A recent case in Massachusetts, Morales v. Morales, decided March 12, 2013 SJC # 11104 is described as changing the standard for modification of child support. While this is clearly an important case, in my opinion, it does not change the law.
The child support guidelines are not guidelines. They are a set of rules that must be followed.
Any time that there is a variance from current calculations under the child support guidelines, there should be a modification. Hopefully, parents will exchange financial information on a regular basis and make the adjustments without resorting to litigation.
People who pay child support (payors) should not make deals to pay different sums than dictated by the child support guidelines. As an example, assume the parties agree to pay reduced child support in exchange for a lump sum payment. This could be approved at the time of a divorce. However, what happens one year later when the recipient of the support seeks an increase to comply with the current child support guidelines? It appears that the payor could end up paying the current child support guidelines even though they made a deal to pay less. The lesson is that it is very risky to stray from the guidelines.
It is reversable error for a Judge to state that they always approach the child support guidelines in a particular way. Judges may say this to encourage settlement. It appears that Judges should avoid making statements of this nature. In all probability, Judges will continue to have inflexible approaches to the application of the guidelines. However, they will probably stop talking about their approaches and just make rulings after hearing the evidence.
Despite this opinion which clarifies the interpretation of the child support guidelines, people will continue to litigate child support. Some people will try to hide their income. Some people will not disclose their income in advance of litigation. Some people will refuse to consider sources of income other than from their primary work. In all of these cases, litigation is likely to occur. It would be best if people consulted family law attorneys before making mistakes of this nature.