Child Support Series: Maximum Levels

In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth's child support guidelines are reviewed and revised every four years, at which time the child support task force examines issues with child support calculations, amendments in the percentages of payments by parties, and extraordinary situations that may affect the payment of child support. In evaluating the most recent changes, effective September 15, 2017, we are presenting a series of articles outlining the most significant changes to the guidelines.

Part IV: Maximum Levels

One important consideration for both payors and recipients of child support is the maximum and minimum order, and to what extent the court may deviate from these orders. The minimum order has been raised from $80 per month to $25 per week ($108 per month). While this minimum order remains very low, the courts also have expanded powers to impute income to a party in conjunction with the general principles of the guidelines that each party is required to support their children to the extent they are reasonably able to.

On the enter end of the spectrum, the guidelines also establish the maximum income to utilize for child support calculation as being $250,000 combined income of the parties. While this provision is not new, it is important to note that the court has discretion to order additional child support above the guidelines based upon the amount of the excess income, needs of the parties and children, and other financial obligations such as college or private schools. In practice, the courts have also utilized some of the income in excess of $250,000 as an alimony award, or in combination with an unallocated award. The most advantageous financial arrangement for support for families in this higher income category should be reviewed with an accountant for a tax analysis to minimize the tax implications to the family.

Calculating child support orders for high income families, or attempting to impute income to a minimum earner, can often be complicated. High income families need the assistance of a tax analysis to determine the most beneficial manner in which to pay support.