to at the time of the divorce. But now I guess it's to bleed the NC parent dry.

Tiny said...

@KGladding

The problem you talking about doesn't appear to be the support guidelines that were in place but the fact that he wasn't paying the support guidelines that were in place. What do you think will happen when those numbers he is barely paying now, go WAY UP!

I pay my child support on time and like a lot of fathers, my ex barely works, quits jobs left and right, but enjoys the exact same lifestyle as me. I work very hard and if my ex realizes what she could get under these new guideline she will actually be bringing in more than me and I have already figured that I would lose my house.

A few things everyone needs to remember, BOTH parents are responsible for supporting the children EQUALLY. So if your saying it would cost $600 for the larger house, he would only be responsible for $300 of it. As well as childcare, so that would be $4000 a year that would be his. If you keep breaking this down, I pay over $1000 a month now and after breaking it all down my daughter costs only about $700 since she is in school. So who is getting that other $300, you can bet my daughter isn't, since my ex doesnt work. The new rules move that number over $1500!!!! So $700 for my daughter and $800 for my ex..... sounds more like alimony to me!

No matter how you break this apart or what you tell me your expenses are, a child does not cost $3000 a month to support,($1500 being what shoud be my half). This is all wrong and fathers are getting screwed again.

I single out fathers because to be honest, the only way a mother doesnt get a child in massachusetts is if she is a complete waste of life anyway, so who really cares.

Tiny

L said...

The interesting thing that is left out of the whole discussion is what the guidelines actually mean. So few cases ever get to trial so they are not really applied but meant to be a guide to crafting agreements. Once an order is in place it becomes almost virtually impossible to change unless there is a big change in circumstance.

THere is also no good mechanism in place to making senseible ongoing adjustments due to changes in income and circumstance. For instance. I have shared custody. After a GAL report it was determined that my three children should live with me as part of a shared parenting plan. I was ordered to pay my ex as if they lived with her (judge: "I don't care where the kids are living, you're going to pay"! There was no rational basis for this, no mechanism for appeal to the court and led ultimately to my having to choose between giving up my kids and going bankrupt. I chose the former.

At any rate, if the new guidelines are put into practice the de facto underclass that is divorced father's will see a serious decline in their lot and an increase in delinquency.

Long term non of this is in the best interest of the children. It has gotten to the point in my case that I am losing any motivation to fight for my relationship with my children and just writing them off after 10 years of battling for something reasonable. THis new set of guidelines is only serving to reinforce that.

Anonymous said...

This is a late comment but hopefully a worthy one. I have been divorced 5 years and now have my kids 100% of the time as their father moved out of state. I work full time, plus am responsible for finding childcare, doing laundry, cleaning house, attending school conferences and PTO and performances, scheduling eye exams, dentist and dr. appointments, buying clothes, school materials and food, cooking dinner, supervising homework and everything else a single parent does. I am self-employed because no employer would give me enough time off for all the time I need for my kids. While I "work" in my paying job 40 hours, I easily "work" another 50 hours at home being a parent every week.

In my view, the childcare guidelines offer some relief for the custodial parent who does most or all of the care. Even when my ex-husband took care of the children, he didn't do their laundry or take care of them when they were sick or any of the other unsung tasks of taking care of children. He definitely never stayed up all night when one had a stomach bug or called in sick to his job when childcare fell through.

Earning income is one facet of being a parent. Children need a dedicated parent or parents to nurture them to adulthood. Even if the NC parent pays more money, it is very fair if the custodial parent gives far more time and takes on a lower paying career to be the nurturing parent children need.

While I hear that second families can suffer, I think you have to look beyond the obvious allocation of money and also consider the allocation of parenting time each parent spends with the child. The new guidelines take that into consideration and that makes them at least clearer from my perspective. Not every dad is a persecuted good guy. Unfortunately, some dads want to only do the minimum.

Catherine said...

I happen to be on both ends of this issue. I am remarried and have two children from my first marriage. My husband also has two children from his first marriage. The support I receive from my ex is a joke compared to what my husband pays in support for his children. I support what my husband pays in child support because it is his responsibility to do so even when we know that his ex doesn't always use the money for the children and expects more money. We are also forced spend more when his children are with us to buy them clothing and other necessary and not so necessary items.
I work very hard and always have and very proud that I can support my children on my own if need be sacrificing here and there. Does the child support I receive help with my children expenses? Of course, but is what I contribute equal to what the ex does. Not even close. My income has dropped due the economy though I still work full time. My ex's income has increased by 20%. Yet to date I have not asked for more support though under the guidelines I am entitled to receive a considerable amount more per week. However now I am feeling I am being forced to apply for modification because my ex won't pay for his share of medical, dental, eye glasses and school fees. He claims poor. How else can I ensure I will receive what I need for the children? As you all know children are not cheap and as they grow so do their expenses. We all suffer from dead beat mom's and dad's. All of us who play by the rules and take our responsibilities seriously end up paying for the losers no matter which end of the spectrum we are on.