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Is Income Equalization Dead?

The Probate Court equalized the incomes of two parents with a child support order.  On the father’s appeal, the Appeals Court affirmed.  On further appellate review, the SJC vacated the support award, holding that “income equalization is inconsistent with principles that inform child support orders in the Commonwealth.” Such orders, said the SJC, should not be used to “equalize living standards in the parental households.” An award must be based on the child’s “reasonable support needs.”  The award must avoid a “gross disparity” of standard of living, “while eschewing equalization.” (Emphasis Supplied).  Moreover, the SJC, citing with approval the ALI Principles of Family Dissolution, noted another rationale against equalization. Equalizing income “between the higher-income and lower-income parent would invade the higher-income parent’s reasonable interest in benefiting from the fruits of his or her labor, because such attempts would impose all the economic costs of family dissolution on the [higher-income] parent, while holding the parent with lower income harmless from such costs.” [Quotation from SJC and ALI condensed into one quote.] Finally, the answer to the caption question— it’s not dead for mediated agreements.  If the parties decide that income equalization is fair for them and their family, a judge is likely to approve it.  M.C. v. T.K., 463 Mass. 226 (August 15, 2012)

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