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 V: Child care, health insurance and out of pocket costs
While the guidelines allow for a deduction for payment of childcare and health insurance, many parties, and attorneys, felt the extent of those deductions were not enough to cover the actual costs incurred. The new guidelines have recalculated the application of both child care costs and health insurance. The guidelines now make an adjustment so that the parties share the costs of child care and health insurance more proportionately. First, the guidelines will deduct a portion of the child care and health insurance costs from the paying party’s gross income and, second, the costs will be reapportioned to the parties based upon their proportionate income. However, the combined adjustment for child care and health insurance will be capped at fifteen percent of the child support order.
Further, with regard to health insurance, the court has the discretion to order parties to carry health insurance for children and to make determinations as to the reasonableness of the policy costs. For example, for policies where costs are determined by the number of family members and the party has a spouse and additional children, the court may enter the child support order based solely on the cost for the party and children covered by the child support orders. While the court is required to make orders relative to the health insurance for the children, unless otherwise agreed to, the courts can only require a party to provide health insurance if it is at a reasonable costs. One important change, is that the court shall deem health insurance available at a reasonable cost if it is available through an employer. If the court has deemed health insurance available, the payor may then argue that it will cause undue hardship if providing coverage will effect his or her ability to pay child support, if the coverage lacks the necessary comprehensiveness, or if the payor’s income does not meet certain income eligibility (300% of federal poverty level).
The guidelines also provide the court with he authority to allocate both out-of-pocket medical expenses and extracurricular expense. With regard to these additional child related expenses such as extracurricular, summer camp and private school, the court must first find that they are in the child’s best interest and affordable by the parties, and can then determine how to divide the costs between the parties.
These additional calculations and issues surrounding child care and health insurance may greatly impact the calculations for parties providing child care or health insurance at a higher cost. It is important to determine how the new guideline will effect each individual situation.