In a recent decision, a panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court considered a Probate and Family Court’s modification judgment ordering the payment of additional child support that was calculated based upon the portion of the parties’ joint income in excess of $250,000. Martin v. Martin, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 1119 (2015) (pursuant to Rule 1:28).
Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (as amended) provide a formula designed to calculate a payor spouse’s child support obligation when the parties’ combined, gross available income is $250,000 or less. When parties’ combined gross income exceeds $250,000 (as in Martin), the Child Support Guidelines provide that the Court “should consider the award of support at the $250,000 level as the minimum presumptive order.” Additional child support based on income over $250,000 is within the discretion of the Court.
In the Martin case, the father appealed from a modification judgment entered by the Probate and Family Court that obligated him to pay additional child support (over and above the minimum presumptive order) to mother based upon joint income of the parties in excess of $250,000. The father argued that the order for additional support was improper because it was not supported by findings that the children were in need of such additional support.
While it was undisputed that the Child Support Guidelines provide that orders for additional support based on gross income over $250,000 are within the Court’s discretion, the Court in Martin agreed with the father, vacated the judgment and remanded the matter back to the Probate and Family Court to enter findings. In its decision, a panel of the Appeals Court referenced factors to be considered in ordering additional child support on gross income over $250,000, which include (i) the reasonable needs of the children, (ii) the standard of living of the parties, and (iii) the parenting plan. In sum, the ruling in Martin suggests that the lower Court must issue written findings or rationale to sustain an order for support based on the parties’ combined gross income over $250,000.