Massachusetts’ New Child Support Guidelines

In 2009, Massachusetts overhauled its 22-year-old child support guidelines. A 12-person task force designed the new rules, which have now been in effect for more than one year.

The original guidelines, developed in 1987, established that the non-custodial parent pay a percentage of his or her income to the custodial parent, whose income was not considered unless it reached $20,000.

Now, a more balanced approach to calculating child support is employed. The incomes of both parents are used to determine an appropriate weekly amount for child support.

In addition to income, the guidelines also factor in each child's healthcare, housing, and child care costs. The per-week scale is used for parents who make less than $135,000 per year combined income. If the income of the custodial parent is greater than $100,000 per year, that is also considered when calculating a child support amount. The minimum amount of support an individual can provide is $80 per month for those making $100 or less per week. The guidelines only apply to traditional custody cases, not split custody or other alternative custody situations.

Guidelines Still Retain "Unfair" Approach to Child Support

For years, advocates for fathers' rights, such as the organization Fathers & Families, fought the old guidelines, citing them as discriminatory against the non-custodial parent, who is often the father. Dr. Ned Holstein, the founder of Fathers & Families, sat on the task force that created the new guidelines. He says the new rules are still unfair, citing the fact that Massachusetts still does not pro-rate child support to account for parenting time, as some other states do, which he claims unfairly burdens fathers.

Brian Ayers, a 29-year-old father of an infant son, recently moved back in with his parents after his child support payments made living on his own unaffordable. He was paying $350 per week in support, more than $1650 per month and reaching $18,000 per year in child support payments.

Even though the new guidelines are purported to be more balanced, Ayers, Holstein, and pro-father groups claim there is still a long way to go toward achieving fair child support guidelines in Massachusetts.