Every 4 years the child support guidelines must be reviewed, which often leads to an overhaul in how child support is calculated. In September of 2017, there were new guidelines–which is already being amended just 7 months later.
Why? There are “glitches” in the state online calculator leading to errors, which could be costing thousands of dollars a year. The forms have become so overly complicated that it takes using an app to calculate or by using the online forms. In the good old days, you just needed a calculator and pencil.
Now the online forms from the state have a few flaws–they can’t be saved, they don’t work on mac computers, and most problematic contain errors in computation. Bottom line, you really need to put pencil to paper and try to follow the guidelines, which are getting more are more complex. Here are some of the problems with the online forms and the 2017 guidelines:
- It may calculate health insurance offsets wrong;
- If you have one children over 18 and one child under 18, it resulted in a reduced support order, below what was intended under the guidelines;
- The guidelines oddly reduced support when there were more than 3 children, so that the support for 4 children was less than 3 children;
- Offsets for health insurance are double counted with a shared custody plan; and
- Using health insurance in the guidelines where you have agreed to evenly split health insurance will result in an unequal amount of health insurance cost, even if you put in the same amount of contribution towards the cost.
The revised guidelines are attached, but are also quite complicated.
What is not addressed is that many families now are hybrid families. For example, one child lives with one parent, and one child lives equally with both parents. The guidelines for the blended families should not simply be run both ways–shared custody guidelines from the guidelines for primary care parent? The guidelines do not go up 1 for 1 with each child. Let’s assume child support for one child is $100 dollars. Intuition would say child support for two children is $200. However, the guidelines say child support for two would be 25% more. Thus, when you try to calculate blended orders, it becomes more difficult because the guidelines do not treat each child as a whole child, as the additional children are only increasing the guidelines fractionally.
The guidelines also now reduce support for children over 18, so they too are treated at a lower rate, which may not reflect the reality that a 19 year may be eating you out of house and home.
Bottom line, attorneys in the field are debating how to treat guidelines. The drafters did not get it right and are already amending them. The online calculators from the state are incorrect. How is a person representing themselves going to get it right, especially when you can’t bring a phone or app into the courthouse? So here is what you do–the courthouse has a Department of Revenue in each courthouse, ask for them. They can calculate it for you, just tell them the numbers to plug in. The calculators from the state do contain errors, but it is the best bet for now. The family service department in the court also can calculate guidelines if you are sent to “probation.” Meet with a divorce lawyer, just to assist with the guidelines and financials. Ideally, the guidelines will be simplified, but given that a bunch of lawyers are drafting and revising them, chances are it will only become more complex.
Attorney Amy Saunders, Esq.
Divorce and Mediation Lawyer
Legal Solutions Law Group
858 Washington St Suite 103
Dedham, Massachusetts 02026